It’s no secret – South Africa isn’t in the runnings to win the ‘safest country in the world’ award. On the contrary, it is for this reason that vehicle armouring has become such a lucrative business locally and now SVI has achieved OEM approval for Ford’s newest bakkie. Alex Shahini headed to the SVI HQ Southeast of Pretoria to test a B6 armoured Wildtrak back to back with its standard, bullet-prone counterpart.
What are we driving?
Among the most proficient in crime and hijackings, it is no wonder that local companies have risen to the occasion as a solution for armed bandits. Walk down the driveway of the Bashewa-based SVI factory and showroom and you’ll see that a niche industry, offering potentially life-saving solutions has become far more commonplace than a decade ago with apocalypse-ready and sheet metal fabricated behemoths lining the parking lot. OEMs have even found value in these aftermarket artisans and now offer OEM-recognised vehicle armour on their products, which has no impact on warranty or service plans.
This is a result of a rise of popularity in vehicle armouring according to SVI, which has risen to prominence since its inception 20 years ago. No longer reserved for duplicitous business folk or enemy-prone high-ranking individuals needing overtly obvious tank-esque transport, SVI offers subtle B4 and B6 armoured Ranger conversions too. Adding to, for example, mine patrol vehicles being picked off in guerilla-style raids by zama zamas or high-value convoy support, there has been an increase in interest by private personnel wanting added protection for themselves and their families.
Why is the SVI B6 Armoured Ford Ranger Wildtrak significant?
Keen to offer OEM-backed products in the market with protection, Ford has partnered once again with SVI for their Ranger in all three body styles which include single cab, super cab and double cab. “Ford’s commitment to providing exceptional safety standards for our customers is deeply ingrained in our DNA, and this holds true for armoured protection as well,” says Dale Reid, Product Marketing Manager at Ford South Africa. The SVI upgrades include two levels of Ford-approved 360-degree armoured protection, each specifically designed with the overall dynamics, quality, in-car technology and “Built Ford Tough” DNA in mind.
Now, the trick is ensuring the exterior of the vehicle blends in with anything else on the round, mastering the art of being inconspicuous. The outer shell of the exterior of the ‘Discreet’ remains almost identical to its standard counterpart, with all armour expanding inwards in the form of kevlar or steel sheets mounted all around the cockpit, and thickened glass completing protection for the greenhouse. The result to the untrained eye is indistinguishable from its standard counterpart. For the more discerning, however, a hunkered down rear load-bin, courtesy of the added weight, and subtle differences with the side glass frame and polarity of the windscreen allude to something more consequential.
What’s new on the SVI B6 Armoured Ford Ranger Wildtrak?
Jump inside and there are several expected compromises made for the added protection. Keep in mind, B6 protection requires a significant amount of added material, more than 600 kg worth, which can withstand attacks mounted with 7.62×51 mm rounds primarily found in the R1 and AK47. As mentioned before, the exterior shell has remained uncompromised however the interior has received this added material. Despite this metal armour and armoured glass measuring 38 mm thick, all comforts and trim remain. While I continue playing ‘spot the difference’ on the interior from the Wildtrak we had just gotten out of, the hefty door behind held open with my right arm begins to feel the fatigue of all of that added weight which would set the tone for the stint behind the wheel.
In addition, the range includes a semi-discreet, cost-effective B6 armouring option pitched at the security industry which is ideal for combating general crime, transporting valuables or for use on mining patrols. Dubbed Stopgun V3.0, this security package represents a substantial upgrade over the previous Stopgun V2.0 kit, with flat armoured glass (complete with gunports) now fitted behind the standard side windows. As a result, the package is considerably more discreet from the outside, while wind noise is also noticeably reduced. The Stopgun V3.0 security option can be installed in just three weeks.
SVI adds that the twin-turbo petrol-powered V6 Ranger Raptor isn’t in their repertoire since the bespoke FOX suspension set-up would need to be replaced with standard components and its different payload capacity.
What is the SVI B6 Armoured Ford Ranger Wildtrak like to drive?
There is simply no financially viable solution for armouring a vehicle without the addition of significant weight. While all of the safety modifications are done within the bakkie’s GVM of 1 000 kg, it will expectedly handle and perform as though it is carrying 5 rugby players in the cabin. The turbocharged diesel V6 lurches up the driveway and begins slowing for the turnoff onto the main road. Sitting in the passenger seat and just out of the driver’s seat in a standard Wildtrack, the immediately apparent weight located on the floor, doors, roof, firewall and pillars becomes noticeable. The 184 kW motor manages to haul comfortably, albeit at the cost of performance. Expected. The purpose of these vehicles is reiterated that they aren’t built to outrun any prying opportunists but simply to continue moving after a strike while ensuring the occupants remain unharmed. Jaco de Kock, CEO at SVI Engineering added that in almost all scenarios of heists or hijackings, the assailants aren’t likely to pursue after the initial strike.
My stint behind the wheel yielded exactly what would be suspected. The higher centre of gravity renders the body roll as worse, emergency braking at speed is slower and less predictable, acceleration from a standstill is heavily limited and fuel consumption is, from our test, 15 to 30% higher than normal. This is the compromise for being able to withstand a strike and this is the choice that 130 previous generation Ranger owners were willing to make.
As a recap, SVI offers civilian protection in the form of B4 and B6 armour. Level B4 Discreet provides customers with bullet-resistant protection against handguns up to .44 Magnum. This is the typical anti-hijack solution that also offers defence against brick-throwing and other hand-held projectiles. The package comprises 21mm armoured glass in combination with carefully shaped Kevlar sheets for the body. It is discreet and lightweight with minimal impact on vehicle acceleration, fuel consumption and dynamic performance. The build time for a B4-armoured Ranger is three months.
What does the SVI Armoured Ford Ranger Wildtrak cost?
All pricing excludes VAT and excludes the purchase price of the base vehicle.
- B4 Single Cab Discreet from R426 268
- B4 Super Cab Discreet from R572 377
- B4 Double Cab Discreet from R572 377
- B6 Single Cab Discreet from R665 116
- B6 Super Cab Discreet from R866 966
- B6 Double Cab Discreet from R866 966
- B6 Single Cab Stopgun V3.0 from R295 293
- B6 Super Cab Stopgun V3.0from R341 587
- B6 Double Cab Stopgun V3.0from R422 257
SVI also offers additional Ford-approved armouring options:
- Roof armour
- Floor armour
- Run-flat rings for the tyres
- Public announcement system
With violent crime on the increase, vehicle armouring has become more common with civilian transport. Regardless of how you look at a product like this, with apprehension or disapproval of the compromised performance and interior, this is all a small price to pay for being able to withstand an armed strike.