Armored cars have actually come a long method since Colonel T.E. Lawrence"s fleet the Rolls-Royce Ghosts prowled the Arabian peninsula during world War I. This ironclad beasts have actually gone from machines of war to roll defense vehicles for anyone from politicians and also the well-heeled come mafioso and oligarchs. And also business is booming. V armored car sales up end the past few years (especially here and also in west Europe), automakers consisting of Audi, BMW, land Rover, and also Mercedes-Benz have joined through small, committed manufacturers to market a wide range of bulletproof and also even mine-resistant cars, trucks, and also SUVs.

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So what does it take it to construct a world-class armored car? We recorded up v the folks in ~ Alpine Armoring to find out.


Headquartered in Chantilly, Virginia, just exterior of Washington, D.C., Alpine started building armored vehicles in 1997 to accomplish ever-increasing U.S. Government and also overseas need as the post-Cold War people heated up during the Kosovo conflict. As Cameron Khoroushi, Alpine"s manager of architecture engineering, put it, the firm was able to conveniently meet the demand. It now armors whatever from Toyota Camrys come Mercedes-AMG G63s all the method up come NATO"s most stringent armoring standards.


When it involves meeting the needs of its worldwide customer base, Alpine usually confronts a dueling chicken and also egg scenario at the start of a vehicle armoring process: carry out you desire the highest feasible levels of armor, or execute you desire your selection of any kind of vehicle on the market? "We have the right to really armor anything," Khoroushi said, "but a lot of it comes under to cost and also feasibility because that the client, and also practicality, too." because that example, one could armor something favor a Tesla design S or a Toyota Prius come stop massive .50-caliber an equipment gun rounds, yet it"ll likely become underpowered and overweight—never a good thing once it involves armored vehicles. (Just ask the average service member just how much they prefer driving sluggish armored-up Humvees.)


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Instead, vehicles prefer the Mercedes S-Class and G-Class, Toyota land Cruiser (and related Lexus LX570), and also Cadillac Escalade ESV, Chevrolet Suburban, and also GMC Yukon XL prove to be the most popular for outfitting. Although condition is definitely one of the factors armored auto buyers select their certain vehicles, a vehicle"s Gross car Weight Rating (GVWR) likewise plays a big role. Adding as lot as 3,000 pounds to a automobile in order because that it to stand up to high-caliber bullets isn"t uncommon, for this reason Alpine safety a most time focusing on keeping a vehicle"s load well listed below its GVWR. Coupled v upgraded suspensions (custom tuned because that each vehicle) and also cross-drilled brakes, Alpine Armoring is maybe to keep the donor vehicle"s conventional ride, handling, and performance attributes as lot as possible. This provides for a much more durable vehicle that"s much safer to drive in the day-to-day grind and also emergency situations alike.


Interestingly, Khoroushi stated not all GVWRs are developed equally: "Toyota and Mercedes often tend to over-engineer your vehicles, whereas some GM vehicles, like Escalades or Suburbans don"t host the weight together well. It"s together if their GVWR are much more accurate, whereas on a soil Cruiser, for example, that characteristics ." but the brand-new 2021 Suburban, Yukon XL, and Escalade ESV "have much exceeded our initial expectations," Khoroushi noted, adding, "GM constructed the chassis of these vehicles far tougher 보다 their predecessors, and also they"re top top par through Toyota and Mercedes models after ~ the car is armored. Castle drive an extremely well v the added armor weight."


The at this time discontinued (but likely to return) Chevrolet Suburban 3500 HD and also GMC Yukon XL 3500 HD—frequently seen in presidential motorcades—were likewise armored car standouts v an 11,000 pound GVWR, permitting Alpine and other outfitters to safely affix the maximum lot of armor possible. "It to be the perfect armored automobile platform," Khoroushi said.


Suburban HDs are frequently armored up to the greatest level, qualified of withstanding the previously mentioned .50-caliber round from a high-powered rifle. However not everyone demands that level of protection. Alpine supplies 13 levels of ballistic protection, all tested internally at the U.S. Army"s Aberdeen proving Ground and also by the Munich Ballistics Agency. (The latter consists of two tests: one where the test auto has to resist 350 ring of various types and a 2nd test wherein the same auto has to withstand explosions from 3 grenades.) every this testing allows Alpine Armoring to apply its ballistic traditional levels to contending NATO STANAG, Underwriters laboratory (UL), nationwide Institute of justice (NIJ), and also European CEN standards.


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Regardless that the auto you chose or what level of armor friend opt for, each build largely starts the same. "The first thing we do is piece the entire vehicle to bare-bones metal as if it"s simply in the center of production at the OEM factory," Khoroushi said. Next, the armoring process begins. Alpine, like similar companies, supplies two varieties of armor for its vehicles: opaque and also transparent. Opaque armor is mainly made of ballistic steels, Kevlar, and Dyneema (a textile similar in stamin to Kevlar yet generally lighter and also thicker), though other materials, such as ballistic composites and also ceramics, and aluminum, boron, and silicon carbides aren"t uncommon. Transparent armor consists of number of layers of polyurethane, polycarbonate, and also glass varying in thickness native as little as three-quarters of an inch to more than 3 inches, depending upon the application.


With the auto stripped, the engineering team gets to work fitting the opaque armor, through special fist paid to keeping the car"s facility of gravity low while also providing the protection necessary to keep occupants safe in situation of attack. The typically way fitting products like Kevlar and steels in the floor and also thicker human body panels approximately the frame, though it all relies on the details vehicle and armor level required. As soon as the automobile shell is completed, the team move on to transparent armor, instead of the automotive glass through layers of bullet-resistant laminates. The last step that the armoring procedure is to incorporate what are well-known as "overlaps" right into the vehicle. "Overlaps space a thin band the goes approximately the perimeter of the door or top top the framework of the vehicle that avoids rounds entering the car within the seams of the door," Khoroushi said.


With the armor complete, the team move on to reassembling the vehicle. One-of-a-kind attention is paid to do the now-armored vehicle look share both inside and out. Alpine employs devoted teams the upholsterers (other armoring companies employ similar teams) who room trained to complement factory fit, finish, and even stitching—not necessarily straightforward task top top vehicles choose the Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, or Rolls-Royce Phantom, all of which Alpine armors.


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The totality armoring procedure takes around four to six weeks from begin to finish, though a vehicle kind that hasn"t to be armored before might take eight come 10 weeks. Prices, obviously, depend on basic vehicle and armor level. A Toyota Camry XSE V6 ($35,990 to start) armored at the A4 level to resist submachine gun rounds (typically the lowest armoring level Alpine Armoring does) could price you around $75,000, consisting of the donor vehicle. Something prefer a Bentayga, on the various other hand, could price you fine north of $400,000 armored come the highest levels. Most customers opt because that a vehicle rated to withstand assault rifle ring (A9) and also wind increase spending everywhere from $85,000 to $150,000 for their finished armored vehicle.

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Pricey, sure, but as those who travel on regular basis in high-threat settings know all also well, life is priceless.


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