Armor: July 8, 2004

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Brazilian armored car manufacturers are becoming a major factor in this growing industry. The armored car industry took off years ago as urban crime and kidnappings were epidemic. Wealthy Brazilians started buying lots of armored vehicles, typically heavily modified SUVs and sedans, resulting in a proliferation of car dealerships specializing in these vehicles. Sales have trailed off over the past two years due to an economic slump, and a saturated market. Last year, 3,123 Brazilian armored cars were sold, with nearly all production going into the domestic market.

Fortunately for Brazilian armored car dealers, current events have substantially increased demand for their products around the world, especially in the Middle East and Iraq. Many U.S armored car shops are working at near capacity, leaving a void to be filled for countries needing to protect their personnel in high threat areas. Eastern European diplomats, Middle Eastern governments and American multinationals are all now ordering  Brazilian armored cars. In particular demand are vehicles that can withstand  fire from high-powered automatic weapons and less powerful, but more abundant weapons like AK-47s. Brazilian manufacturers can also build vehicles that offer protection from roadside bombs. At least one U.S. armored vehicle manufacturer is filling Middle Eastern orders through their Brazilian subsidiary, because their state-side production capability is busy filling orders with the military. 

Turning a stock civilian sedan or SUV into an armored vehicle is a customized and labor-intensive job. The work includes stripping a stock factory model down to the bare frame, installing kevlar-type and steel armor plating, run-flat tires, enhanced shocks, and armored glass. To armor a civilian vehicle for protection against high-velocity automatic weapons fire adds around 1,000 pounds to the vehicle and requires an engine with at least 190 horsepower. Don't expect to tow anything after the modification either. The standard Hummer armor kit adds 2,000 pounds to the total weight of the vehicle, but in Iraq various improvised protection measures using steel plates and sandbags end up adding on significantly more weight than the vehicle is capable of handling.

Modifications are made to insure that the vehicle has the same handing characteristics if had before the armor additions. This is important so that the vehicle can escape from an ambush site, and to insure that  the vehicle continues to look like an unmodified civilian car. Such cars more easily blend into cities than Hummers and, from a civil affairs perspective are less threatening.  A typical Brazilian armored SUV starting price is around $100,000. Doug Mohney

 


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