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A newcomer to the armored car game, the Equus still serves some very important functions.
This is kind of a weird one. The armored Equus is the sort of thing which might have normally slid by undetected with all of the other run-of-the-mill converted armored sedans, but a recent effort on the part of Hyundai to greatly raise the status of the Equus has included armored versions which go beyond the usual aftermarket conversions. It's actually a good business move, and could be one of the more cost-effective marketing methods there is.
The Equus is actually an older vehicle than very many people outside of South Korea realize. The car which we have in the US is actually the second generation of the Equus, which debuted here a year after its Korean debut. The first generation of the car was built in 1999 as a joint effort between Hyundai and Mitsubishi. The Equus was sold mainly in Korea and the Mitsubishi version, known as the Proudia, sold mainly in Japan, although Hyundai-badged cars were also sold in China and the Middle East. A limousine version was also built for the Korean market, and the unfortunate name Mitsubishi Dignity was bestowed upon the Japanese market version.
The second generation of the car debuted in 2009, and the new car has virtually nothing in common with the old car apart from the name. For the second generation, Hyundai started building an armored version straight away after the debut, and the first armored Equus was built before we saw the first regular Equus in a US dealership. The first one was donated to Cheong Wa Dae (literally "pavilion of blue tiles", also known as "Blue House", the South Korean president's residence) for use by the president. By this point, Hyundai was looking to greatly expand its business overseas and would finally launch the Equus nameplate in the US in 2010.
Very recently, Hyundai saw a chance to for some good publicity and donated an armored Equus to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who is himself Korean. Just as the specific details of many armored cars built for heads of state are kept quiet, the specifics of Ban Ki-Moon's car aren't widely available. There have been rumors of hush-hush armoring work being carried out on several Equuses in Germany, and Hyundai does produce some more run-of-the-mill armored Equus versions in Germany with cooperation from Stoof-International Germany and Armortech Motors Group.
But you can even buy your own armored Equus right here in the US, with a firm known as Alpine Armoring offering an Equus as one of its lineup of dozens of vehicles. Standard factory armored Equus models have typically been equipped with VR7-level armoring, able to stand up to 7.62mm rifle fire and an explosion under the car equivalent to 15kg of dynamite. They are also said to weigh as much as 9,000 pounds, but this is really no different from similarly sized and armored cars. The Equus name has come a long way since 1999. From taking on competitors like the SsangYong Chairman to competing against much more establish luxury brands in foreign markets.
It is a sign of just how far, not only the Equus, but the entire Korean automotive industry has come recently. To be competing against brands which have been building armored cars for decades, and to have armored Hyundais serving heads of state and the U.N. Secretary General isn't something which many people would have expected to see happening not all that long ago. The Equus is the first armored car to have been built in Korea, but assuming that the industry continues its upward trajectory, there is no reason to believe that it will be the last.