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It's not without reason that BMWs are among the top choices for high-security personnel transport. BMW Security vehicles – armor-reinforced versions of the standard roadcars we see on the road every day – are known to be both secure and responsive to quick, often life-saving maneuvers. But what good would these vehicles be if their drivers didn't know how to handle them properly?
That's why BMW has a security vehicle training facility in East Germany. Built on the grounds of what was once the largest Cold War air base in Europe, the center is run by advanced driving instructor Klaus Heimerl, who shows chauffeurs and security personnel how to evade any number of potentially threatening situations, from ambushes to roadside bombs.
Of course, BMW isn't the only automaker offering armor-reinforced versions of its vehicles. Nor is it the only company offering this kind of evasive – and potentially life-saving – driving instruction. And while this level of protection might not factor into the daily driving routines of most drivers in the United States, for many drivers in many countries, it could make all the difference between life and death in scenarios that arise on a near-daily basis.
Although much of the world's wealth is concentrated in relatively civilized countries where the rule of law is present and enforced, there's certainly enough going around in developing countries where criminal elements operate in the open and kidnapping is a regular occurrence. For the wealthy private individuals who are potential targets for such abduction and armed robbery operations, having the right equipment and people with the right skills to evade potential assailants is an absolute necessity.
Beyond private individuals, there are the needs of law enforcement officials around the world who must be able to pursue suspected criminals, often at high speeds and great peril, and protective services that need to keep their clients (be they private individuals or political leaders) safe from harm. Government agencies like the U.S. Secret Service – the branch of the Treasury Department tasked with protecting the President of the United States – operate their own advanced driver training, but there are organizations located around the world that offer instruction in protective and evasive driving techniques to private citizens.
One of the best-reputed in the business is Bobby Ore Motorsports. An experienced racing driver, Bobby Ore has been training all manner of drivers – amateur and professional, civilian and government – in advanced driving techniques for decades at his bases in Florida and California. Films actors and stunt drivers enlist his services to learn the spectacular maneuvers we watch on screens big and small, while his defensive, evasive and pursuit courses are favorites in the law enforcement, counter-terrorism and protective services fields.
Like BMW's Security models, several luxury automakers – the kind you might expect the world's rich and powerful to drive or be driven in – offer similar ballistic protection options direct from the factory. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Rolls-Royce (itself a BMW subsidiary), Bentley and Jaguar all offer armor-reinforced versions of their luxury sedans and sport-utility vehicles. These upgraded models are designed to withstand fire from handguns and even assault rifles, blasts from roadside bombs and hand grenades, and often include air filtration systems to keep occupants safe from poison gas or smoke. Although these protective measures – including steel-reinforced body panels and thicker bullet-proof glass – add considerable heft to the vehicle's curb weight, automakers typically beef up the suspension and brakes to counteract the effects.
In addition to factory-equipped models, there are independent companies – like the Texas Armoring Corporation featured on TLC's Family Armor series and Germany-based Xenatec and Mutec – that will upgrade just about any existing automobile with similar levels of equipment. While such aftermarket-equipped armored vehicles may not benefit from factory installation, they considerably broaden the scope of choices offered to those in need of protection.
Finally there are companies like Inkas Armored Vehicle Manufacturing based in Ontario, Canada. In addition to offering a full line of armored passenger vehicles and cash transit trucks, they also build the special purpose INKAS APC (above), a light armored patrol vehicle built on a heavy duty truck chassis that can be outfitted to your particular security needs, which includes installing a turret on the roof.
While those of us not under the daily threat of kidnapping and armed robbery may enjoy the entertainment value in watching the likes of Jason Statham evading assailants in the popular Transporter movies, for others this remains a very real danger to them and their families. And when subversive elements strike, their targets will be glad they got the right training and the right car.