OGDEN — A Utah company has created what it claims is the fastest bulletproof car ever made — and it's 100-percent electric, to boot.
The armored Tesla's blazing acceleration, from zero to 60 in less than three seconds, is sure to wow any driver and leave pursuing criminals in the dust.
Although the modified Tesla is headed for the Middle East, Ogden-based International Armoring Corp. is seeing a shift of its armored car-market from foreign countries to wealthy buyers in the U.S. who are increasingly worried about armed attacks.
"OK, here we go!" said company President Mark Burton Jr. as he floored the Tesla's accelerator. He and a passenger were instantly pinned to their seats as the car leaped to freeway speed in just a couple of seconds.
The company's starting point for its custom modifications was a top-of-the-line Tesla, Model S P100D. Burton said it's the fastest production car on the market.
At company facilities in Ogden, Burton's team outfitted the Tesla with about 550 pounds of armor designed to withstand an attack by crooks or terrorists.
"This is the fastest bulletproof car in the world," Burton said. "We have inch-thick plated glass. We've armored the doors. It comes equipped with bombproof protection on the floor."
The car will not withstand heavier attack weapons, but it should protect driver and passengers from the kinds of guns used most commonly by kidnappers, robbers and terrorists.
"We have special materials that, in this case, can stop any handgun or rifle," Burton said, "to withstand an AK-47 or less."
In spite of the added weight, the Tesla still makes lightning-fast starts, jumping from dead stop to flying speeds in a couple of breathless heartbeats. Most bulletproof cars would never get up and go like that because steel armor is too heavy. But International Armoring has a trade secret, the formula for a lightweight, synthetic-fiber armor called Armormax.
"It's kind of our secret sauce," Burton said as he drove the Tesla near his company headquarters. "We're able to not only keep the car lighter and stronger but to maintain that performance that this vehicle is known for."
A businessman in Dubai is spending nearly $225,000 for the customized Tesla, Burton said, and hopes to open a market for bulletproof Teslas in the Middle East. For years, nearly all the buyers of the company's armored cars have been in crime-ridden or terror-prone countries outside the U.S.
"But over the last three or four years, that whole dynamic has changed; it's flip-flopped," said Burton's father, Mark Burton Sr., the company's founder and CEO.
He sat at the wheel of a modified GMC Yukon Denali ordered by a wealthy business owner on the East Coast. It's an oversized SUV designed to stand up to a determined attack and allow its occupants to escape. It has many "bells and whistles" — in this case sirens, strobe lights and a public address system. Burton pointed to a button near the driver's seat labeled "tacks."
That's right, tacks.
"Tacks that flatten tires for cars that are pursuing you," Burton said. Pointing to another button labeled "smoke" he said, "this next one is a smokescreen. A little James Bondish but yet, quite effective."Comment on this story
The company has armored more than 9,000 vehicles over the last 25 years, the vast majority to wealthy people or government officials in foreign countries. Most customers now are domestic.
"I believe there's a sense of insecurity, instability, here in the United States," Mark Burton Sr. said. "There's just that feeling. It used to be a feeling that 'It will never happen to me.' But now there's a feeling 'It might happen to me, and I want to be able to do something about it.'"
The final price of the Denali SUV after modifications is about $190,000.