One such company that specialises in modifying cars into ballistic-proof security vehicles is Texas Armoring Corporation (TAC). The business has grown 30 percent in the past two years and has just doubled its workshop floor space to fulfil demand. The company is able to convert up to 80 cars per year, a rate which is climbing.
The company is capable of making cars bullet-proof thanks to the fitment of a range of materials and measures, such as 5cm-thick windows and 'Spectra Shield' reinforced panels (plates made up of Kevlar, steel and polyethylene composite).
TAC doesn't just hack into cars leaving them looking like mutant army tanks either. The company is able to modify cars in a way that leaves them looking pretty much the same as they did when they left the original factory - just like the seemingly innocent yet completely bulletproof Volkswagen Passat below.
Cars can also be optioned up with battery protection, armoured alloy wheels with run-flat technology, smoke screens which emit large plumes of smoke to confuse followers, and tyre-spike deployment systems. TAC even fits surveillance cameras discreetly around the car showing multiple external views through an in-car LCD screen.
It may sound extreme but many US residents and high-profile citizens are opting to beef up their cars in this way to protect themselves from incidents associated with drug trafficking and crimes in Mexico. TAC president Trent Kimball said in a recent Wired report that his company has never purposely catered for drug criminals. He said most of the cars the company modified were for government workers, heads of state, business executives and big corporations.
It's not just high-profile workers that are under threat though, many motorists are being targeted in the ongoing drug wars and kidnappings just because they drive a particular type of car, such as large luxury sedans and SUVs. In February, two US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on a highway between San Luis Potosí and Matamoros were ambushed by gunmen. One of the men died while the other was left in a critical condition. The gunmen were arrested and said they had mistaken the large SUV for rival gang members.
In another incident, three people were killed just a few weeks ago travelling in a Hummer H3. The gunmen were said to have unleashed 30 rounds onto the car, killing both front seat passengers. The rear seat passenger died later after collapsing in a garage.
It's a very big problem in the area and some commuters are taking no risk, kitting their cars out with the full spectrum of protective mods.
Such packages are said to cost around $US80,000 (on top of the car price), depending on the model, providing protection from bullet sizes of up to 7.62mm (military and assault rifles such as the AK-47).