THENATIONAL.AE INTERVIEW

TOUGH LOVE: DUBAI'S ARMOURED-VEHICLES COMPANY INKAS

In what can sometimes feel like an increasingly volatile world, when military, police, VIPs and leaders from across the globe are looking to ensure their safety, they come to Dubai-based company Inkas Vehicles. Led by Uzbek chief executive Ulugbekhon ­Maksumov, Inkas has provided armoured vehicles for clients from the United Nations to the president of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, who took office earlier this year.

 

Inkas Vehicles, owned by Maksumov, was set up in the UAE in 2010 as a collaboration with Canadian company Inkas Armored Vehicle Manufacturing, following the success of its first venture in the region, Gulf Auto Trading. The two parted ways in 2012, and Inkas Vehicles is now a separate entity.

Its Dubai facility is a 110,000-square-foot assembly plant where the company puts together its military-grade armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and armoured versions of more-recognisable cars, such as hardened Toyota Land Cruiser SUVs and Mercedes-Maybachs, plus special commissions including police riot vans and cash-transporting security vehicles. In a nearby factory, they have laser-cutting equipment that can slice through ballistic steel and another that takes care of glass. These machines were used to create a dual display in the headquarters building, an industrial-style cut-out of the company’s logo alongside a pane of its bulletproof glass that withstood six shots from an M84 rifle at a range of 15 metres.

“We can divide by civilian and military,” Maksumov says of Inkas’s customer base.

“Before it was 70 per cent for civilian, 30 per cent for military. Now it’s changed, it’s 70 per cent the military stuff and 30 per cent for civilian, like VIPs, embassies, presidents. Just recently, we delivered 52 vehicles to the new president of Ghana.  

“For him [the president of Ghana], we did a Maybach S600, with B7 level [the highest level] of protection, which can halt armour-piercing bullets.” His guards, meanwhile, were supplied with Toyota Land Cruiser 200 Series, Lexus [LX] 570s and a couple of Toyota Tundras with special bumpers that can remove anything on the road.

The Inkas service for such vehicles is a customisable process.

“We do everything from scratch,” Maksumov says.

“We will advise them when they say: ‘We want maximum protection for the president’. So we will tell them these are the specs you need and you can choose from four Mercedes. Not Mercedes S500, for example – you need to have the S600, because it’s a bigger engine, 12-cylinder, stronger.”  

Inkas’s most visually impressive models, however, are its APCs, led by the Titan range – hulking great military-focused beasts based on chassis of such rugged vehicles as the Ford F-550 Super Duty, Dodge Ram and Toyota Land Cruiser 70 Series, and built to withstand the rigours of war. One of the vehicles was used in a UN peace mission in Egypt last year.

A short test drive within the Inkas assembly-plant walls is a potent demonstration of their potential, with the top three Titan’s 6.7L engines pushing out 330hp and propelling them with unexpectedly rapid acceleration. For such massive, weighty units, the handling is surprisingly nimble.

As you might expect, such sturdy buys aren’t at the budget end of the market – the bill can easily stretch to seven-figure sums per vehicle.

Prices start from US$100,000 [Dh367,300] up to $1 million, all included, Maksumov says. “APCs, of course, you cannot get for $100,000. And it depends on the specs – many optional [pieces of] equipment you can add. If you ask me to add a bomb detector, for example, to your vehicle it will cost you $250,000. If you ask me to provide a special camera, which can see in the rain, in the snow, for five or six miles, it’s an additional $200,000 – so it’s already [almost] $500,000 just for two things.

Inkas can produce up to 120 vehicles per month.

“But again it’s variable, because we need to see when the client comes and says: ‘I need 100 APCs.’ Yes, we can build them 100, but for the different vehicles, different specs, and for the individual vehicle, you must choose the right suspension and right tyres. And each country has different requirements.

“We cannot keep, for example, 100 units of suspension stock of Horstmann, which is made in England – military-spec suspension that is high-end and very expensive. But easily for civilian vehicles, 120 vehicles, we can do it. We have it all here, and don’t need to order anything from outside.”

Maksumov’s personal driving pleasures largely revolve around cars of various vintage made by defunct Soviet-conceived car company Volga.

“I have 19 cars – all of them are my favourite.

“The Volgas: one is from 1958, other one is 1989, the newer ones 2007 and 2012. They are out of production, these four models, so I brought them from Russia.”