Chuck it out!

Text: Danie Botha
Photographs: Conquest Vehicles

A cigar humidor. Satellite television service connected to a large, plasma-screen television. Electric curtains. A security safe. A refreshment bar. Wilton Wool luxury carpeting. Andrew Muirhead leather.

This is what you can get when you own one of Conquest Vehicles’ Knight XVs, of which only 100 units will be made. Based on Armet Armored Vehicles’ Gurkha combat vehicle, this “SUV”, with a R3-million starting price before you can add a host of extras (and import duties), presides at the upper end of the luxury-on-wheels market.

We first saw the Knight XV at the 2008 SEMA aftermarket accessories show in Las Vegas, US, when it was only a concept vehicle, and briefly featured in the January 2009 edition. But now production is in full swing… and the mighty Knight may be on the way to South Africa too.

So what is all the fuss about?

Indeed, there is much more to the Knight XV than fancy carpeting and upholstery courtesy of a large herd of aristocratic cattle.

Firstly, the size of the thing is enough for even Chuck Norris to crack a wry smile.

The Knight XV is 6,1m long, it stands 2,6m high, and at 2,5m wide it will even scare those double-decker municipal buses.

It makes a rather large Hummer H2 pick-up look like… well, like when you park a Nissan 1400 bakkie next to a Nissan Navara double cab.

But there’s more.

It is also a fully armoured vehicle. Unlike most other “protection” vehicles that are armoured after they are built, the Knight is manufactured from scratch using military grade armouring materials and techniques. It takes 1500 hours to build one vehicle, and the finished product tops the scale at a hefty 5,4 tons (in “standard” trim).

What kind of weapons will it stop? Of course, it won’t stop Chuck Norris, but it will offer protection against 7,62mm bullets (from an R5 or AK47) fired from a range of 30m, an 8kg (explosive mass) grenade or mine, and a similar-sized mine or grenade explosion directly under the vehicle.

It rides on a modified Ford F550 commercial vehicle platform, and power can be sent to all four wheels via an electronic, push-button 4×4 system. It also gets a low-range transfer case (4,88 ratio), as well as a limited-slip differential for the rear axle.

To shift something as heavy as the Knight along without causing a traffic jam, and to get away fast from any dangerous situation, the XV is fitted with a 300-kW V10 Ford truck engine. This 6,8-litre brute, which also has 680 Nm of torque on tap, is fitted with an E-85 ethanol conversion, which means it can run on petrol, or a blend of up to 85% ethanol.

If the owner feels his XV is still a little bit slow out of the blocks, there is also an optional turbocharger. This will hike the maximum power up closer to the 400kW mark. That’s probably the one Chuck would go for.

Power is transferred to the driven wheels (4×2 or selectable 4×4) via a five-speed Torqshift automatic gearbox. Talking about the wheels… the custom 20-inch rims are fitted with massive Mickey Thompson Baja Radial ATZ tyres. These are equipped with an ASC ballistic run-flat system. The big wheels also help increase the ground clearance of the XV to a mammoth 355mm.

On the safety front the Knight gets massive disc brakes all round which is linked to an anti-lock brake system, as well as traction control.

Although these figures and specifications certainly make for impressive reading, it’s the Knight’s sumptuous interior that is the real talking point. Let’s start with what you will get in the “standard” version of the R3-million XV. The Wilton Wool luxury carpeting is fitted, as is six-way, electric conference and cabin seating for six passengers, in handcrafted Andrew Muirhead leather chairs.

Also on the list are: air conditioning, Ultra Suede finish throughout the cabin, a tandem sunroof (armoured, of course) with privacy shades, power windows up front, laptop tables for the passengers, Alpine AM, FM, CD, DVD and navigation and Bluetooth equipment with a dual screen format (in the front centre console, and at the back, both with remote controls), and two PathfindIR thermal imaging cameras (forward and rear facing).

On the outside of the standard XV there are stainless steel running boards on the sides and at the back, those Knight 20-inch polished aluminium rims and the Baja Radial tyres, a steel front bumper and a ballistic fibreglass version at the back. The fenders are also made of the same ballistic material (with Kevlar).

Okay, so that’s the standard fare. If you want to stand out from the other 99 Knight XV owners, there is a comprehensive list of optional extras that can be added.

First, the interior: here you can have a boardroom-style seating arrangement installed. Or, if you’re a frequent flyer, you can always have the first-class aircraft sleeper-style option fitted. All leather, of course. On the subject of aircraft… an aircraft-style “black box” data recording system is also available.

Next up is a large plasma screen television linked to a satellite television service, a wide array of media entertainment upgrades, window privacy screens, electric curtains for the rear windows, a refreshment bar, cooler box, the cigar humidor, a security safe, an A/C inverter system, and a fire extinguisher. You can also have your XV in right-hand drive.

The option list continues on the outside: a siren with a two-way PA (public address) system with an intercom function, hidden front VIP strobe lights (red, blue and clear), a towing package, an Expedition heavy-duty roofrack with folding ladder, windshield visors (yup, they’re extra!), a beefed-up battery system, an auxiliary fuel tank, and a remote starter system are available.

On the security front the optional extra list continues: surveillance cameras, external listening devices, external smoke security system (sides and rear), a magnetic attachment detector under the vehicle, GPS transmitter, bolt-lock door system, search spotlight (roof mounted), an oxygen survival kit (for the cabin), and a wire-mesh exhaust pipe protection system are all up for grabs for customers who look over their shoulders a lot.

And finally, we get to the armour on the Knight XV. The level of protection is determined solely by clients’ specific needs, but in the basic package you can bargain on transparent armour (for the glass), opaque armour for the body panels (consists of high-strength steel, ballistic aluminium, and aramid and ceramic composites), and a firewall between the engine and passenger compartments.

There’s a famous saying that Chuck Norris doesn’t read books. He stares them down until he gets the information he wants.

The same could be applied to the Knight, in peak hour South African traffic. It won’t need lights, sirens, smoke screens, or a PA system blaring out “The final countdown” by the band Europe. It will just be there, and other traffic will make way. Even Hummer-size traffic.

Okay, but why build something as extreme as the Knight?

“Our goal with the Knight XV is to deliver an ownership experience that is unrivalled in today’s marketplace. The vehicle offers the very best in security and luxury while ensuring that the environment is positively impacted when the vehicle is on the road,” says William Maizlin, president of Conquest Vehicles.

But what does the typical XV client look like, besides possessing a rather healthy cash-flow agreement with the bank?

“Conquest Vehicles’ clients are very diverse. They are high net-worth individuals who place security and luxury at the top of their list when seeking to purchase a bespoke vehicle such as the Knight XV. We have received several inquiries from interested parties in South Africa too and we are looking forward to breaking into this dynamic marketplace over the coming months,” says Seth Feller, president of Word of Mouth PR, who handles the public relations for Conquest Vehicles.

So, if you have more than R3-million burning a hole in your pocket, if you’ve ticked off a few people along the way in gathering all those millions, if you have a need to travel by road in absolute luxury, and if you have a desire to stand out in the crowd, the Conquest Vehicles Knight XV may be just the ticket.

And if your name is Chuck you’ve already got one in the warehouse at home.

Conquest Vehicle Knight XV
Engine: Ford V10, 6760cc biofuel/unleaded petrol
Power: Approx 300 kW
Torque: Approx 680 Nm
Gearbox: Five-speed automatic
4×4 system: Selectable electronic 4×4 system, low-range, rear limited-slip differential
Ground clearance: 355mm
Chassis: Super Duty Ford F550 commercial platform
Wheels and tyres: Knight 20-inch custom aluminium rims with LT40x13.50 R20 Mickey Thompson Baja Radial ATZ (with ASC ballistic run-flat system)
Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes with traction control
Weight: 5,4-ton (standard)
GWM: 8,2-ton
Length: 6,1m
Height: 2,6m
Width: 2,5m
Fuel tank: 151 litres
Price: About R3 million (excludes import duties and taxes)