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Demonstration shows toughness of armored vehicle

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost.com
CONCORD — Imagine. Someone offers to fire live ammo into a heavily armored vehicle and tells you to invite all the media you want.
“I learned that two months ago, and that’s all I could think of since,” said Adrian Parker of the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s public relations department.
As a way to kick off this weekend’s (Thursday-Sunday) Food Lion AutoFair, the speedway invited reporters and photographers to the Cabarrus Country Sheriff’s Department’s training facility on Irish Potato Road, where two heavily armed sharpshooters took potshots Tuesday at a 2011 Suburban.
More precisely, they aimed at the driver’s side window, which featured multi-layered glass 40 millimeters thick — only part of the massive, built-in protection on this car, which retails from $100,000 to $175,000 and will be headed to either Iraq or Afghanistan.
Barrett Elwood, an investigator with Harrisburg, and David Burchett, part of the sheriff’s warrant squad, took turns shooting at both the armored Suburban and a regular 1996 model, to show the differences.
The 2011 armored Suburban’s glass absorbed three .223-caliber bullets from an ASR-15 assault rifle. The bullets were able to puncture the outside glass and cracks splintered from the impact of each bullet like a spider’s web.
But the projectiles failed to penetrate. The inside glass was still smooth after the demonstration.
Meanwhile, as you might expect, the bullets shattered the glass windows on the non-armored Suburban.
Scott Cooper, head of public relations for the Speedway, said the AutoFair always tries to bring “things you’ve never seen or done before.”
Streit built the armored Suburban at its Charleston, S.C., facility, and company representatives also brought an armored Mercedes Benz S550 to the training facility Tuesday. No one shot at the Mercedes.
Don MacMillan, territory director for North and South America for Streit, said the company builds armored vehicles for the U.S. military, embassies, the FBI, National Security Administration, SWAT teams and other agencies.
He described the vehicles as “low-key.”
“You would not know they are armored,” he said. But the Suburban he brought Tuesday could stop bullets from an M-16 or AK-47.
Streit builds about 140 vehicles a month as part of what has become a billion-dollar-a-year industry. In the United States, the demand for these vehicles often is high among professional athletes, corporation heads, movie stars and high-profile musicians, besides government entities.
“It was very cool,” Elwood said of firing at the armored vehicle and how it stood up to the assault.
Bulletproof cars often include the multi-layered glasss, armor plating, run-flat tires, explosion-resistant fuel tanks and high-tech communications systems. The extra armor often adds a ton or so to the vehicle’s weight.
MacMillan said the protection on the Suburban was at least three times more than a typical cash-in-transit truck.
Based in Toronto, Streit does business in more than 100 countries and opened its facility in Charleston in 2008.
The armored vehicles will be joined at the AutoFair by an exhibit showcasing 100 years of Chevrolet automobiles, the world’s lowest street-legal vehicle, rock crawlers and movie and television cars.
The Flatmobile from England will be making its first trip to the United States. Modeled after the Batmobile from the 1966-68 “Batman”‘ television series, it has ground clearance of 2 inches, barely high enough for a golf ball to roll underneath it.
The Guinness Book of World Records considers it the lowest street-legal automobile.
The AutoFair also will feature a Tumbler, modeled after the Batmobile driven in “The Dark Knight.”
More than a dozen rock crawlers will be on display. They are rigs built to travel over and around boulders — “a low-speed thrill ride built for boulder paths,” as described Tuesday.
Hours for the AutoFair are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices are $10 per day for adults or $25 for a four-day pass. Children under 12 are free. Parking is $5.
For more information on all the special attractions, go to www.charlottemotorspeedway.com
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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