When you think of bulletproof vehicles, what's the first car that comes to mind? For us, we imagine a Toyota Land Cruiser or a Chevrolet Suburban getting armored. If it's not a full-sized SUV, we expect something like a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes-Benz S-Class to receive some form of ballistic protection.
Of course, that doesn't mean you can't bulletproof a car smaller than the land yachts mentioned above. This one-of-a-kind 1978 Volkswagen Beetle in Italy is an example of that.
Yes, you read that right. This particular Love Bug gets beefy armor plates and thicker glass for good measure. So, what's the story behind it, and why did the owner choose the Beetle as a bulletproof chariot?
Let's go back to mid-'70s Italy, and it wasn't exactly the safest place to be if you were part of the upper-classes. The country suffered an epidemic of violent kidnappings, with the wealthy as prime targets for the Cosa Nostra (aka, the Sicilian Mafia), the Brigate Rosse, and the terror group, Anonima Sarda. That is where this humble Beetle came into the picture.
The first owner wanted to maintain a low-key image, and it's safe to say you can't get anything more unassuming than a mid-to-late '70s Bug. The owner also wanted some form of protection from kidnappers, should the cloak of the Beetle's anonymity betray him. The result is this standard-looking Volkswagen packing armor and an anti-kidnapping device.
It may look like your father's (or grandfather's) Beetle, but this one has 3 cm steel plates on the doors, the firewall, and the engine bay to deflect bullets and shrapnel. It even has bulletproof glass that's about the width of a thumb should a kidnapper fire rounds at the driver. If that's not enough, the fuel tank is armored as well.
But what's this anti-kidnapping device fitted to the car? Instead of the usual door latch, this fortified Beetle has an additional bolt to prevent attackers from pulling the door open. That bolt can only be opened from the inside, so the would-be kidnapper can't pry it by force. Besides, the steel plates make it difficult to open by force.
Curiously, the engine and the brakes are left untouched. The extra protection added 300 kilograms to the Beetle's weight. Now, standard Beetles tip the scales at about 800 to 900 kilograms, so the steel plates, bolts, and bulletproof glass bring that up to 1,100 to 1,200 kilograms. That's a lot of mass to lug around for the 1200 cc engine.
Thankfully, the bulletproof Beetle never encountered a gun in its life. The unassuming looks of the car were enough to keep the owner safe from any kidnapping attempts during those rough times.
At the moment, the car is for sale in Italy with a current bid of € 2,600, or about PHP 152,000.