More Than Meets the Eye
The stereotype of armored vehicles is big, hulking slab-sided beasts like those made by Conquest Vehicles, announcing your toughness, importance, or insecurities to the world. But the reality is you could be driving past many armored vehicles every day and not know it. And that’s exactly what most armored car customers want, according to Mark Burton, president and CEO of International Armoring Corporation.
Since its start, IAC has outfitted more than 7000 vehicles for clients around the world, ranging from heads of state, to celebrities and corporate executives, to private citizens simply concerned about their personal security. Although Burton said the company would armor just about any vehicle the client wanted, the majority of the vehicles built by his company are SUVs. “SUVs are definitely in our top five list of most commonly armored vehicles. The most popular models are probably the Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, Lexus LX 570, and Toyota Land Cruiser,” Burton said. Part of the popularity of SUVs comes from their all-terrain versatility, and giving the client the capability of going off-road for evasive action that might not always be possible in a car.
The second reason engine upgrades are not typically necessary is because of the vastly lighter weight of the composite armoring material the company uses relative to conventional ballistics steel. The Armormax composite is less than one-third the weight of steel, meaning on a conversion that would typically add 3000 pounds to a vehicle’s weight only results in an increase of 1000 pounds. However, the one downsize to the Armormax material is its greater thickness relative to ballistics-grade plate steel. This makes outfitting larger vehicles easier due to the larger cavity area in the door panels. But one advantage of Armormax over plate steel is that it’s moldable, allowing it to be formed to the contours of the areas where it’s applied, something not usually possible using conventional armoring materials.
Although one would suspect many of the customers for armored cars would be those involved in illicit or suspicious activity, Burton says the company has a strict list of conditions for potential clients, which dissuades most of the shadier clientele. The company does not accept cash payments, and does not sell to countries or individuals identified as enemies by the U.S. State Department.
To better meet the demand of global clientele, IAC operates five locations around the world, from the company’s headquarters in Ogden, Utah, to conversion facilities in the Philippines, the UK, Hong Kong and South Africa. The company is planning on opening two more facilities globally this year, but declined to disclose the precise locations for competitive reasons.