Ever thought of selling armour as an optional extra?

Months of waiting and millions in added costs have made selling an OEM armoured vehicle almost impossible, but local firm SVI says it has the solution.

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SVI is widely considered one of the most meticulous armoured car makers in South Africa and is known as the builders of the MAX 3 and MAX 9 military vehicles that are used in every application from war zones to mine protection, but few people realise that the company started off on “normal” cars.

According to Nicol Louw, business development manager of SVI, the company was established in 2004 and has since armoured everything from a Nissan Hardbody to a Range Rover and everything in between. Indeed, since it first armoured a local bakkie, it has delivered close to 2 500 armoured products to customers.

SVI armoured vehicles.
SVI says the customers for armoured vehicles range from concerned individuals to companies, relevant businesses like security firms and of course the military.

“We have been building armoured cars for almost two decades and only added military vehicles much later, after a pending restraint of trade had expired. This means that we have a very strong skillset in armouring any type of civilian vehicle,” says Nicol.

“What is most important, is that SVI sees itself as an engineering firm, not a fitment centre. We have a large number of engineers on staff and every vehicle is approached as an engineering project, with detailed CAD drawings, laser measurements, custom-fitted Kevlar or steel plating and a battery of tests before delivery.”

The same engineers study vehicles that have been in action to better understand assault patterns and they are often called upon to repair or re-armour vehicles that had been fitted with a standard kit from other armoured car fitment centres.

SVI armoured vehicles.
SVI started armouring passenger vehicles and later added the MAX 3 and MAX 9 (pictured) military vehicles.

SVI says that it can armour any suitable passenger vehicle, bakkie or SUV to either B4 (handgun) or B6 (assault rifle) standards, with a turnaround time of around eight to 12 weeks. Costs vary from as little as R400 000 for B4-certified protection to around R750 000 for B6, although it will depend on the custom changes and additions requested by the customer.

“OEM-fitted armoured vehicles are very hard to come by and in some cases have a waiting list of years and a cost of several million rand. In contrast, we armour a vehicle and deliver it to the dealer in less than three months and in most cases, especially at B4 level, the additions will be almost invisible,” says Nicol.

In B4-spec, SVI uses Kevlar sheets and special bullet proof glass to protect against handguns up to a Magnum 44. This adds only marginal weight and means that most vehicles will perform close to normal with standard suspension settings.

SVI vehicle armouring.
At current capacity, the SVI facility in Pretoria can deliver a custom armoured vehicle in between 8 and 12 weeks, but the company says it has the facilities to scale production for larger orders.

With the upgrade to B6-spec, which can stop assault rifles like the infamous AK47, SVI adds bulletproof steel plating and even thicker glass, which may then require upgrades to the brakes and suspension..

When asked about the most popular conversions, Nicol says that Toyota vehicles are most often converted, including every kind of Land Cruiser, the Hilux and the Fortuner. Other cars that are very popular include the Ford Ranger and BMW X3 and X5, but the company has armoured many vehicles, from Mercedes-Benz, BMW and others.

“Dealers who have added armouring to their list of services have opened new markets that include not only wealthy individuals and people of interest, but businesses like cash in transit services, mines and security services,” says Nicol.

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