The Toronto-area-built Conquest Knight XV mega-SUV has been called a lot of things since it thudded onto the luxury auto market in 2008: best car in which to survive the zombie apocalypse, Hummer-killer and, in the words of a bystander who approached a Globe and Mail car reviewer last year, “just gross.”
Now the six-tonne $629,000 truck has a new and somewhat dubious résumé entry. Anti-government protesters in Ukraine have seized a Knight XV and 11 other vehicles believed to belong to a son of ousted president Viktor Yanukovych, according to BBC and several other outlets.
Conquest Vehicles president William Maizlin said he was surprised to see one of his black SUVs in news footage from a warehouse outside Kiev, but recognized the model immediately.
“This particular vehicle is our lucky number seven, the seventh vehicle we ever made,” said Mr. Maizlin, before rattling off its custom-ordered comforts, including hand-stitched cognac leather, security safe and fridge.
While he would not name the buyer due to a confidentiality agreement, Mr. Maizlin said it wasn’t a known member of the Yanukovych family. “We sold it a year and a half ago,” he said. “It was an individual I’d never heard of. He said he’d read a lot about the vehicle on the Internet. That is why we are kind of surprised by this.”
Normally, the company needs up to eight months to manufacture each truck. The mystery man from Ukraine couldn’t wait. At the time, the only model Conquest had in stock was No. 7, a demonstration vehicle featured in auto shows in Monaco and Macao.
“He wanted something now,” Mr. Maizlin said. “We told him all we had was a demo model and he said that was great.”
Mr. Maizlin said the company performs background checks on buyers to ensure their military-grade products don’t end up in nefarious hands. The company also follows federal export guidelines that require a letter from buyers in restricted countries outlining how they plan to use the trucks before the transaction can be completed. The company didn’t ask for one in this case because, “Ukraine is considered a friendly country,” Mr. Maizlin said.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of the Knight XV is an array of armaments that make it less a truck and more a bunker on wheels. Mr. Maizlin started Conquest six years ago after a 17-year career in the military hardware business. There are built-in defences against bombs and chemical attacks. All doors and body panels are built to repel flames and small-arms ammunition. Each one is hand-made in a Thornhill, Ont., factory. So far, Conquest has shipped 15 trucks to the likes of NBA star Dwight Howard and one of the rulers of the United Arab Emirates.
“Each vehicle is special to us, our little babies,“ said Mr. Maizlin. “So we are interested in hearing what becomes of this one.”