If, in recent weeks, you have been on the roads around Vaughan, Ontario and think you have seen the perfect vehicle for surviving an apocalypse, you have likely spotted the all new Inkas Sentry APC pickup truck making a test run.
You might have even caught a glimpse of yours truly behind the wheel! Wheels.ca was given the very rare opportunity to drive a new model vehicle before it has been officially unveiled to the public!
If the face of the new truck looks familiar, you may have seen the Sentry APC personnel carrier on the hit TV show Designated Survivor. While I have not seen that show, my visit to the Inkas facility left me feeling like I had been plunking right in the middle of an episode of The Blacklist.
When discussions arise among car enthusiasts about these vehicles, the question “Why?” inevitably arises. Why would one possibly need such a massive, heavily armoured machine in their fleet.
Inkas Vice President of Sales Philip Daskal tells me that the Sentry APC was originally developed for use at border checkpoints in Nigeria, where the company has sold more than 300
Sentry units to the Nigerian federal police. Ideally they used at security checkpoints where officers are geared up and ready for anything, but need to be protected in a climate controlled shell which also offers a constantly refreshed oxygen supply to keep officers alert.
The flexibility of the platform and the ability to tailor it to local needs has made it a favourite of law enforcement organizations around the globe.
How does Toronto the good end up being the home of a company that builds vehicles which are instrumental in keeping the peace in countries which aren’t as stable as Canada?
Daskal explains that the company’s founders, like many other newcomers to Canada, were looking for a place to start a safe life for their families. Inkas was created as a cash-in-transit company, shuttling money safely. Eventually says Daskal, “Business was going well and we’ve got the knowledge of these vehicles and wondered why we were buying vehicles from someone else.” They found a small warehouse and began building their own style of secure vehicles. The law enforcement type of vehicle was a natural evolution and now Inkas is the largest North American manufacturer of this type of vehicle.
Walking through the Inkas facility it is clearly evident that this company takes its product very seriously. Every vehicle is indeed handmade in-house by a talented team of craftspeople. Look this way and you’ll see the metal shop, where sheets of varying thicknesses of steel are bent and shaped. Over there is the welding shop, where sparks fly as panels are assembled. In the middle of all of it is the seamstress room, where world class interior materials are cut and sewn together. In another space, a small team assembles all of the bits to make the interiors of armoured limos and personal vehicles have the fit and finish that customers expect.
In a market where armoured vehicles can actually be bought at dealerships like normal cars, quality is what sets Inkas apart from their overseas competitors. That quality is what draws international customers to Toronto rather than buying in their own country.
In a bit of a shift, the pickup truck version of the Sentry is being aimed at the North American market. More specifically, it is being aimed at first responders. It is lighter, faster and more maneuverable than the “regular” Sentry. It carries four passengers rather than eight and can be used, as an example, for maintenance of vehicles in the field. The extra space offered by the pickup bed allows for the addition of a variety of tools, from ultra high end surveillance equipment to fire fighting equipment. To that end, the black crinkle finish doesn’t just look sinister, it is flame retardant.
A big part of what makes the Sentry appealing to international clients is the ability to power the truck with whatever drivetrain makes sense for a given market. The truck I drove is powered by a Ford F550 Super Duty powertrain, but in some markets where Ford isn’t so prevalent, Dodge underpinnings are chosen. In Africa, the Toyota Land Cruiser is the preferred power source, while Iveco trucks are the choice for China.
Following my tour, I was introduced to a delightful gent named Dmitri and we set off through the industrial area on our way to the local Home Depot. I mean really, how can one drive such a massive pickup truck and not visit the orange big box store?
One does not simply sit in the Sentry. One reaches up and opens the hefty door, which takes a bit of effort, which is not surprising given the thickness of the steel panel. Climbing up into the cabin, it is clear that this is no luxury vehicle, although with dashboard, seats and controls from an F550, there is a certain level of familiarity. It was a warm and sunny day, so the first order of business is cranking the diesel engine to life and firing up the air conditioning.
The thick bullet plate side windows do not open and the windshield is more like a couple of submarine portals than a traditional windscreen. A monitor in the middle of the dash displays what is happening on the road behind the Sentry, at least it would if the camera was aimed properly. All I saw was the pavement directly behind the truck.
To scoop a line from the classic car flick Gumball Rally, “what’s behind me does not matter”. Let’s face it, nobody on the roads is getting too close to the back of the Sentry in city traffic, because they are all too busy trying to figure out what it is. Keep it in your own lane and mind your own business and all is good.
I haven’t driven the 8 passenger Sentry, so I’ll have to take Daskal’s word that the pickup is lighter and faster than the original version. It feels less like a truck and more like a mobile bunker, which I suppose in reality it is. The ride is as firm as one would expect. Throttle response is truck like and one should be mindful of the amount of rolling mass before attempting a last minute braking effort.
I can honestly say that I have never driven another vehicle which has generated so much interest from the public. At least once every minute, either Dmitri or I noticed someone holding up their phone, taking a picture. Around town, this thing is a rock star!
If you (or more likely, your employer) are in the market for a real multipurpose vehicle for use in the field, you can check out the Sentry pickup at its official unveiling at the Canadian Association of Defense and Security Industries show, known as CANSEC, in Ottawa on May 30-31.
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