An armored car (American English) or armoured car (British English) is one of several types of wheeled armored vehicles: a civilian bullet-proof passenger car, a military wheeled armored vehicle, or a special-purpose armored cargo vehicle for transporting valuables.
Military armored carsEdit
A military armored car is a type of armored fighting vehicle having wheels (from four to eight large off-road wheels) instead of Caterpillar tracks, and usually light armor. Armored cars are typically less expensive and have superior speed and range compared to tracked military vehicles. Most are not intended for heavy fighting; their normal use is for reconnaissance, command, control, and communications. Others use the armored-car chassis as a way to move (or tow) various long-range rocket, missile, or mortar batteries through dangerous areas while protecting the safety of the crew. But some armored cars are intended to enter close combat, often accompanying convoys to protect soft-skinned vehicles. They usually mount a machine gun, autocannon, or small tank gun.
At the beginning of the twentieth century a number of military armored vehicles were manufactured by adding armor and weapons to existing vehicles: armored tractors, armored cars, and armored trains are known. Most of the early designs were a large car chassis to which a body made of steel plates had been added. A spectacularly impractical early armored ‘car’ was the Russian Tsar Tank of 1915, a sort of tricycle with nine-meter wheels.
Armored cars are popular for peacekeeping or internal security duties. Their appearance is less confrontational and threatening than tanks, and their size and maneuverability is more compatible with tight urban spaces designed for wheeled vehicles.
Civilian armored carsEdit
Civilian armored cars are either (in only a few cases) factory produced, such as the BMW 7 Series High Security and the armoured Audi A6 and A8 cars, or (in the majority of cases) retrofitted versions of Series cars. A Security vehicle is made by replacing the windows with bulletproof glass and inserting layers of armour/ aramid under the outer skin of the car, a labour-intensive process that takes a few weeks and costs about $100,000 in the U.S. The makers usually leave the external appearance of the car unchanged, in order to not look conspicuous. In most cases Dyneema, aramid, composites and ballistic steel plates are used, and the increased mass is offset by an enhanced engine and brakes, as composite armor is considerably more expensive. Besides the armor itself, many other protective modifications are available: fire extinguisher, run-flat tires, an explosion-resistant fuel tank, remote starting of the car, pressure and temperature control of the tires, a siren or alarm, and an intercom between the exterior and interior of the car. Sometimes the inside can be sealed or overpressured, using its own air supply, to protect against gas attacks. Civilian armored cars may have obvious armor protection, or they may be totally indistinguishable from an unarmored model.
Armored cars are in common use by people who feel at risk and can afford them, for example politicians, entrepreneurs, ambassadors, or in higher-risk areas including Colombia, Iraq, Moscow, and Washington DC. They are very popular in Mexico City due to the level of violence there. Diplomatic missions typically use armored cars as standard vehicles. As a side benefit, armored cars are typically very safe in a car accident.
The other type of civilian armored car is really an armored truck, used in transporting valuables, such as large quantities of money, which are equipped to resist attempts at highway robbery or the hijacking of the cargo. They may be manned with armed guards but do not mount weapons. These armoured cars are usually operated by security firms, which provide secure transport for clients' property.
Alternatively, civilian vehicles may be modified into improvised armored cars in ad-hoc fashion. Many militias and irregular forces adapt civilian vehicles into AFVs (Armoured Fighting Vehicles) and troop carriers, and in some regional conflicts such "technicals" are the only combat vehicles present. On occasion, even the soldiers of national militaries are forced to adapt their civilian-type vehicles for combat use, often using improvised armor and scrounged weapons.