Armored GMC Suburban

One day I called my old squadron mate Bob and told him about a recent trip to Jordan. The war in Iraq was escalating and armoured vehicles were very in demand there. Bob suggested we try to buy one in the States and ship it over and see if we could make a business of it, or if it was a waste of time.

arm subThe armoured vehicle business was big business. The Iraqi government put out a tender for armoured cars and trucks every month. The biggest companies manufacturing armour were German. It was impossible to compete with them. Other companies had developed kits to modify existing vehicles, but that still required an extensive operation. We decided that maybe used trucks was the way to go. Mexico had a security problem, in that kidnappings were rampant, and they had a lot of used armoured cars for sale at any given time. We decided to buy a used armoured Suburban, ship it over there and see if we could make a profit.

We found a 2WD armoured 1999 GMC Suburban 1500 with a small block 5.7 Vortec L31 V8 with run-flat tires and B5 ballistic protection in Texas, and bought it. One of Bob’s friends drove it to Long Beach, CA so we could put it in a container and ship it to Aqaba, the port of entry in Jordan. Although the Suburban is about 19 feet long, we had to purchase a 40 footer, because somehow it wouldn’t fit in a 20 foot container.

Driving the vehicle was interesting to say the least. It weighed about 5,800 lbs, almost 3 tons. Massive amount of understeer, and you had to anticipate every move, as it took 50% longer to stop or accelerate to driving speed. (It felt like you were driving a supertanker) The drive-flat tires were harsh and noisy. The doors were really heavy, and if you were parked on an upward hill, opening the doors was very hard for a small person or woman. My ex-wife couldn’t open open the doors when I took her for a drive one day.

Anyway, the ship sailed with our container and I returned to Jordan.  The trip was supposed to take about 6 weeks and I expected the vehicle mid December 2005. One day while inquiring about the arrival of our ship, I discovered that the port workers in Aqaba were going on strike, and the offloading was going to be delayed a week or two. Finally, on January 4th, I was notified that my Suburban had landed and would be placed on a truck for delivery to the Zarqa Free Zone in Amman. However, I needed to pay the dock manager $1,000 to expedite this. WTF, in for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes, so I paid it. The next day, I got another call from our customs facilitator, saying that I needed to pay another $1,000 to the guard at a highway checkpoint, as our documentation was not exactly correct.  Oh well, it was almost over, so I paid it.

The next day I drove over to the Zarqa Free Zone to check out our Vehicle. ZFZ was huge. It was about 250 acres, all covered with heavy equipment, vehicles, and goods destined for Iraq. When I arrived at the location where my Suburban was parked I learned that as of January 1st, 2006 the Iraqi government had passed a law that no vehicle manufactured before 2000 would be allowed in the country. They were trying to prevent Iraq being the garbage dump for old cars. Since the war started, 10’s of thousands of vehicles had been destroyed, and enterprising people had been sending boatloads of old cars to replace them. Most of the old cars were shipped from used car lots in Asia.

I was screwed. I now had a 6 year old Suburban that I couldn’t drive in Jordan and could not export to Iraq either.

After stewing on my misfortune for a few days I got a call from somebody in ZFZ, stating that they would buy the Suburban for a small discount and worry about getting it into Iraq. We had no choice. Either sell it to this fellow, of ship it back to the States. We sold it.  So much for our adventure.

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