Home » This Boring Subaru Forester Is Actually A Bomb-Proof Armored Cash Car

This Boring Subaru Forester Is Actually A Bomb-Proof Armored Cash Car

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Some cars are tougher than others. Cybertruck owners will boast about stainless steel body panels, and F-150 Raptor owners will brag about their rugged off-road suspension. If you bought this Subaru Forester on Craiglist, though, you could brag about your vehicle’s ability to withstand light assaults and small-arms fire.

The vehicle in question is a 2016 Subaru Forester, for sale in Dallas. It’s going for $12,900 firm, according to the seller. That’s on the cheaper side, which is perhaps justified given the elevated mileage, with 185,345 miles on the clock.

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While this Forester looks quite similar to the one Matt regrets buying, this Forester is quite different from the usual kid wagons hauling the team to soccer practice. This Forester has some weird mods and a safe in the back, suggesting it lived quite the life before it ended up here. I rang the seller to get the scoop on what’s what.

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It looks mostly stock from the outside.
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The main giveaways are the roof vent and the strange locks below the door handles.

Cash Car

According to the seller, the vehicle has had just one owner before the current one. “It’s a 2016 Subaru Forester, fully armored with a safe inside of it,” he explained. “My dad just bought it from an auction and doesn’t know much about it.” His understanding was that the vehicle was built for Brinks, a US company that deals with cash transport, among other related services. “Brinks had that one built, and it was used until my father bought it,” he said.

The seller claims the vehicle cost over $150,000 when built, and that it’s “fully armored” and “bomb-resistant.” We weren’t able to verify those details directly. It would be worth checking for sure before you drove this thing into a hot situation.

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The Forester has what appears to be armored windows on the front doors, with additional lock cylinders. We might have hoped that this vehicle had some storied gangland history, shipping diamonds for the mob or bricks of stardust for the cartels. However, the story that the vehicle was a workaday cash hauler for Brinks seems to check out. Those features match photos of a similar vehicle posted to Reddit in 2023, which was identified as a Brinks transporter by a small sticker on the door panel.

I found an uparmored Forester today…
byu/Sultry_Llama_Of_Doom insubaru

Inside is where this Forester gets really interesting. There’s a huge bulkhead behind the front seats with windows looking into the rear. That’s where the precious cargo is stored, in a large safe that takes the place of the rear seats. There’s also a hatch so that small items can be dumped into the safe from the front cabin. This allows depositing items without having to open the safe, which could place the cargo at risk.

With no passengers in the back, it appears the rear glass was replaced with bulletproof glass that doesn’t open. In contrast, the front windows appear operable, hence their appearance which differs significantly from stock.

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The one thing I can’t figure out is the purpose of the hatch or vent in the roof. One wonders if it’s as a fresh air intake in a situation where there is tear gas floating around at ground level. If you know what it’s for, let us know.

It’s easy to see the value of a vehicle like this. Using a Subaru Forester to transport valuables has the benefit of stealth, with the vehicle easily blending in with regular traffic. At a distance, it’s just another car on the road. It’s far more inconspicuous than a traditional armored van. Of course, it’s not flawless in its stealth. At close range, the strange door locks, armored front windows, and roof vent are all easily visible. Overall, though, its plainclothes design makes it far harder to find and follow if you’re nefariously trying to hunt it down.

The seller didn’t know anything beyond the fact the vehicle came from Brinks. My research didn’t turn up a company on record as building bulletproof or armored versions of the Subaru Forester in this guise, either. Given Brinks seemingly chose the Forester to fly under the radar, it’s likely the vehicles were a fleet order from a company that specializes in armoring roadgoing vehicles.

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The one tidbit I found was a tour of a similar Forester, in a YouTube video from 2013. It appears to be of a very similar configuration to the one for sale on Craigslist, but the video doesn’t reveal any additional information we don’t already know. It appears similar vehicles might have served with a security company called Dunbar, too, based on this forum post from 2018.

In The Market?

Several third-party companies sell armored versions of regular road vehicles in much the same vein as the Forester seen here. You can get everything from a Lincoln Navigator to a Chevy Suburban with the same treatment. Key features include door shells and body panels that are armored against small arms fire and bulletproof glass replacing all windows. Other common additions include blankets for protection from bombs and shrapnel, gas masks, or reinforced bumpers for ramming other vehicles in combat situations.

Indeed, The Armored Group will sell you an up-armored Subaru Outback if you so desire. You can get it with bulletproof glass and an armored roof and floor for protection from multiple angles. You can even spring for offensive features like integrated gun ports or a gas needle ram for injecting less-lethal agents into a building. Shocking door handles, throwable reconnaissance robots, and smoke screens are all on the menu too. It’s all very James Bond. Meanwhile, Armormax does a Crosstrek if that’s more your speed.

Single Armored Subaru Crosstrek Armormax Utah 730x570
If you like your armored cars boring, you can get yourself a Crosstrek. Credit: Armormax

Open Doors Armored Subaru Crosstrek Armormax Utah 730x570

Companies like Armormax and The Armored Group offer vehicles with a range of armor levels. These determine what level of assault the vehicle is capable of withstanding. For example, in the CEN EN 1063 standard maintained by the EU, a B4 rating denotes armor capable of stopping a .44 Magnun fired at 16 feet (5 meters). If your enemies are better armed, you might want to step up to B5, which will protect against 5.56 mm rounds fired at a range of 32 feet (10 meters). But if your assassins are really determined, consider going to the B7 level, which can withstand 7.62 mm armor-piercing rounds from a range of 32 feet. You’ll also probably want to consider blast protection and provisions against chemical attacks, too.

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YouTuber JerryRigEverything toured Armormax in 2018 and got a great close-up look at the company’s vehicles during the construction process. His video shows off lots of great detail, like the use of heavy-duty window motors for lifting bulletproof glass windows, and the installation of ballistic blankets for protection against grenades.

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The video shows how armor panels are typically installed inside the doors of regular civilian-spec vehicles.
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The video includes several test shots fired at Armormax’s lightweight armor panels.

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Stopping a bullet before it enters the vehicle is key to protecting the occupants.

Don’t Forget

Just remember, though—the more armor you’re packing, the slower you are. Most of these armored cars come with no additional power to offset the huge weight of additional armor on board. The Craigslist Forester is no exception, so if you buy it, be wary when merging or fleeing enemy henchmen.

If you’re in the market for a vehicle like this, I’m sorry to hear that. Your life sounds really stressful! But at the same time, maybe it’s because you’re doing important work and the bad guys don’t want you to succeed. In any case, good luck with your mission, agent. You’re going to need it.

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Image credits: Craigslist

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Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
30 days ago

Interesting…makes me think of something along similar lines…what are some of the safest vehicles in the world? I guess it depends- I’m more curious about in an accident than this is for protection. So for that would a roll cage be better? I’m curious because with all these huge vehicles now and especially the high rate of accidents/deaths what is a common car or a car that could be made that would keep people a lot safer? (W/O all the safety nannies)

Another Engineer
Another Engineer
29 days ago
Reply to  Freelivin1327

Taking the bus is safest for urban transportation, followed closely by light and heavy rail.

Granted, not necessarily viable for someone looking to carry lots of cash or diamonds…

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/05/14/the-safest-and-deadliest-ways-to-travel/

Ricardo
Ricardo
30 days ago

The choice of vehicle shows some wisdom.
My wife had one of these for 8 years, and apart from it being reliable Foresters provide some key benefits.

  • They are remarkably unmemorable and blend into traffic well
  • With the back seats down the cargo area of these vehicles is enormous.
  • The higher ground clearance and quite high approach angle these vehicles provide would allow them to kerb hop to escape with relative ease
  • All Wheel Drive makes it sure footed and harder to stop
  • Suspension and seats are decent
  • And finally they are not expensive
Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 month ago

Now I need to see Bill Murray and Harold Ramis driving this.

Thomas Metcalf
Thomas Metcalf
1 month ago

Stopping a bullet before it enters the vehicle is key to protecting the occupants.

Did you get this line from the Ric Romero institute of asset protection?

BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
1 month ago

If Hollywood has taught me anything, the port in the roof is where the bad guys throw the grenade in.

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  BigThingsComin

The Death Star Paradox

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
1 month ago

If I had unlimited cash, I would fit this thing with cameras and drive it around Oakland as a bait car. The pure entertainment value of watching thugs try to break into a sleeper armored car!

Mike Dris
Mike Dris
30 days ago

Hagenberger and 98th Ave here we come!

ESO
ESO
30 days ago
Reply to  Mike Dris

Eastmont Mall or Coliseum area, Saturday night, summertime!

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 month ago

The performance issue isn’t a concern with a Subaru SUV, they all drive 20-30mph under the limit anyway, so even if this is technicallh slower than stock, it will still just blend in with every other Forrester on the highway.

10001010
10001010
1 month ago

Well, shooooooot.

Ford Frown Victoria
Ford Frown Victoria
1 month ago
Reply to  10001010

Not at this car, you’re not.

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
1 month ago

Well you can still shoot at it. As to whether those shots do anything to the occupants….

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago

Seeing this, I idly wondered if it was intended to service weed dispensaries. I haven’t been following it, but understood some time back that the industry operated on a cash basis as rules hadn’t been worked out for credit/debit cards due to the Federal government still considering marijuana up there with heroin on the evil scale

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 month ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

A good guess about how these were used. Not sure if the Feds have figured out the weed money thing yet though.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

No, federally regulated banks still won’t open accounts for marijuana businesses, due to the risk of the government prosecuting the bank for laundering drug money, needless to say, they won’t provide merchant services for credit card processing, either, so it gets challenging to figure out what to do with all the cash. You can set up an account with an innocuous sounding LLC name and claim the money is from something else, but it’s technically fraud, so the bank is going to close it as soon as there’s a reasonable suspicion the money is coming from marijuana.

There’s a lot of non-traditional banking and payment processing businesses that have been set up specifically to cater to the marijuana industry as alternatives, but they’re not FDIC/NCUA insured and regulations regarding stuff like cash reserves are pretty well nonexistant, so it’s all very much a grey area

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 month ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

It was so weird working for a bank in Canada and having a special Canabis Dealer package available

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 month ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I mean, a Subaru in a dispensary lot should fly under the radar.

-not stereotyping: personal experience

Ed Friese
Ed Friese
1 month ago

Though much older, the Jewelers Building in Chicago makes for an interesting read

Black Peter
Black Peter
1 month ago
Reply to  Ed Friese

That’s interesting…

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
1 month ago

I had a job at a large department store, every now and then I would go shopping, pick up my purchases from the customer service desks in different departments and mingle with the other shoppers as I made my way to an unobtrusive door behind the haberdashery department before going back to running the payroll. The very obvious security people were the decoy. In the run up to Christmas my “shopping” could be half a million pounds a trip.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago

My take on the “Bulletproof”/”Bomb-proof” nature of this build, from my time working in the armored carrier industry…

The driver compartment is lightly armored. It has a thick piece of what’s usually some form of polycarbonate (Lexan or similar) mounted behind the windshield. Usually 1/2-inch thick for a lightweight vehicle like this. It can be unbolted at the top and hinges down to wipe down the windshield and inner surface once or twice a year.

Since they’re fixed glass, the side windows are probably 1/2-inch thick laminated glass. (That’s better than what used to be done in these builds, which was keeping the original roll-down windows and mounting a sheet of polycarbonate inboard of them, like with the windshield. Those sucked for getting dirty and for internal reflections.)

There will be no armor on the engine compartment at all. Maybe, in the modern age, there’s some Kevlar or similar on the firewall inside the driver compartment. It wasn’t done before the turn of the 21st century, though.

The driver compartment doors will have some form of lightweight ballistic protection; usually a molded material bonded to the door skin sheetmetal or behind the door card. The same can be done on the floorpan. You’d have to pull carpet back to see if any of it made its way up and over the driveline tunnel — it can be done, but it’s more expensive work and a bit of pain to build up out of smaller pieces or a custom-molded shape, so that’s often not done in these types of vehicles. It’s a Subaru, so there’s a big metal torque tube in the way anyhow.

The back of the driver compartment is the bulkhead that forms the front of the cargo compartment; it’s just thick high-carbon steel, as is the rest of the structure that forms the safe and the cage that surrounds and supports it. The windows in the bulkhead will be laminated glass, probably 1-inch thick from the pictures, mainly because they’re just more-or-less standard size pieces used in the bulkheads of the big armored trucks that can be pulled from the parts bin. You can see in the photo that there’s a drop-slot door in the driver compartment that leads to the safe. No one has to open the rear of the car out on the street unless they have to retrieve something like ATM money cassettes. Deposits can simply be dropped in.

The rear of the car has no armor protection at all from what I can see. The safe and its mounting structure is what’s built out of carbon steel to protect the contents. There could be some of the same lightweight ballistic material installed on the floorpan, but really, the safe and any structural reinforcing steel is all that’s necessary back there since no one is riding there.

So in all, the car is set up to protect the occupants from small-arms fire well enough to drive away from danger, which is the most likely scenario in CIT operations and what the insurance underwriters that cover these companies require mitigation against. The safe is protected by sheer mass, like all safes; it will survive just about anything that can destroy the car’s integrity. Everything about the way any CIT vehicle is designed is for deterrence and short-time survival because in reality, we don’t generally have wild Hollywood-style car chases with bad guys armed with automatic weapons spraying bullets in city streets or laying shaped charges under manhole grates. (Well, not in the US, at least. There are other places in the world where that can happen, but this car isn’t designed for them.)

Cerberus
Cerberus
1 month ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

This is true even on more serious armored vehicles—the intent isn’t to engage in high speed chases or extended fire fights, but to get out of the situation, which is likely to be an ambush in a fixed position. Even getting a quarter mile away could be enough to get to safety or far enough that the ambushers flee when their planned attack failed (which it should be able to do with a shot radiator, maybe even a hole in the block, and blown tires, even if they don’t have the hardened inners for flat driving).

MrLM002
MrLM002
1 month ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

IMHO all armored cars are only built to survive short term low intensity engagements. All it takes is your tires getting shot and or burned out and you’re going nowhere fast, even if everything else is in working order.

That being said most up-armored vehicles have no radiator protection, and with the overwhelming majority of modern engines having aluminum heads at the minimum, with more likely than not aluminum blocks as well, they won’t run long without any coolant in them.

Said vehicles have to choose between maximizing armor and maximizing reliability, as 99% of the time up-armoring a vehicle to withstand as much damage as a from the ground up armored vehicle results in overloading the vehicle to the point that everything in the drivetrain is overstressed. We saw this play out in the WOT when GIs decided to Frankenstein themselves up-armored HMMVWs

Once airless tires become the norm perhaps it will change, but for now tires are the weakest link for armored cars across the board.

As always it’s a matter of managing tradeoffs.

SNL-LOL Jr
SNL-LOL Jr
1 month ago

I wonder how these businesse are affected by the march towards cashless society.

getstoneyII (probably)
getstoneyII (probably)
1 month ago

It sure would be fun to valet it at a fancy restaurant, if for nothing else than to see the look on the kid’s face who’s parking it murmuring to themselves “What in the fuc…”.

Last edited 1 month ago by getstoneyII (probably)
UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago

This is yet another take on unobtrusive CIT (Cash In Transit) vehicle. Car/SUV/Pickup conversions that are usually used for some ATM runs — especially ones that service the small convenience store and lobby machines which are located in places where, for various reasons, a big armored truck or van is either undesirably conspicuous or just won’t fit where it would have to park. They can also be permitted in some instances to be operated by a single driver/messenger instead of the normal two-man crew.

Source — I was an armored car messenger and ATM tech in the 90s. At that time, there were some outfits that used full-size vans equipped like this, and others that used S-10 pickups with some mild up-armoring in the cab and a safe and cage welded into the bed, with a fiberglass truck cap covering all.

Last edited 1 month ago by UnseenCat
Library of Context
Library of Context
1 month ago

And I thought my Forester XT had bad gas mileage.

V10omous
V10omous
1 month ago

I wouldn’t personally add thousands of pounds of armor to a vehicle that felt anemic in stock form, but to each their own.

Mechjaz
Mechjaz
1 month ago
Reply to  V10omous

I’m not immune to the sleeper charm, but agreed. This thing must have wheezed and huffed and puffed. I’m amazed the CVT hasn’t given up under the increased load.

If you were gonna knock it over, find a flatbed capable of doing more than 55mph, get in front of it, hit your brakes, and you’ve just netted yourself an armored Forester.

And like, the money and guards and a whole lot of felonies.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago
Reply to  V10omous

I’ve seen this done with small pickups and later on, SUVs. The objective for this was probably to get around at low speeds in a heavily urbanized area — where maneuverability and parking in tight spaces was important.

The Forester has one thing going for it over other small crossovers, the Subaru boxer engine tends to deliver adequate performance up to its maximum weight capacity — but with an ever-increasing appetite for fuel as the load increases. I suppose for putt-putting around in city traffic and spending most of its time idling or shut down, it would be fine.

I can’t say how the CVT would hold up hauling that much weight around, though. Was this series of Forester ever available with a conventional automatic? I don’t know — it would probably be a better choice if it were available.

V10omous
V10omous
1 month ago
Reply to  UnseenCat

It was actually available with a manual transmission, but not a standard auto.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago
Reply to  V10omous

The angle in the picture isn’t great for showing it, but it looks like the same console trim as my daughter’s Forester from the same generation, so it’s the CVT then. I wonder how many times it went into the shop for service on the CVT? 🙂

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago
Reply to  V10omous

Agreed. I used to live a few miles away from a billionaire (by coincidence, sadly I’m not at all wealthy) who rolled around in an armored X167 Mercedes GLS 63 AMG. I always thought that if I was in a position to need an armored car, starting with one with 600+hp just makes sense.

Cerberus
Cerberus
1 month ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

It does make more sense for him, but that’s a different mission than what this is intended for.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Sure, in that he wanted something luxurious to ride in rather than something inconspicuous, but the fundamental concept of keeping the items contained in the interior safe is still the same. In that vein, one would think you’d want something that could not only absorb an attack but also reliably get away from the attacker. I can think of many other inconspicuous vehicles that would make more sense to armor than a vehicle that in stock form was known to be slow as molasses AND chew through its CVT transmission.

Cerberus
Cerberus
1 month ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

This has no active defensive measures or serious armor. I really doubt these were expected to take on well-funded and experienced criminals or really anything at all beyond long odds. This thing is mainly for primarily short trips with the minimum specs to satisfy insurance, maybe make the crew feel safer, and deter/hide from the bottom feeder kind of criminals who are the type most likely to attack one of these for far cheaper than something intended to protect a VIP from what would almost exclusively be a well-funded and trained ambush kidnapping/assassination scenario. Horses for courses, as the saying goes.

SonOfLP500
SonOfLP500
30 days ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

If I was a billionaire in the position to need an armoured car, I would spend a few hundred million of my billion adjusting my life so I didn’t need an armoured car. The primal urge of wealthy people to surround themselves with possessions that make other people want to use violence to get them for themselves, or be so ostentatious that they risk kidnapping or worse, and live as prisoners as a consequence, is an unending mystery to me. For me, the whole point of having all that money would be not to have to give a s**t about anything.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago

If the windows are bulletproof, they probably don’t roll down. So the vent may just be for fresh air, period.

UnseenCat
UnseenCat
1 month ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Correct — it’s a typical (and now very old-style) truck cab/sleeper vent that can be opened with the lid facing forward or backward. Still used a lot in armored truck cabs and rear compartments if they carry a full crew.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 month ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

A Subaru without a dog vent just makes no sense!

Soso Tsundere
Soso Tsundere
1 month ago

Psssh, Michael Westen did the same thing shoving some phone books into the doors, and I’m sure Burn Notice never exaggerated anything!

Church
Church
1 month ago
Reply to  Soso Tsundere

Shout outs to Burn Notice. The first couple of seasons were a good time.

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