Civilian armored cars

Published: 24.09.2009

Civilian armored cars are either (in only a few cases) factory produced, such as the Audi A6 and A8, Lincoln Town Car BPS, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Guard, the BMW High Security series, or (in the majority of cases) retrofitted versions of series cars. A security vehicle is made by replacing the windows with bulletproof glass and inserting layers of armor under the outer skin of the car, a labor-intensive process that takes a few weeks and costs over $100,000 USD.

The makers usually leave the external appearance of the car unchanged, in order to not look conspicuous. In most cases materials like Aramid (e.g. Twaron), HMPE (e.g. Dyneema), composites or ballistic stainless steel plates are used, and the increased mass is offset by an enhanced engine and brakes.

Besides the armor itself, many other protective modifications are available: automatic fire extinguishers, run-flat tires, an explosion-resistant fuel tank, remote starting of the car, pressure and temperature control of the tires, a siren or alarm, and an intercom between the exterior and interior of the car. Sometimes the inside can be sealed or over-pressured, using its own air supply, to protect against gas attacks. Civilian armored cars may have obvious armor protection, or they may be totally indistinguishable from an unarmored model. There are also armored variants of smaller cars, such as the VW Golf, to further conceal their function and capabilities.

Armored cars are in common use by people who feel at risk and can afford them, for example politicians, entrepreneurs, ambassadors, or in higher-risk areas including Iraq, Moscow, Washington D.C. or Mexico City. Diplomatic missions and private military contractors typically use armored cars as standard vehicles. As a side benefit, armored cars are typically very safe for their occupants in a car accident.

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