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Armored Cars: Safe Rooms on Wheels:

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Armored Cars: Safe Rooms on Wheels

Melinda Spaulding - Reporter

HOUSTON - Drug cartels, gangs, and insurgents: groups not afraid to use assault rifles on a moving target in broad daylight.
Just driving up to a stop sign can put your life at risk. It's a level of violence so common in some parts of the world that businessmen and governments are turning to a body shop in northwest Houston for help.
"Most of the people, they're scared for their lives," says Scott Newman, vice president of Texcalibur Armor.
He meets clients who have a single objective: protection for themselves and their families. His crew transforms everyday vehicles into armored, moving safety zones.
Many vehicles are armored to level B-6 protection.
"What it means is it'll stop all your handguns, including a 44 magnum. It'll stop most of your assault weapons, including your AK 47's, your M16, AR10, AR15. For the most part, this will stop any assault weapon."
Newman showed off all the safety tools:
"This Kevlar bomb blanket will stop two simultaneous explosions of a German D51 grenade. So, if you're driving in your vehicle and someone throws a grenade under it, it's gonna absorb the fragmentation of the grenades.”
"This glass is 45 millimeter glass. As you can see, it's been shot with this round. As you can see the glass has been shot, it's designed to stop the round and then it spiders."
"If this bullet were to shoot this tire, as your driving, the tire would shred off but then you'd be able to drive because you have a run flat tire underneath."
"The main objective in an armored car is to withstand the bullets and allow you to drive to a safe rallying place."
The bullet proof protection is in high demand.
"We get a lot of requests from Latin America. The Mexican drug violence, it's terrible for Mexico but it's been great for our business. We've seen big demand for companies, wealthy families that want protection. Most of the time that happens because they've received a threat or somebody has been kidnapped," says Newman. "We've seen a great increase in Central America this year, why? With the law enforcement focusing in on the drug cartels in Mexico , a lot of them have gone into Central American countries because they don't have the adequate police or military infrastructure to stop those guys. So, it's the same thing that's happening in Mexico , businessman and wealthy individuals that are being affected by the violence. People want an armored vehicle for peace of mind."
Peace of mind does not come cheap. Your basic armored vehicle here starts at $50,000. Last year, the company bullet-proofed and grenade-proofed over 120 cars resulting in over $20 million in sales.
For those willing to spend even more, there's the "James Bond" package featuring night vision, public announcement systems, strobe lights and more.
"Some of the clients that we have want these things to be super tricked out. So we'll have smoke dispensing device. Press a button in the car and it's gonna shoot out smoke. So if somebody is following the vehicle, it'll decrease their visibility so they can drive away. We also install road tack devices. Press a button, it releases road tacks."

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Houston Chronicle

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Violence drives up armored vehicle demand
When violence is on your tail
If you live with danger and need wheels that offer protection, a local outfit can help


The vehicles inside Texcalibur Armor's body shop could be featured in a Hollywood action movie scene.

At the northwest Houston facility, technicians armor vehicles to keep diplomats, business executives, oil field workers, politicians and others safe in violent areas in the world.

Among the upgrades available: Trap doors that release nails to puncture the tires of a vehicle in pursuit of the armored car. Night vision technology that detects body heat if people are nearby. Smoke dispensers to help obscure a speedy getaway.

A black Cadillac Escalade modified with such features recently for a client in Nigeria didn't look much different than any other Escalade.

"To the naked eye, you would never know it's armored," said Scott Newman, Texcalibur's vice president of sales and marketing.

These days, with uprisings and crime up in many parts of the globe, demand for armor is growing as well.

"The nature of our business is when violence increases in the world and there's civil and economic unrest, that's when we are the busiest," said Jason Forston, executive vice president of Texas Armoring Corp. in San Antonio, which is expanding its facility to handle the workload.

Newman said demand for vehicles retrofitted with armor is increasing among oil and gas companies as military forces leave Iraq.

West Africa — where political unrest and oil resources sometimes prove a volatile mix - has also been a hot market for armored cars ordered by energy companies and political leaders. Recently, Texcalibur technicians installed bulletproof glass on an Infiniti QX56 limousine bound for a West African politician.

And in the last few years, the demand for armored vehicles has escalated in Mexico because of the drug war and rise in kidnappings for ransom, notably along the U.S. border and in the industrial city of Monterrey.

"Mexico has been a huge market for us," Newman said as he toured the company's shop where workers strip the original vehicle and then add composite steel and thick glass.

The price for armoring a vehicle at Texcalibur can range from $60,000 to more than $100,000, depending on the options. The standard package includes special tires that can travel several miles even if they're shot out.

"The end game is to get away from danger," said Newman, who closely guards his clients' privacy.

Pricier options includes a camera on the driver for security and ice coolers for executive comfort.

"This is really a mobile command center," Newman said, pointing to the captain's chair and flat screen television set in the back seat. The more expensive vehicles are typically driven by chauffeurs.

The price tag doesn't include the cost of the vehicle. Texcalibur often armors large SUVs, limousines, pickup trucks and anti-riot vehicles used by police or military forces.

Once the vehicle is armored, it must be shipped to its international client, and U.S. government officials must clear it for export to ensure it doesn't go to a troublesome owner such as a drug lord.

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Link to KHOU News

Houston company turns regular cars and trucks into armored vehicles


by By Vicente Arenas / 11 News
Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:17 PM
Updated Monday, Oct 26 at 2:18 PM

HOUSTON -- Concerns about violence along the border have more drivers looking for increased protection. A Houston company says it's flooded with calls from people wanting to turn their cars into an armored vehicle.
Houston company turns cars into armored vehicles
May 25, 2009
At Texcalibur Armor you'll find cars that even James Bond would envy. With smoke screens, road tacks, signal jammers and thick sheets of metal and glass, Texcalibur takes regular cars and turns them into armored vehicles right here in Houston.
Texcalibur workers actually test their glass and steel with an assault weapons to ensure they can stop the bullets from penetrating.
Texcalibur has made cars that are being used in foreign hotspots like Iraq and Afghanistan, and the company says business is booming -- especially after the terrorist attacks in India last year.
"As soon as that happened over in those hotels, my phone was ringing off the walls," said Scott Newman of Texcalibur.
Texcalibur says it is also getting business from Mexico, where drug violence and kidnappings make headlines everyday.
"There are a lot of inquiries, especially from government agencies," Newman said.
The company says its customers prefer armoring SUVs, pickup trucks and Jeeps.
The armor can cost anywhere from $40,000 to $115,000, but customers seem to think the cost is worth it when it comes to protecting themselves.

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