Why armored cars are luxury cars in the Philippines 2
2021 Toyota Fortuner Limited 4x4 armored to level 6 (assault rifle protection). Photo courtesy of Hans Tan

The honest truth about armored cars, according to a guy who’s sold a lot of them

“I tell clients, it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it,” Hans Tan said in an interview recently
ANCX Staff | Jan 18 2022

Movies, soaps and the news repeatedly tell us the days leading up to elections can be a huge security risk, not only for candidates but for their supporters and coterie of hangers on. In the Philippines, election-related violence and deaths are nothing to be scoffed at. To illustrate, click this link. 

So since the battle for public office will expectedly get tense again on the road to May, one imagines the business of armored vehicles are about to get busier, if they haven’t already—with the official campaign season officially starting in February for national elective posts, and March for members of the House of Representatives, and elective regional, provincial, city and municipal officials. 

Armored Fortuner
This armored Fortuner has Ballistic Rear Door Protection, which is common among military vehicles.

But according to Hans Tan, while it’s a common notion that politicians are the typical users of armored cars, 85% of his clientele are actually just business people. Tan’s family has been involved in the car armoring business since the mid-1990s. Back then, Hans’ father would import armored vehicles from different companies overseas to cater to the needs of local VIPs. Hans took over the business in 2013 and rechristened the enterprise Luxury Cars Manila.

The guy was recently a guest at Cito Beltran’s talk show over News One. Elections being the topic du jour, armored cars was appointed subject of discussion. “Armored cars overseas are utility or service vehicles. Dito sa atin, [considered] luxury vehicles yan, kasi mahal,” Hans told Cito.

Armored Fortuner
Hans said they use layers of bullet-resistant polycarbonate in place of glass. “Once you sit in our cars, you can’t even tell that it’s armored pagdating sa salamin,” he said. 

Which is why it’s mostly rich businessmen who are able to afford it. Apparently, having an armored vehicle is necessary especially to those who pass by security risk areas (the example Hans offered is a factory in a far-flung or secluded place). “I tell clients, it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it,” Hans said. “Sometimes you’ll learn na kailangan mo pala kapag nangyari na ang situation and it’s too late.”

When Cito asked if it’s legal to own an armored vehicle, Hans said there are no laws or government regulations set when it comes to owning an armored vehicle in the Philippines at the moment. In other words, an ordinary civilian can own one if he has the means. 

Armored Grandia
The gunport of an armored 2021 Toyota Hiace Super Grandia 

There are basically two types of ballistic protection levels, according to Hans: one for handgun protection and another for assault rifle protection. In the local setting, Hans observed that majority of assassination attempts are done by “riding in tandems”—in other words, they typically use a handgun. “Kasi mahirap magdala ng mahabang [baril] kapag nasa likod ka ng motor. Kitang kita,” he said.

The business owner clarified that not all vehicles can be armored. The capacity of a vehicle’s chassis is a major consideration in armoring. About 640 to 700 kilos would be added to the weight of a Hilux, about 750 kilos to a Fortuner, and about a ton to a Super Grandia. “Other brands might get upset but we’re very biased towards Toyota because it’s a brand we’ve worked closely with and we’ve seen the durability talaga,” said Hans. “We also armor the Ford Ranger Raptor, which is a huge seller for us.” Prices of Level 6 armored cars range from 4.8 million (Hilux Conquest), 5.8 (Fortuner) to 7.5 (Super Grandia).

The technology in armoring vehicles has significantly evolved over the past couple of decades. “The type of steel that we use is high carbon. They are thinner, a lot easier to work with and durable,” said Hans. They use layers of bullet-resistant polycarbonate in place of glass. “Once you sit in our cars, you can’t even tell that it’s armored pagdating sa salamin,” he said proudly. 

Armored Grandia
Interiors of a bulletproof 2021 Toyota Hiace Super Grandia

In terms of drivability, maneuverability, and speed, one will naturally feel a little bit of weight. “I always tell our clients, when you buy an armored vehicle, you can’t expect it to perform the exact, same way as a stock vehicle,” explained Hans. “There are certain adjustments that you have to make. We cannot cheat physics.” He added that it would take a little bit more time to stop a heavier vehicle compared to a stock vehicle. “Kailangan pag nagmamaneho tayo ng armored vehicles na may kabigatan, dumistansya sa sasakyan sa harap. Iba ang pagmamaneho nito. Be sure that you are always on the side of safety.”

As a final reminder, the car and gun enthusiast said having an armored car doesn’t provide 100 percent protection to its driver and passengers. “Walang sasakyan na hindi tatablan ng bala pag di niyo pinagalaw ang sasakyan. The main point when you have an armored vehicle is that pag nakarinig kayo ng putok, drive the car right away. Wag kayong lalaban. Trabaho na ng backup yan.”