The art of protection.
Well, you’ve made it. King of the hill, head honcho. Now to get the country sorted, getting to grips with the nitty gritty. But, you’ve made more enemies than friends getting here. Some of those policies have disgruntled the populace. Changing the whole economy didn’t help, nor banning Sunday morning lie-ins. And as for pulling out of the Tufty Club.
Fortunately, some bright spark in procurement realised you might just be a target and ordered a nice, shiny new Sentinel – thank goodness – for the flashes and noises outside are upsetting my afternoon’s listening to La Roux… The Range Rover Sentinel, along with a surprisingly large number of rival manufacturers offer the head of state, underworld Capo or anyone else considered a target a safe house on wheels: the bullet proof car.
Rolls Royce started proceedings when they went to the desert in time for the Great War. Take a Silver Ghost chassis, apply basic coachwork in order to lavish steel plate on every surface. Leave a gap or two for the driver’s sight and stick a Vickers machine gun up top. Incredibly basic and initially just what the armed forces were after, though it was the Royal Navy who saw the potential. Lawrence of Arabia defined them as “more valuable than rubies,” and even weighing in a just shy of five tons, traversed the dunes with ease.
A turn of fate helped save the life of Charles de Gaulle in 1962, although the car in question was not armoured in any way. The OAS, Organisation de l’Armée Secrete targeted the French president over the long running Algerian war. President de Gaulle and his wife were heading along Paris’ Avenue de la Liberation that August evening when a dozen gunmen opened fire. At least 140 bullets peppered the Citroën DS, smashing windows and puncturing the tyres.
The chauffeur, Francis Marroux fought to control the wayward car on the greasy road but once those hydropneumatics levelled out, he could speed away to safety, the flattened tyres still providing grip. Miraculously, all three DS occupants were unharmed. The perpetrators were later caught and executed. Marroux was lauded with a Legion of Honour, and de Gaulle insisted upon travel by Goddess from then on.
Citroën took the 1992 XM to specialists, Heuliez who christened their version la Palace for Francois Mitterrand. Built on an elongated platform with Heuliez altered wings and bonnet, they were sadly underused. A Présidentielle was also constructed for Jacques Chirac in 1996 with differences that are easily spotted when following this in-depth link:
Most modern day manufacturers produce a suitably titled armoured car with baffling levels of protection and acronyms. Audi’s A8 has the somewhat plain Security moniker, although this car could withstand a pitched battle with VR9 levels of Merkel protecting armour. BMW’s natty Protection only goes to VR6 – three less. Add Armour’s version of the already crenelated Cadillac Escalade gives B6 levels; surviving a thrown hand grenade or a 5kg land mine, or should a ruffian attempt actual door entry, the electrified door handle should alter their hairstyle.
JLR have been protecting the British aristocracy for some time with both outfits providing Sentinels. Land Rover have kitted out the escorting Discovery too. Nothing looks quite as reassuring as a slowly driven Discovery 4 filled with armed officers as you head out for the weekly shop. Or should that be as terrifying?
Maserati sold 19 protected Quattroporte’s costing around €200,000 per car to the Italian government. That V8 has to work hard shifting nigh on 3.5 tons of Italy’s often unnamed finest, and their important folk. Renault have the Centigon made Espace, Volvo’s armoured XC90 weighs in at a cool half a million pounds, whereas the Mercedes-Maybach Guard takes those VR levels to ten. And then we have Rolls Royce catering for those who can configure numbers larger than mobile phones.
Should sir on a more modest budget requiring high levels of occupant safety consider a ŠKODA Superb Estate for £119k? Yes, the Winged Arrow can provide you with a two litre diesel with those secret enhancements to keep you alive. Bulletproof glass to PAS 300 standard, steel reinforcing, run flat tyres, better suspension and brakes and most vital, a perfectly normal three year warranty. Škoda use an unnamed British supplier for these changes. Well, we can’t have every Tom, Dick or Terrorist knowing these things, now can we?
Talking of suppliers, Jankel Engineering are a British firm quietly going about their business for over fifty years. Beefing up Land Cruisers is their speciality along with making their own Fox Rapid Reaction Vehicle. Along with Hot Formed protection that vastly reduces the amount of armoured panels required, yet offers incredible levels of blast protection for those unlucky enough to find themselves in a volatile situation. It must be strange for such a firm; having to advertise (up to a point) but not being able to fully explain matters. Not too dissimilar to the mainstream manufacturers, one expects.
And we close this heavily armoured door with none other than the antithesis of Colin Chapman’s ethos of adding lightness, ZIL. The Russian carmaker hardly known for aesthetics simply beefed up a standard Zavod Imeni Likhacheva chassis by loading it up with more steel; the pounds certainly went on, with a top weight grossing over five tons. One imagines these ZILs would be less valuable than Roubles. TE Lawrence would be frowning.
But they did keep Gorbachev, Yeltsin and many a high ranking official in one piece. ZIL ceased trading due to an influx of foreign, mainly Stuttgart-Untertürkheim-made armoured automobiles arriving on the scene. Funny how an iron curtain doesn’t always provide protection, isn’t it?
Read more about armoured Citroëns here.