There's a standoff downtown with heavily armed criminals. The SWAT team's been called in and they have two ways to get there: an unimposing bread delivery truck with flashing lights or a scary-but-slow converted tank. Alpine Armoring's come up with a compromise: a bullet-proof, blast-resistant rolling bunker that looks like it just drove off the set of a Michael Bay film.
This is the brand-new Pit-Bull VX SWAT Truck. Although it'll debut at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference later this month, the only way you'll see it is to rob a bank — or read along as we exclusively took it out on its first mission. Our way's safer.
"When the world ends, I'm coming to work," explains Alpine's Jeff Allen.
Good call, Jeff, because the VX is a bullet-and-blast resistant box on wheels. Every window on the vehicle is filled with ballistic glass that'll shed small arms fire like they're pebbles and even resist a close-range shot from a high-powered rifle (up to 7.62x39 and 5.56x45).
This is due to the layering, which absorbs and spreads out the energy of a blast.
Grenades? They don't recommend you drive over any, but both the angled roof and floor are designed with anti-mine protection in mind and can repel modern frag explosives. Every door overlaps with ballistic steel so no stray bullets can penetrate at an angle. Gas attack? The internal fans can keep bad air out or bring fresh air in when reversed.
The first thing I notice when we drive it out of the company's showroom and out into the street is that everyone else on the road notices it, too. Other drivers snap their necks as we pass. Even local Sheriff's Deputy slows down to appreciate the VX.
Remember those bread SWAT bread trucks you see in movies? Alpine's built those in the past and they're completely functional, if not a little underwhelming once you see the VX.
It was a conscious decision to make a strong aesthetic statement with their latest model, which is a hybrid of an armored personal carrier and van.
"If you're a bad guy and you see this rolling up, you may start to reconsider the bad choices you've made in your life," said Alpine's Ron Leffler, explaining that while these are primarily defensive vehicles they made a concerted effort to make every piece project force.
And project it does — from the louvered headlights and massive grille to the giant vents atop the hood.
The second thing you notice is, from the inside, it handles and rides much like any other large truck. Because it is. Only the sharpest-eyed enthusiasts will be able to tell, but underneath all that ballistic steel is a Ford F-550 4x4 chassis cab.
Using a basic truck design provides numerous advantages in terms of keeping cost down and the vehicle's performance intact. Hard as it may be to believe, the Pit-Bull VX is actually underweight. Despite the addition of armoring, the VX weighs in at just 16,600 pounds. The base F-550 with the 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 has a max weight of 19,500 pounds, leaving 3,000 pounds for gear and an elite force.
As foreboding as the Pit-Bull is on the outside, it's a remarkably comfortable place inside. Alpine's smartly maintained the stock dash and OEM seats, so the controls work just like on an F-550 but for the driver and front passenger.
Out back it's a little more spartan, with seating for six-to-eight SWAT team members on padded benches with storage underneath. There's a light out back that can be turned from white to red depending on the level of stealth required and diamond-plate on the floor to prevent slipping.
Once you're inside it's designed so that you never have to leave.
"If you roll down the window or open a door you compromise your armor," says Leffler.
The windows do not roll down, instead there are locked gun ports located all over the vehicle that can be opened to shoot bullets out or accept documents in. They'll even support a medium soda (more on that later).
To speak to the outside world there's a PA system and to see the outside world there are remote-controlled spotlights on the roof. Once you decide you finally have to leave you can go out the armored doors on the side, the hatch out back, or through two armored portholes in the roof.
Not a single person has been killed in a vehicle armored by Alpine, according to the company. This would normally be the main selling point for a company that builds armored vehicles, but one look at the VX and it mostly sells itself.
With an estimated price of around $200,000, serious and well-armed inquiries only.
(Photo Credit: Mokhtar Chahine!)