Campers and Armoured Vehicles - what they have in common

Camper Vans & Armoured Vehicles

It may sound weird, maybe catchy, but there is more truth to it as you may think.

The Swedish public transport authority “Trafikverket” (yes, that’s the name of it and no dirty term) recently crashed two different types of camper vans. Sweden is one of the countries with the lowest percentage of traffic deaths worldwide, and to keep it like this, the Swedish authority is regularly searching for ways to improve motoring and traffic.

In this case, Trafikverket crashed a motor caravan with OEM passenger cabin and a version fully built upon a donor chassis, like done with busses. Both caravan types were tested to NCAP test regulations with a speed of 64km/h into a deformable barrier. The test result was bad, very bad.

The reason:

  • Insufficient “crumple zones”.
  • Objects and interior equipment becoming loose and flying towards passengers.

Click here to watch both crash tests:

So where is the connection to armoured vehicles?

Armoured civil vehicles built by up-armourers, such as the Toyota Land Cruiser, Chevrolet Suburban, Mercedes S-Class, etc. have to encounter the same symptoms. They all carry an OEM chassis built to specific gross vehicle weights. This GVW is not only to limit payloads / have the vehicle's suspension to provide safe road abilities. No, a further important aspect is passive crash safety. Deformation rates of the vehicles crumple zones in the front, side and rear. The GVW is an important figure for the design of the vehicles crash cell. It influences how thick crash-beams have to be developed, where structural reinforcements need to be added. Especially in times of OEM chassis being merged together by using different types and strengths of steel and automotive lightweight materials.

Most up-armoured vehicles exceed its original OEM gross vehicle weight and so they exceed original crash safety demands.

So, some of you may think now: “Wait, but I got an ultra-rigid armouring cell, it protects against bullets, blast and whatever, so bring it on!”

In short words; …NO…!

Due to the additional armour weight and way of construction, the OEM impact absorbing areas collapse much faster/at lower speeds (similar to the camper van crash test). If an armoured vehicle is crashed to an intensity where the whole crumple zones collapse, the remaining energy is transferred to the armouring cell. The armouring-cell itself is not able to “crumple” and to absorb big loads of energy, in fact, most ballistic cells are constructed very rigid to direct blast energy away from the cabin as to compensate it (e.g. V-shaped floor on military vehicles). So, the remaining energy will be transferred on anything inside the cabin: Passengers and interior equipment.

If passengers survive this kinetic force, it is still very likely that interior parts such as:

  • Bottle jacks,
  • handheld fire extinguishers,
  • spare wheels,
  • tools,
  • water bottles,
  • radio control units,
  • door boards

and especially unseatbelted passengers become flying objects with deadly potential.

Here is the connection to overstrained caravan chassis:

  • Insufficient “crumple zones” due to additional armouring weight and armouring cell.
  • Loose objects and interior equipment due to poor load-security or construction quality.

Some OEM armourers like Mercedes are aware of this matter and considered these threats already during the development of their factory armoured sedans, long before the first vehicle left the production. Sure, it is quite easy on Mercedes to do so, they got plenty of know-how and all the necessary data to do so.

However, up-armourers can counter these threats efficiently, even in the low-price segment of armoured vehicles.


The customer needs to be aware of this threat. Transparency and professional sales consultation is important is the key.

Here are the main aspects to consider for an improvement in crash safety of armoured vehicles.

Customers / Users!

  • Train your drivers/staff in “load-security”.
  • Train your drivers/staff awareness of an armoured vehicle meaning an increased risk in an event of a road traffic accident. Especially for the opponent vehicle. – Duty of care!
  • Provide sufficient load security material such as cargo nets, lashing straps and weight-rated boxes.
  • Get SEATBELTED! Safety staff arguing with tactical reasons to not wear a seatbelt – get fast release belts! No protectee likes to get crushed by its bodyguard during a road traffic accident or blast. To unseatbelt yourself can also be integrated into your protection training. *Awaiting shit-storm in mailbox, …now.


If a customer is seeking for advice and best possible safety, ready to pay money for it, prepare attractive solutions. Think about including these points to your options list:

  • Offer a full load-security concept tailored to the customer's demand.
  • Load rated lashing points for the cargo area.
  • Load rated storage boxes with quick release opening, securely anchored to the floor or side-walls.
  • Shock-absorbing materials to floor, ceiling and side pillars.
  • FEA rated interior parts such as radio mounts, covers or door-boards.
  • Consider independent crash tests of your products and re-manufacture single parts of the vehicles crumpling zone.
  • Correct mounting points for seats and seatbelts to ensure precise contact points between airbag and passengers.

Just a few examples that can make the big difference. We are happy to provide tailored solutions for you.

Most people in armoured vehicles get injured not because of blast or ballistic attacks.

Road traffic accidents injure and kill the most!