Armored car (VIP)
A civilian armoured car is a security vehicle which is made by replacing the windows of a standard vehicle (typically a limousine or SUV) with bulletproof glass and inserting layers of armour plate into the body panels. Unlike a military armoured car, which has armour plate mounted on the outside of the vehicle, a civilian armoured car typically looks no different from a standard vehicle.
Most civilian armoured cars are created by fitting aftermarket upgrades to standard production cars. The cars are typically large saloons/sedans or SUVs, however smaller cars (such as the VW Golf) are also occasionally used as armoured cars.
Several car manufacturers produce armoured car models from the factory, such as the Audi Security Vehicles (A6 and A8 models), Lincoln Town Car BPS, Hyundai Equus, BMW Security series (3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series and X5 models), the Mercedes Benz Guard vehicles (E, ML, GL, G & S Class).
Some civilian armoured cars may be one-off unique vehicles with no standard equivalent, such as the current Presidential state car of the USA which is built on a medium-duty truck platform styled like a Cadillac.
Common upgrades featured on armoured cars are replacing the windows with bulletproof glass and inserting layers of armour plate under the outer skin of the car. Materials such as Aramid, Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, composites or ballistic stainless steel plates are often used. The exterior of the car is often designed to be indistinguishable from an unarmoured model, although some vehicles have an appearance that is obviously armoured.
Besides the armour itself, many other protective modifications are available: automatic fire extinguishers, run-flat tyres, an explosion-resistant fuel tank, remote starting of the car, CCTV Vehicle Camera Systems, GPS link, pressure and temperature control of the tyres, a siren or alarm, and an intercom between the exterior and interior of the car, and a PA system, so that the bodyguards inside the car can communicate via a megaphone to individuals outside the car. Sometimes the inside can be sealed or over-pressured, using its own air supply, to protect against poison gas or tear gas attacks. As a side benefit, armoured cars give occupants added protection from intrusion during car accidents.
Armoured cars may be provided by governments for elected officials and senior officials who are at risk. Sometimes regular officials, public servants, and controversial figures may be protected with armoured vehicles in higher-risk situations. Diplomatic missions and private military contractors typically use armoured cars as standard vehicles.
Due to the sizable weight of the added armour that can substantially affect the handling of the armoured car, drivers of these vehicles typically have specialized training in tactical driving. This training is provided by bodyguard schools and by police and military units.
The engine, brakes and shock absorbers are often upgraded, to compensate for the increased mass of the added armour and protective modifications. The increased mass means that the mechanical parts of an armoured car are subjected to higher forces than normal, which can reduce the service life of the car unless these parts are also upgraded.
- Ballistics Rating (BR): This is a European standard which certifies the materials used both transparent (BR - DIN EN 1063) and opaque (FB - DIN EN 1522/23), general guidelines on vehicle construction and covers 3 levels from 2 to 7 . This is usually grouped under a single definition of B, e.g B6
- Vereinigung der Prüfstellen für angriffshemmende Materialien und Konstruktionen (VPAM) - VPAM have a number of standards that relate to non-military armored vehicles, they are:
- APR 2006 - These are the general test guidelines for armoured products.
- PM 2007 - This covers the materials used.
- BRV 1999 and 2009 - This certification indicates that the whole vehicle has been tested instead of just the materials used.
- ERV 2010 - Blast protection certification.
- Vehicle Security Advisory Group (VASG) - A British Standard for armored car construction and testing.
- National Institute for Justice (NIJ) - The American National Institute of Justice certification, covers body armour as well as vehicles and covers 5 levels.