One of the first things we discovered when we started researching Safe From Harm is that cars feature prominently in the life of a Personal Protection Officer. They rarely like their clients to travel on regular transport – the general public are to be avoided (there is a phrase for them in the book that cannot be repeated here) – and they will often be driving specially modified vehicles. Companies such as Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW offer powerful, off-the-shelf bullet- and blast-proof models for diplomats, potentates and unpopular oligarchs (although I suspect every oligarch is unpopular with someone; I guess they just have to hope it isn’t Putin).
In Safe From Harm Sam Wylde drives a long wheelbase, armoured 7 series BMW. The 7HS is compliant with the requirements of the class VR7 ballistic protection standard. Which means you can fire 400 7.62mm rounds at it from every angle with zero penetration. It is also blast-proofed against fragmentation and ordinance hand grenades. Each of the corners is reinforced for those times when the driver has to punch through parked vehicles or reverse his or her way out of trouble.
Sam’s version has been somewhat modified by a character called One-Eyed Jack. He is actually based on a guy who used to do my MOTs when one of us was involved in the car business (racing and renovating) in South East London. The real Jack had two perfectly good peepers, but if he spotted a fault he’d always say: “I’ll turn a blind eye to it this time, but get it fixed.” Hence the nickname.
When air bags first appeared, one of his customers came in and asked for them to be disabled on the driver’s side. Why? I asked. Because if you collide with another vehicle, Jack explained, you don’t want a Rover-style balloon (that’s a reference to The Prisoner for you youngsters) exploding in your face. It turned out the customer was one of the last of the old-school robbers who liked to stop armoured cars by ramming them. So it gave me the idea that Sam would have her air bag disabled in case she had to ram her way out of trouble. Which she does.
So, cars of many stripes play an important role throughout Safe From Harm, as a means of secure transport, rapid escape and, in two cases, as a lethal weapon. They figure even more prominently in the sequel, Nobody Gets Hurt, when Sam is faced with that old conundrum: how do you bump-start a vehicle with no battery? In this case a vintage Facel Vega. You’ll have to wait and see for that one.
Part of this piece first appeared in Crimetime (www.crimetime.co.uk). Thanks to @BarryForshaw3.