Stop That Bullet! The Rise of Armoured Vehicles in SA

Following alarming crime statistics at SONA, many South Africans have begun taking personal countermeasures to prevent ballistic assaults like hijacking and kidnapping. As such, armoured vehicles have become a far more common occurrence, even for ordinary citizens. With so much interest from our several reviews on armoured vehicles in the past, here is a comprehensive article featuring the fundamentals of added vehicle protection. The post Stop That Bullet! The Rise of Armoured Vehicles in SA appeared first on CAR Magazine.

Stop That Bullet! The Rise of Armoured Vehicles in SA

Ordinary citizens can now opt to protect their vehicles against ballistic attacks, so we’ve compiled a comprehensive feature on armoured vehicle options in SA.Armoured

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Previously reserved for heads of state and the likes of a certain Mr Bond, it’s now possible to protect your vehicle against ballistic attacks by adding another layer of safety in the form of armouring. A glance at the latest crime statistics regarding kidnapping and hijackings makes it clear that vehicle armouring has become more than a nice-to-have feature for many South Africans.

So, how do you go about choosing the best option?

Which armouring level do you need?

Armouring is very similar to an airbag; you only need to know it is there when needed. However, there are significant differences between the materials and protection levels available. It’s therefore important to understand the nuances and select the correct protection package for your needs. If the threats faced involve only handguns, then B4 level is what you need. This is the typical application for families, shuttles and general use. B4 is a light and discreet armouring level employing lightweight armoured glass, composites and armoured steel for the pillars. Combined in the correct way, this ensures proper protective overlaps and maximum ballistic protection.

Related: Review: SVI B6 Armoured Ford Ranger Wildtrak

B4 grade protection adds an average mass 250-300 kg to a vehicle, which makes it suitable for most models and body styles. As the mass addition falls within the gross vehicle mass (GVM) of the vehicle, no upgrades to the suspension, brakes or door hinges are needed. In addition, after fitment the driver’s window is still usually able to open about halfway, allowing easy access to ticket machines or toll booths.

For high-risk individuals or if any goods of high value are being transported, the higher B6 level provides protection against assault rifles. This represents the highest level available in South Africa without a special permit. Such a conversion involves the use of 38 mm armoured glass and mostly 5-6 mm special steel armoured plate. Composites are sometimes also used, but they tend to be thick, expensive and not nearly as effective at resisting multi-shot events.Armoured

As the mass added for this conversion is on average around 650 kg, it makes sense to choose a body-on-chassis vehicle capable of carrying the bulk. Bakkies are very popular for this application, as are ladder-frame SUVs such as the Toyota Land Cruiser 300 and Nissan Patrol. Suspension and door hinges need to be upgraded. Keep in mind that B6-armouring will impact a vehicle’s liveability as the doors are heavy, driver-window operation is severely limited and the dynamic performance of the vehicle is impacted. Still, these are small compromises to make when facing fire from the dreaded AK47.

The armouring process

To armour a standard vehicle is an intensive and complex operation that can take up to three months to complete. The entire vehicle’s interior is stripped, whereafter it is rebuilt with armouring materials added. The original interior panels need to be carefully trimmed to fit over the armouring materials. Although skilled conversion companies are able to return the interior to close to standard, there will always be small compromises as the subject cars are never designed with armouring in mind.

Armouring cost

As illustrated by the cost table below, vehicle armouring is not a cheap exercise. This is because most of the materials are imported, while vast hours of labour are committed to executing a quality conversion. That said, many OEMs are now offering finance options on approved conversions through their dealer networks – and armoured vehicles appear to be depreciation-proof in our market owing to the high demand.

Armouring cost (conversion only)
Vehicle type B4 (handguns) B6 (assault rifles)
Double-cab bakkie from R500 000 from R800 000
Large SUV from R700 000 from R1.2-million
Minibus from R900 000 N/A

 Advanced driving course recommended

An armoured vehicle provides occupant protection only for a short while when under attack as, for example, the glass will eventually fail under continued fire. Therefore, it’s imperative that the vehicle keeps moving and this is where advanced driver training can make a difference. There are only a handful of SASSETA-accredited courses available locally that teach the theoretical and practical aspects of driving an armoured car and how to foil an attack. Best is to invest in your own driving capability as well as in the vehicle to keep your family safe. Armouring is a level of safety that you hopefully will never use, but preparation is key.

Related: Review: Armoured Chery Tiggo 8 Pro Max 390T Executive

Sidebar: Choose your armouring company carefully

As with most professions, there are unfortunately armouring companies that take shortcuts and deliver vehicles with shoddy workmanship and, worst of all, numerous ballistic gaps. We’d suggest visiting the factory of the armouring company to see how the work is done before committing to a certain provider.

Questions to ask are if they are ISO 9001 certified from a quality management point of view? Do they have any OEM-approved products where the warranty is not affected after armouring (check this with the OEM involved)? Can they supply certificates for all the materials used in the process? And do they have access to a ballistic lab to prove the ballistic performance of the materials upon request? Most important of all, demand to see a vehicle that has been tested to ensure that the protection offered matches the promise.

Sidebar: What about the tyres?

A vehicle with four flat tyres is going nowhere. The answer is to ensure that standard run-flat tyres are fitted, if available for that specific vehicle. Otherwise, as is the case with larger bakkie/SUV tyres, a rubber-ring insert can be fitted, affixed to the rim inside the standard OEM tyre to provide traction even when the tyre is deflated.

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The post Stop That Bullet! The Rise of Armoured Vehicles in SA appeared first on CAR Magazine.

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