Local Utah Armoring Company Offers James Bond Gadgetry
OGDEN — While U.S. auto manufacturers clamor for federal bailout money, a local company is making big bucks selling bullet-proof vehicles with James Bond gadgetry in the world’s most dangerous hot spots.
American contractors, foreign professionals and political leaders in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Mexico, the Philippines as well as other countries where violence abounds are increasingly turning to International Armoring Corporation for roadside protection.
“We build armored vehicles for so many different areas around the world,” said Mark F. Burton, chief executive officer of International Armoring. “The nice thing about it is that we are saving a lot of lives.”
Founded by Burton 20 years ago, International Armoring is headquartered in a nondescript building in downtown Ogden.
The company employs about 35 workers locally and another 100 or so at facilities in Cadiz, Spain; Johannesburg, South Africa; San Paulo, Brazil; London, England, Nairobi, Kenya, Subic Bay, Philippines, and Hong Kong.
Last year, International Armoring sold about 150 vehicles, including Humvees, sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, vans and sedans, said Tom Fleenor, the company’s director of sales and marketing.
Modifications typically cost $40k to $90k depending on the level of protection and excluding the purchase price of the vehicle, Fleenor said
Handgun protection is the least expensive while armor-piercing bullet protection costs the most, he said.
Some vehicles also are tricked out with additional gadgets such as electric shock door handles, external listening devices, public address systems, sirens, strobe lights, and smoke screen and road tack systems.
About 90 percent of the vehicles that International Armoring outfits are sold to customers in Africa.
The president of a Western African nation recently purchased five Nissan Armada sport utility vehicles from the company for about $140,000 each, said Fleenor, who declined to identify the head of state for security reasons.
The vehicles are equipped with quarter-inch ballistic steel and 42-mm glass that can withstand handgun and high-power rifle fire.
International Armoring also receives many orders from business owners in Mexican border cities like Tijuana, who worry about getting caught in the cross-fire of feuding drug cartels, Fleenor said.
The company also sells a lot of vehicles to American contractors in Afghanistan and does business with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Frequently, customers from foreign countries visit International Armoring’s operation in Ogden to check out vehicles they have purchased.
“We encourage them to come over and inspect them before delivery,” Fleenor said, adding that vehicles destined for overseas customers usually are shipped from Baltimore.
International Armoring has an export license from the U.S. Department of Commerce to ship cars overseas, said Fleenor. The purpose of the license is to prevent criminals from acquiring vehicles.
Depending on the level of protection provided, it typically takes a team of four technicians 25 days to 45 days to replace a vehicle’s metal interior with ballistic steel armor and install bullet-proof glass, said Fleenor.
Each vehicle also receives a new suspension system to accommodate 700 to 2,000 pounds of extra weight from the armor and heavy glass.
Larry Archuleta, a senior technician who has worked for International Armoring for 15 years, said he enjoys outfitting vehicles that provide protection and peace of mind to customers around the world.
“You’ve got to take a lot pride (in your work) because people’s lives are at stake,” he said. “It’s a very serious job.”