Many celebrities and other high-profile figures would prefer to drive a lightweight ‘urban armour’ motorcar that looks ordinary – in other words, that is not obviously bulletproof.
Armormax South Africa (Stand N3-110) is an expert in customising vehicles for this market, specialising in the armouring of luxury vehicles to level B4 (point-blank range with a high-powered handgun such as a .44 Magnum) or level B6 (high-powered rifle, for example, an AK-47 assault weapon).
According to Armormax’s managing director, Grant Anderson, no fewer than 42 heads of state now use its custom vehicles.
The aim is to retain the vehicle’s physical appearance and handling characteristics, while providing an impenetrable barrier between the occupants and would-be attackers.
The company claims its armouring is so inconspicuous that it is hardly distinguishable from an unarmoured vehicle parked alongside. Only by opening the doors will one notice leather-upholstered overlaps covering the gap where the bullet-resistant glass ends and the internal armour begins. The fuel tank is also protected.
"We pride ourselves on ensuring that all the safety features of the vehicle, like the airbags, are retained," Anderson explained. "We use as much of our synthetic lightweight armour as possible, but where it is unavoidable to use ballistic steel, it is prepped, primed and painted to avoid issues with rust and ensure it blends cosmetically."
Armouring involves some compromises, however. Only the driver's window can be opened, for documents to be shown. A covert microphone allows for communication with someone outside the vehicle.