As global terrorism and violent crime reverberates around parts of the globe, worldwide demand for armoured cars has risen to more than 18 000 a year.

As global terrorism and civil unrest reverberates around parts of the globe, worldwide demand for armoured passenger vehicles have risen to more than 18 000 a year. In 1995, the number was 4 000.

In announcing that Lincoln would build bullet-resistant versions of its Town Car saloon to meet increased demand for armoured vehicles, Ford spokesman Mike Vaughn said Town Car Ballistic Protection Series cars would sell for about R1,26 million.

Ford in America has said it wants to make more specialised - and therefore high mark-up - versions of vehicles to increase sales and profit.

Armoured vehicles are big sellers in Mexico, Russia, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia and the Ukraine but there is undoubtedly strong demand in other parts of the world - including South Africa.

BMW sells the 540i Protection for R860 000. The armour-plating is not noticeable and the weight of the BMW has been increased by only 130 kg compared with the normal 5-Series. The chassis has been adapted to handle the additional weight. It provides all-round protection from handgun shots using carbon fibre panels and polycarbonate glazing.

It has a two-way communication system with hand microphones, allowing passengers to communicate with someone outside the vehicle without opening the windows. It also has the option of wheels with a tyre reinforcement ring that allows the driver to continue at a reduced speed even if the tyre carcasses have been destroyed. The car can cross a spike barrier.

Mercedes-Benz has the S-Guard range, based on the S-Class, and prices range from R1,2 million to R2,5 million. The S-Guard’s windows can absorb the impact of projectiles without shattering.

CAR magazine featured armoured vehicles in its March 2000 issue, pointing out that Mercedes-Benz offers four levels of protection, ranging from B4 to B7. B4, the entry-level, offers protection against handguns, up to the famous “Dirty Harry” .44 calibre Magnum. B5 protects against NATO 5,56 mm rounds, and B6 resists normal soft core 7,65 mm rounds from a Kalashnikov or equivalent assault rifle.

The B7 can withstand hard core 7,62 mm rounds, close proximity, underfloor or overhead airburst grenade explosions and Molotov cocktails. The vehicles also feature an armoured sump guard under the engine, and a self-sealing fuel tank that is isolated from the cabin by armoured steel.