Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes
When Mark Burton of Armormax reached out to me about shooting one of Utah's first Tesla Model S Plaid editions, I was sure he had me confused with a photographer. After all, there's no way he'd shoot such a unique and prized car … with bullets.
It turns out that's exactly what Mark was planning to do with his AR-15. "It's the world's fastest car. I feel like we have to. We shot at a Lamborghini not long ago," he told me excitedly. "It was awesome."
Shooting cars isn't just something Mark does for fun, it's his livelihood. One of just a few major armored car companies in the United States, Armormax of Ogden has been providing armored cars to worldwide buyers for several decades. Whether bulletproofing windows on a sedan or completely bombproofing an SUV, Mark and his crack team know how to protect car owners and passengers from just about any type of danger.
Two months ago, Armormax's capabilities were on display for the world to see when dashcam footage of an attempted hijacking from a South African Armormax truck made its way online. Fortunately for the drivers, the viral video served as a pretty good ad for just how much Mark's vehicles can withstand.
The video, which can be seen here and broken down here, depicts the driver deftly outmaneuvering his assailants while the rock steady protection of his truck shields him from machine gun fire. Viewer discretion is advised, as the video depicts scenes of real-life gun violence and some expectedly coarse language. This tense, almost chilling clip is a stark reminder of the type of often necessary protection that Mark and his Armormax team have perfected over the years.
Demand has never been higher for armored vehicles, and that's not just here in the States. Everyone wants in on it — from NFL owners to sheiks, celebrities and under-the-radar business owners. Even the Vatican is a client — that's right, the world-famous popemobile was armored by Armormax. Tack on your everyday person fantasizing about their zombie apocalypse plan and there's no shortage of customers.
Since many of Armormax's clients are worldwide, not all of them are serviced here in Utah. "We build in Nigeria, Dubai, Philippines, South Africa and other places. It just makes more sense financially to build there rather than export and import cars," said Mark.
"When we started 30 years ago, about 90% of orders were from out of the country, but about five years ago it flipped. We now see almost 95% of orders coming from the States," said Mark. Some other countries even want the work done in the United States and are willing to pay for the export/import fees. According to Mark, they like the added prestige of having a U.S. stamp on the vehicle.
Demand has been so high for orders seeking domestic handgun protection that Mark had to open up a second Utah shop to fulfill all the orders he was receiving. "It's been crazy," he said. "At any given time we have 200-225 vehicles in production worldwide."
The armoring process
When a client puts in an order for an armored vehicle, Mark walks them through all the packages available to them. Capable of replacing or reinforcing nearly every structural component of a vehicle, Mark says the technologies they've developed are so good, they essentially make tanks out of even the most commonplace cars.
What kind of upgrades does the armoring process include? It could mean reinforcing glass, floorboards or handles (shock handles are available for all you James Bond fans). Or maybe it involves adding additional fuel tanks, beefing up suspensions or equipping run-flat tires. Often it's a little bit of everything, depending on the client's needs.
Once the armoring process is complete, the vehicle mingles seamlessly with traffic. "We want to make sure these are blending in on the road so you can't tell they're armored. That's always the goal," said Mark. "Our glass and armor can take the worst of what's out there. Whether it be grenades, armor-piercing rounds or explosives, these vehicles will be like a cocoon for the client."
And in the grand scheme of things, the armor isn't all that heavy. Especially when you consider the amount of protection it offers. In the lightest package, there are about 350-400 pounds added, with the biggest weight usually coming from the glass. On a more robust package, about 1,800 pounds are added.
Although 1,800 pounds might sound like a lot, Armormax has consistently been able to retain the original driving dynamics of the modified vehicles. Anytime more than 800-1,000 pounds are added, the suspension and other necessary components are swapped out. The idea is to make every car look and drive the same as it did when it came off the factory floor, even though it's essentially a rolling tank available to the public.
And while the average person might imagine a factory full of trucks and SUVs, just about anything can be armored. "We see a lot of SUVs, mostly. Some want just a windshield. Others want to be able to survive a bomb attack. Regardless of what you drive, we always recommend as much protection as you can afford."
Mark couldn't disclose the cost for various packages, but if you're concerned about attacks of any kind, the Armormax treatment is worth every dollar. If you're interested in getting a quote for armoring your vehicle, visit the Armormax website.
Stay tuned for more content from KSL Cars and Armormax, as we put Armormax's protection to the test by shooting the Tesla Model S Plaid and other armored vehicles.
About the author: Having owned everything from a DeLorean to an E46 BMW M3 and a Toyota Land Cruiser, Jason Bell is a lifelong car enthusiast who loves sharing his passions as a teacher, writer, speaker and social media manager. Contact him at email@example.com for comments/questions, or just to say "hi."