By on January 15, 2009

Rick Bondy waits silently as the PR guy and engineer pile into the back of the Lincoln Town Car Ballistic Protection Series (BPS). Bondy’s booked track time at Ford’s Dearborn Proving Ground; the look on his face says he’s not going to miss a single minute. Sensing his urgency, I point to the radar detector nestling in my camera bag. “I’ve got one of these if you need it.” “No thanks,” Bondy replies, thumping his Secret Service badge on the armrest. “I’ve got one of these.”

If I had any doubts about the seriousness of Ford’s first foray into the armored car market, Rick Bondy is rapidly dispelling them. The company may have spent two years and millions of dollars transforming the limo version of their august Lincoln Town Car into a “rifle level” armored car with “blast protection,” but the BPS is Bondy’s baby. And it’s clear that Ford’s number two security man, the company’s vaguely titled “Associate Director of Executive Operations,” approached the challenge with the same single-minded determination he used during 23 years with the Secret Service.

“The BPS came to being for one simple reason,” Bondy says, wheeling the big Lincoln through suburban Detroit. “I was the most dissatisfied armored car customer in the world.  All the cars I’d seen were crap: poor fit and finish, no durability, horrible ride, zero handling, lousy performance and unsatisfactory armoring. I wanted to build something better.”

The statement raises dozens of questions about Bondy’s experience with presidential security, kidnapping and terrorism— none of which are going to be answered. In fact, interviewing Rick Bondy about the new Lincoln BPS means stumbling through a maze of “we’re not going to go there’s” and “I can’t talk about that’s.” What he can discuss is the car itself, more or less. But first, to the consternation of Chief Engineer John Jraiche, Bondy wants to “beat the shit out of it.”

After depositing Jraiche and PR man Mike Vaughn trackside, Bondy wheels the BPS onto Ford’s driving course and hammers it. Unsurprisingly, the 6220 lbs. armored limo is slow off the mark. The BPS’ engine bay contains the exact same 230hp 4.6-liter V8 that powers the 1851 lbs. lighter donor car. Bondy must use every ounce of the powerplant’s 287 ft. lbs. of torque to build our speed through the twisties. A few corners later, and he’s finally got the BPS’ 17” all-season Michelins (with run-flat inserts) squealing in protest.

“How well do you think most people drive when someone’s trying to kill them?” Bondy demands. He swings the lumbering limo through a hairpin, balancing the chassis on the throttle like a race car driver. “We made the car’s handling as safe, progressive and predictable as possible, so a novice driver can get it completely wrong and still maintain sufficient control to leave the kill zone.”

When we switch seats, I try to drive like an incompetent limo driver suffering from a bullet-triggered panic attack. I brake mid-corner, choose the wrong line through a switchback, yank the wheel violently left and right and mash the stoppers from 65mph. Despite my best efforts to unsettle the beast, nothing particularly dramatic happens. Bondy is pleased. “When you’re being attacked, there’s one simple rule: you crash, you die,” he says. “Escape and evade. That’s the key.”

Bondy is adamant on this point. As far he’s concerned, armoring is simply the best way to help a mobile target— “the principal”— find extra escape time. That’s why we start at the track and work our way back to Roush Engineering, the BPS’ birthplace. The car’s design team, a combination of Ford product guys and the armoring world’s “best and brightest,” has disbanded. We huddle in Jraiche’s lonely-looking office to discuss the BPS’ engineering.

I ask what makes the BPS different from all the other armored cars. Jraiche hands me a small, well-thumbed booklet listing federal safety standards for motor vehicles. “The BPS is the only NIJ category three armored car that meets every regulation in this book,” Jraiche says. He turns to his computer to manipulate a seemingly endless spreadsheet. “Obviously, we started with a fully developed Ford product. Even so, once the ballistic solutions were in place, we put it through all the usual tests: crash test, door slam test, heating, cooling, wiring…” The list goes on.

Bondy nods proudly, but begins to lose patience. “Take a look at this.” We wend our way through deserted cubicles to contemplate a cutaway car door mounted on a display stand. “Most armored cars use motors to push the ballistic glass up,” Bondy reveals. “The glass weighs a ton. The motors tend to burn out. Think about that: if the window’s down, an armored car is worse than useless.” Bondy runs his hand over a pair of miniature gas struts holding up a “ballistic transparency” that’s an astounding 40mm thick. “Our window’s default position is up. The power shouldn’t fail, but if it does, the window stays up.”

We return to Jraiche’s office to check lunch arrangements. I spy a brightly colored wall chart displaying all of the over 700 bespoke “armoring solutions” that protects the BPS’ passengers from any ordinance up to a 7.62mmX51mm caliber bullet. “Can I photograph this?” I ask. “No,” the two men chorus. Even to my untrained eye, it appears that every possible weak spot— from the engine bulkhead to the window frames— has been examined from an assassin’s point of view. Bondy confirms my suspicions.  “We used a 3D computer program to simulate ballistic strikes from various weapons, from every possible height, distance, angle and position.”

And then they did it for real. We make our way to the parking lot to examine a white BPS that’s faced a carefully-coordinated barrage of high-powered rounds. The car is riddled with 109 bullets. The window glass is fractured in some places, shattered in others. The sheet metal has been ripped open like a cheap tin can. Each strike is identified by a small white tag chronicling the ballistic sequence and type of round fired. We’re talking heavy duty firepower, including a 9mm submachine gun, .308 Winchester and 5.56mm high velocity assault rifle.

Bondy digs his finger into the space where the front windshield meets the driver’s door. The glass has just about disappeared from the leading edge. “This is where a trained assassin would aim. Or right here,” he says. Bondy points to the opera window behind the main rear passenger window. Ballistic transparency can’t maintain its integrity in such a small space; the opera window has been replaced with normal glass mounted over aramid fibers and ballistic steel. A few wispy fiber strands and an almighty dent are all that’s left.

My perspective on the BPS project instantly changes. I suddenly see Lincoln’s non-descript and lardy (if benign-handling) armored limo as a deadly serious piece of kit. It’s hard to imagine sheltering inside a Lincoln BPS while determined attackers fire round after round at your head, but it’s not impossible. One look at the bullet-ridden test mule is sufficient reminder that there are plenty of bad people out there with big guns and nothing to lose.

Vaughn and I hop into Bondy’s well-thrashed Mazda6 S and drive to Lile’s Sandwich Shop. In between bites of the mother of all ham sandwiches, I ask if there are enough customers to justify the enormous expense of developing such a comprehensively armored car. “We’re in it to make money,” Vaughn states flatly. “The market’s been growing for the last 20 years and it shows no signs of a slowdown… We’re confident we can sell 300 cars in the first year.” “I suppose a lot of those will go to Ford executives,” I suggest. Bondy’s eyes say one thing, his words another: “I couldn’t possibly comment.”

Bondy is less tight-lipped on the necessity for maximum protection. “Why would anyone buy a handgun level car?” he asks rhetorically, practically inhaling a mountainous pastrami sandwich. “The .308 Winchester is a hunting gun down South. They’re everywhere.” Even so, how many drivers actually need to worry about an attack? “It doesn’t matter,” Bondy counters. “It’s largely a matter of perceived threat. If you don’t feel safe, you can’t perform to the best of your abilities. You can’t enjoy life.”

The Lincoln Town Car BPS will be available from 12 certified Lincoln Mercury dealers this fall ['03]. The car will cost about $145,000, with two options: back windows that can be lowered and a rubber-coated gas tank that “reduces leakage after a ballistic event.” Bondy says it’s a bargain. “A lot of our potential customers own corporations, estates, even countries. They’ll buy a Gulfstream jet for 42 million dollars. I ask them, ‘why aren’t you in a rifle-level car?’ And if you’re going to buy one, why wouldn’t you buy one from an OEM [original equipment manufacturer] rather than someone’s garage?”

It’s a sales pitch shared by Mercedes, BWM and Cadillac. But Lincoln’s BPS has Bondy behind it. After spending a day with the ex-agent, after listening to what he does and doesn’t say about security, you begin to understand why he describes buying an armored car as “an intimate decision.” It’s true. Even after the vehicle has left the dealership, your life is in the hands of the people who designed and built it. Security awareness and driver skill may make the final difference between life and death, but the more you learn about Bondy’s BPS, the safer you feel inside one.  In the world of armored cars, that’s about as good as it gets.

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35 Comments on “Lincoln BPS (Originally Published in 2003)...”


  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    “Maybe you’re building one for the President of the United States…?”

    Uh, no.

  • avatar

    Detroit-Iron :

    Jeez. Tough room. It was written in 2003. And I reckon the Prez should’ve bought one. How well do you think that XXXXX lbs. Caddy accelerates or handles?

    Still, text amended.

  • avatar

    I have a friend, who will remain nameless, who is chauffered in a level III car. His machine has fixed windows to minimize risk. I had to laugh when I heard about him driving through a downtown area, spotting his wife at the shop, and opening the door to call her over to say hello. Oops.

    I agree with the idea of “if you want anything, why get anything less than rifle calibre protection?”. Serious attempts will be made with serious kit, not thugs on the street corner with wondernines. The real test is if the armour can withstand an AK-47/74 attack; the 7.62×39 round from an AK has massive penetrating power, much more than the high velocity 5.56. An AK bullet, or equivalent, can shred 8 inches of pine, or split a cinder block clean in half. If your car can’t stop a bullet from the most common assault rifle on the planet, why bother?

  • avatar
    Aeroelastic

    The new car for the president weighs about twice as much as this. From what I’ve heard publicly, the glass alone weighs 6,000 lbs.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    finally, a car i can feel safe in during rush hour in philadelphia.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Isn’t the presidential DTS essentially a DTS skin over a body-on-frame special?

    I’d also heard they’ve made great strides in using energy shields using charged plasma these days, though the fuel efficiency would probably suffer. Of course, at some point, someone’s going to use a multi-megawatt pulse laser, and then all bets are off.

  • avatar
    matt

    @JEC:

    The article says it can stop a 7.62×51, which is at least dimensionally bigger than the AK round. :-P

    And the .308 Winchester mentioned in the article isn’t exactly child’s play either. The M1 Garand was chambered in something similar (if not the same thing), and I’d wager it gets similar penetration to the AK.

  • avatar
    cwp

    And the .308 Winchester mentioned in the article isn’t exactly child’s play either.

    .308 Winchester and 7.62x51mm NATO are interchangeable; the Garand was .30-06 Springfield.

    I am unwilling to get too much into ballistics on a car site, but 7.62x39mm WP is considered a marginal deer cartridge, while .308 Winchester is considered a passable elk cartridge. Take that for what you will.

  • avatar
    radimus

    “The .308 Winchester is a hunting gun down South. They’re everywhere.”

    I think the 30-06 is more common, but it and the .308 is so last century. The 300 and 7mm magnums are the in thing for deer hunters these days.

  • avatar
    cwp

    The 300 and 7mm magnums are the in thing for deer hunters these days.

    … and thus we raise a generation of lousy rifle shots.

    (.300 Magnum for deer? Really? Do the Southern deer wear body armor these days?)

  • avatar
    radimus

    @cwp: Your “generation of lousy rifle shots” comment is probably pretty close to the truth. The only reason these calibers are popular is because they have such a flat trajectory. Inside of 200 yards you don’t have to account for much of any bullet drop. Even at 300 yards there is only about 6-7 inches of drop with factory ammo when zeroed in at 200 yards.

    Ballistics? Knowing how your rifle really performs? Bah. Who has time for that?

  • avatar
    degrouch

    cwp: Agreed, don’t want to get too much into ballistics here, but as a Public Safety Announcement…
    The 7.62×51 NATO round is *very close* to the .308Win, but not identical. The NATO round is just a tad longer. Bad things *can* happen if incorrect ammo is used, though many people interchange w/o any problems.

    Sorry for the non-auto side-track. I’d just hate for someone to get hurt by grabbing the wrong box of ammo.

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    My question though is that if you are important enough to need a sniper proof car, then how does it stand up to a .50 cal sniper round? What about armor piercing?

    I remember several years ago getting to shoot 7.62mm AP through brake rotors, engine blocks and the cinder block walls they were leaned against…

  • avatar
    cwp

    Do you get a lot of people who can actually hold on a deer-sized target at 300 yards with a .300 Magnum? The recoil on those things is pretty fearsome.

    degrouch: I wonder what the car equivalent of the .308/7.62×51 debate is? :) Your advice is sound, though; you probably won’t have any problem swapping between the two, but better safe than sorry. And all bets are off if you’re loading your own …

  • avatar
    jerry weber

    If you look at the Presidential new cadillac, it is even more of a bank vault than the lincoln. The doors are massive framed things and the windows made smaller. The frame is I;m told from a Suburban and as someone says it has DTS skin stretched over it. This is a one off custom job costing millions. Further the caddy is bomb proof, no mention of that by lincoln. the lincoln is a multi edition product affordable by many corporate and political elites.

  • avatar

    Not a gun freak but I think I have this correct:
    The .308 W/7.56 Nato round is about ballistically identical to to the .30-06 round. The difference is that the cartridge brass was shortened so it could reliably be used in an auto or semi-auto action…the length of the -.06 round meant that the action had too much throw…shorter brass means shorter action throw.
    We now return to our regular programming

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    The new Caddy limo has nothing in common with a DTS, except for some styling cues. It’s actually a medium duty (Top Kick) GMC truck chassis with a completely custom body. More like a military armored personnel carrier with a Caddy styling theme.

  • avatar
    findude

    If you look at the Presidential new cadillac . . . . This is a one off custom job costing millions.

    There’s no way there is only one, and they will be used as decoys some of the time.

    Years ago in college (likely before many of TTAC’s best and brightest were born), I worked as a valet at fancy restaurants and high-end weddings and other events. Ferris Bueller jokes aside, this is a job I highly recommend to any car fan.

    One event was a political fundraiser, and the president in office at that time arrived. He flew into a local airport in Air Force One and was helicoptered to a field a couple of miles away. The motorcade included two presidential Cadillacs, an ambulance, and several white passenger vans full of secret service guys (yeah, so long ago it was before the ubiquitous black Suburban). The obligatory police and squad cars from the local law enforcement accompanied in ridiculously large numbers.

    The president was in one of the vans. I can’t speak for the level of armoring it had, but the windows looked like the glass at the walk-up teller outside my bank.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Jesus, there’s a lot of gun nuts on this site. Remind me never to piss any of you off.

  • avatar
    cwp

    Remind me never to piss any of you off.

    To tie the two conversational threads back together with an infamous bumper sticker: “Ted Kennedy’s car has killed more people than my guns.” :)

  • avatar
    skor

    It’ll stand up to a round of .308? Lead core or armor piercing ammo?

    Here is a picture of a cast iron small block Chevy engine that I shot to pieces using a surplus M38 Mosin-Nagant and surplus 7.62X54R armor piercing ammo.

    http://mysite.verizon.net/vze3j6z2/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/EBS.jpg

    I took this picture at my hunting club in Pennsylvania. A local redneck dumped the engine on club property, and I used it to test the penetrating power of the 7.62X54R AP. All the damage you see was caused by that AP ammo.

    Keep in mind that I did this with a 70 year old surplus Russian Army rifle that I purchased at a gun show for $69.95. The ammo was 40 year old Cold War surplus that I purchased for $39.95(440 rounds packed in a large “spam can”).

  • avatar

    I hear in Brazil and parts of S.America, you need BP glass on cars because of kidnappings and gun crimes.

    In my opinion, if I lived in a place like that, rather than buy a car, I’d buy A ONE WAY TICKET THE FK OUT !!!!

  • avatar
    CAHIBOstep

    It seems like there is a Ted Kennedy joke for almost every conceivable situation.

  • avatar
    GeeDashOff

    These days I’d be more worried about something like this, but on a much bigger scale:

    “Can a piece of glass go through 2 inches of solid steel? Yes”

    But I guess you would buy something else if you were worried about explosives.

  • avatar
    Areitu

    # JEC :
    January 15th, 2009 at 8:50 am

    I have a friend, who will remain nameless, who is chauffered in a level III car. His machine has fixed windows to minimize risk. I had to laugh when I heard about him driving through a downtown area, spotting his wife at the shop, and opening the door to call her over to say hello. Oops.

    BMW offers a PA system for their armored cars in Europe for situations just like that.

  • avatar
    NickR

    For the record, the M1 Garand was chambered in .30 Caliber. It is, by rifle standards, very weak. It is small enough to be used in some single action revolvers and for a time an auto pistol.

    A smaller round, with a high sectional density like a 6.5 Magnum or even a 6.5×55 Swede would probably penetrate most defenses. Of course, a determined assailant would buy a .50 and be done with it.

    If I am not mistaken, you can still get a Grand Marquis with extra thick glass.

  • avatar
    degrouch

    NickR: The M1 Garand was chambered in .30-06, which was (and still is, by many) considered a high-powered round. The M1 Carbine was chambered in .30 Carbine, which was a much lower-powered cartridge. Very different rifles and cartridges.

    I agree–they really should be designing against a .50BMG AP round, but I’m not sure there is a practical (possible?) way to do that, for a limo-type vehicle. I guess, better .308 than nothing…

  • avatar
    NickR

    degrouch…right you are, Kenny :)

  • avatar

    Areitu,

    I’ll have to suggest that to him.

    Flashpoint,

    I have a Colombian girlfriend. Narrow views like that don’t help her in any situation (“Oh you are from Colombia? Got any good stuff? Ha ha ha.”). Keep an open mind and remember that there are other countries in the world other than your own, and people chose to live their for the same reasons we live in our homes of choice – love of the nation, love of the land, friends, family, and any other reason you need to stay in a land of “kidnappings and gun crimes”.

    People in Canada often spout the same kind of ideas about the USA. I’m not one of them.

  • avatar
    blowfish

    See if anybody heard of this story,
    An Armoured BMW in Asia somewhere has the system disabled and locked her indignified occupants inside for several hours. A car like that is not that simple as smashing something against the window to free them!

  • avatar
    westhighgoalie

    What is wrong with some of u guys??

    ***what possible (Legal) justified use is there for a 7.62 or .308 armor piercing round!

    The only people who should have that is police snipers and the military.

  • avatar
    radimus

    Having a good time at the range blasting holes in 1/2 inch thick plate steel sounds like a perfectly justifiable and legal good time.

    How far do you really want to take that, west? After all, what possible legal justified use does anyone have for a car like a Bugatti Veyron? Or even a Corvette? Or a Mustang? Or for that matter any car with more that 150 hp? Or more than 100 hp? Obviously people only want high powered, good handling cars to go faster than the posted speed limit and drive recklessly. The only people that should have vehicles like that are the police and military.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    westhighgoalie :

    The 2nd Amendment

  • avatar

    oh god westhigh… I’ve learned never to question why somebody needs a bazooka in their closet at home, everybody’s got their reasons, whether they make much sense or not. It’s best not to start up that line of questioning at a car site, or any site whatsoever…

  • avatar
    skor

    Here’s a video from the annual Knob Creek(Kentucky) machine gun shoot. All the guns you see in this video are privately owned. I fart in the general direction of your up-armored limos.


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