Some time in the near future, a large armoured personnel carrier (APC) will rumble into conflict in Colombia against enemies as varied as drug cartels and leftist guerrillas. It won't have a "Made in Canada" stamp emblazoned on the heavy-duty vehicle, but its existence can be traced back to a manufacturing facility in Toronto.
INKAS Armored Vehicle Manufacturing, a low-profile company in a non-descript industrial area in suburban Toronto, has made a name for itself since 1996 for turning luxury cars and trucks into protective rolling cocoons.
These include the likes of the Mercedes S600, Cadillac Escalade stretch limousines, mostly for politicians and the rich and famous. Now the company is building one of the largest APCs on the market.
The Huron is a hulking beast that can seat 16 police or military personnel comfortably and protect them in high-threat environments. The vehicle is meant to intimidate foes.
The National Police of Colombia ordered the first four Hurons INKAS produced, all of which are en route to Cartagena as of this report. Philip Daskal, international sales manager at INKAS, says the vehicles were built to order to deal with threats from the cartels and guerrillas fighting under the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
"It's one of a kind – like a big Hummer on steroids," says Daskal. "No one in the industry has come up with something like it. It's so smooth and accurate, does the job in terms of off-terrain capabilities, manoeuvrable performance and comfort inside."
The price tag? Between $485,000 and $630,000 (U.S.), depending on the requirements: the level of blast protection for grenades and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the gadgetry needed inside, the need for gun turrets and steel thickness.
Daskal says that INKAS doesn't supply weapons or surveillance equipment that might go into the Huron, only the bearings that could outfit them for later installation. Hurons can also only be sold through government tenders or law enforcement agencies in order to abide by the parameters in exporting them, he says. In other words, adventurous playboys, hardcore gangsters and terrorists need not apply for one.
"This APC is based on an 8.3L Paccar engine and a 10-speed manual Allison transmission with a Kenworth chassis and drive train that bears little resemblance to its original form. Everything else is manufactured here at our facility in Toronto," Daskal says. "It has a top speed of between 120 and 140 km and is made for the toughest terrain. If a tire is punctured, a sensor lights up on the dashboard, triggers the air compressor built-in and re-inflates it to enable an escape. It can withstand fire from an AK-47 or even armour-piercing rounds if you want to go a level up on thickness."
The Huron's virtual design initially took two months, with another month to manufacture the first one. The other three were built simultaneously based on the specs over a 90-day span. Transporting them proved challenging, since they couldn't fit in transport truck containers. Instead, INKAS drivers had to take them to Halifax, catching more than a little attention along the way.
INKAS has sold its smaller eight-seater APCs to countries as varied as Nigeria, Ghana, Russia, Kazakhstan and China, but not to the Canadian Armed Forces.
"We have a small contract with the National Defence Department for repair and overhaul of their vehicles that have been recalled from conflict zones like Afghanistan or wherever in the world they were, but we're still trying to get onto their supplier list," Daskal says. "We're unique in Canada in making APCs like the Huron, so we'll see if we can start working with them next year."
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Correction: INKAS Armored Vehicle Manufacturing has been in business since 1996, not 2006 as previously stated.