June 30, 2009:
Thailand is buying twenty armored limousines, for $177,000 each. These will be used by senior government officials. Since September 11, 2001, there has been a sharp increase in the use of such bullet proof automobiles. The wealthy are buying most of them. Usually they are modified SUVs and sedans, and there are now many car dealerships specializing in these vehicles. For a few years, most U.S armored car shops were working at near capacity. This provided an opportunity for automotive specialty shops in other nations to get into the business.
The vehicles must, at a minimum, be protected against pistol bullets. But most now are resistant to sniper and assault rifles. Some manufacturers will also build vehicles that provide some protection from roadside bombs.
Turning a civilian sedan or SUV into an armored vehicle is a labor-intensive job. First, you have to strip the vehicle down to the bare frame. Then you install Kevlar and steel plate armor and bullet-proof glass. The standard tires are replaced with run-flat models. The additional weight (up to a ton or more) requires the installation of enhanced shocks and a more powerful engine. It takes a few hundred pounds of armor to provide protection from pistol bullets. Protection from rifle bullets requires half a ton. For protection against heavy machine-gun (12.7mm) and bombs, you need a ton or more. The first armor kits for military vehicles, like the hummer, weighed a ton. Soon that was up to two tons.
Once you have put the newly armored vehicle back together, you have to make more modifications to insure that the vehicle has the same handing characteristics as before the extra weight was added. This is crucial so that your driver does not have to learn new driving techniques to handle the rapid maneuvers needed to escape an ambush. You also want the armored car to move like an unarmored one, so it's not obvious that the vehicle is armored.