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      This article is intended to help describe in-game reasons and processes by which ordinary vehicles can be given upgrades to help deal with upcoming perceived dangers, with emphasis on what is available today. Alternately, this can be a resource for GMs wishing to outfit a villain's car to keep the mundane PCs from delaying the Escape in a logical manner (other than "um, your shot misses and he gets away". The word count is approximately 1,600.

Modern Vehicle Upgrades
"Bullet-Proof" Window Shopping
- By Eric Funk

Some parties may not have a mechanic with Automotive skills in their midst. Other hero groups may be part of legitimate security corporations who don't have access to their own garage-sized Q-lab, yet want to refit a vehicle. Executive (N)PCs realize they need protection from modern (or supernatural) threats. Players may decide that their team van needs some new accessories to help against recurring or forecasted foes!

A realistic civilian vehicle is different from a GURPS Autoduel car, which often have armor of DR200 and over, and engines over 260 horsepower (pp. AD106-110). While DR100 is sufficient to survive atmospheric re-entry, (see p. VE23), and 200kW is sufficient to power a "light tank" (see p. VE31), the purpose of a real-world armored car rarely to fight a duel to the finish, but to survive an ambush by light military weapons, and then to get away. Because of this, real world facilities are either fully confidential, and/or perform government background checks.

A character does not need to be a Gadgeteer to refit (see p. VE202) a car, but having the Advantage would, for example, allow one to create new caliber weapons or new armor alloys in record time. An engineer without this Advantage could also do this, but it could take months or years to develop, much less build (see "Hiring Other People", p. VE202). When components are mass-produced, such as headlights, 7.62mm machine guns, or armor inserts (see below), a certified mechanic is all one needs (at least in GURPS terms) to install them and make the vehicle road-worthy. The last option is to use modular components which allow modules to be assembled and fully tested in the shop, and installed without skill (see pp. VE72, CV90). If the components need to be modified, then use the Production rules (same page). Note that an "average" mechanic has a skill of 14 (see p. VE147).

Example 1 A mundane gangster wishes to install a Fully Stabilized TL8 15mm chaingun (see p. VE43) with a sticker price of $11,510. Based on the Refitting cost of 30% from p. VE202 ($3,453), and a TL8 mechanic's income of $30 per hour from p. VE147, this comes to 115 man-hours. Assuming one mechanic per full 100sf of vehicle on a 300sf vehicle (see p. VE140), three mechanics can work on it at a time, for 5 days' work. If it is needed quickly, employing three mechanics around the clock (in shifts) could have it done in 38 hours. During that time, he will have to find another set of wheels. If mechanics pull extra shifts, then they may suffer from fatigue (see pp. B 134, CI 95).

Example 2 An Gadgeteer wishes to install the same Fully Stabilized chaingun with the labor Refitting cost of $3,453. Multiplying the rifit cost by 1 for being of the same TL as the inventor (or earlier), this fits a Simple invention (up to $50,000) (see p. SU67). One successful roll later, and it will be ready in 1d-2 (minimum 1) days.

Example 3 Secret Agent 101 needs to replace his damaged modular 1.1cf missile launcher module for a machine gun. 101 calls ahead, pulls into a carwash, opens the hood, and in the time it takes to roll through, the launcher is pulled out and the new gun is installed. -- This is why modular components can be handy.

Adding an open mount (see p. VE9) in front of a sunroof or a door window allows the simple addition of any tripod-mounted (or otherwise ready) weapon. The downside to this simple addition is that the vehicle must become unsealed to use the weapon, and the gunner is no longer completely protected by the vehicle armor (either "Head and Shoulders Exposed -4" or "Body Half Exposed -3", see p. B 118)! In the real world, pop turrets are increasingly popular choices in SUVs and vans, some of which are controlled by LLTV from the passenger seat.

Weapons on vehicles work better when Fully Stabilized (see p. VE45), allowing the weapon's Acc bonus to apply beyond the 1/2D range and to compensate for movement penalties (see pp. VE177 and errata 2e, 3p, Jul 8, 2002). At the GM's option, parts may be purchased as Cheap, Fine, or Very Fine, (see p. VE204) to maintain a vehicle's quality, or to add exceptional parts, notably weapons (see pp. VE100, B74). In the real world, this represents the accumulation of the care taken in both assembling and testing the component as well as the quality of the materials used.

Unless otherwise noted, Tech Level of all components following is TL8 (or "Advanced" for those using GURPS Vehicles Lite).

Mechanical Upgrades

Armor (External) Applique Armor (see p. VXi27) is bolted onto the outside of a vehicle, and is thus not popular for road vehicles, but is popular for light combat vehicles designed to intimidate. Note the restriction that applique armor can only applied to vehicles with "none" or "fair" streamlining.
Armor Inserts This is usually Expensive Composite (TL8), with a real life suggested limit of DR20, supplementing existing DR5 (see p. VEL33) for a total of DR25. DR20 costs 6 lbs and $150 per sf over 70 to 90% of the vehicle's surface, even the underside (see pp. VEL 15,34, VE21). What remains is glass, wheels, and tires (see below).
Armored Glass Expensive Fireproof Ablative covering all windows (about 10 to 20% of the total vehicle area at DR25 (1.25 lb and $100 per sf) means that for a glass area of 32sf, DR25 comes to 40 lbs, $3,200 for all four sides.
Compact Fire Suppression System Mounted in all compartments (50lbs, $500) (see pp. VE65, VEL27)
Engine The straightforward upgrade is to replace the existing engine with a higher performance engine of equal mass (and thus volume). (e.g. a 172kW gasoline engine has a mass equal to that of a 290kW improved turbocharged engine (see p. VEL21). This is a 66% improvement in performance for a 200% increase in price (plus labor, see Refitting, p. VE202). Note that fuel consumption increases proportionately with performance!
Engine Access Space If one could consider the engine in an internal pod is that can only be accessed from the top or bottom, unless removed by a winch (perhaps internal or at a garage) then technically it does not require access space (see p. VE15). A modular pod design costs an additional $500 per cf and and extra 20% of the engine's cost. A 172kW standard gasoline engine has 17.2cf of access space that could be converted to component space (classically forward facing weapons) or for a larger engine, be it either for performance or perhaps Ruggedization, see p. VE27)!
Extra Fuel 10 gallon standard self-sealing tank, 1.5cf, $100, Ewt 10 lbs, Lwt 70 lbs (see pp. VEL 21, VE 89)
Front Grill Open frame expensive metal applique armor (Front) (see pp. VE23, VXi27). Suggested area is ~5% of the total vehicle area. DR400 masses 12.6 lbs and costs $189 per sf. It protects the vehicle against collisions as per pp. VE23, VEL34 . To protect the occupants, add a "ram" and/or "enhanced bumper" below.
Glare Proof Windows See Reflective Surface ($15/sf) (see p. VE92), Anti-glare Goggles, p. UT 20. Real world home kit Materials cost $40 for a vehicle, but it's up to the GM to determine the combat effectiveness conveyed.
Modular Socket Holds any component of the same volume. This costs $500 per cf (see p. VE72).
Oil/Paint Sprayer (First available TL7) $250/$375, 37.5 lbs at TL8 (see pp. VEL 27, VE 70)
Ram This add-on simultaneously increases damage inflicted on targets and reduces collision damage sustained by 1 per die. (1 lb and $2 per sf, see p. VE94)
Roll Cage Open Frame armor that protects only the occupant seat areas (see "Front Grill", above).
Run-Flat Wheels These allow driver to continue at -1 to Driving skill if the tire is destroyed. The cost is the same as Puncture-Resistant Tires, (see p. CV90). Note that the cost for four such wheels at TL8 is $500.
Shatter Proof Windows DR1 Expensive Composite Applique ($2, 0.16 lbs per sf, see p. VXi27) can be applied in layers to existing windows.
Spike Dropper (First available TL5) 18 lbs, $88 (see pp. VE70, VEL27)

Electronics Upgrades

High-Security Alarm $3,000 (see pp. VEL 27, VE 70).
Computer and Terminal Totals 42 lbs, $2,000 (see pp. VEL 26 , VE 61).
Electrified Surface It is commercially available at TL7 to be applied to the door handles! 0.2 lbs, $10 per door (p. VE 92). It is strongly suggested one install at least one spare battery dedicated to this circuit. It is possible to have it rigged to be charged by the engine, but not draw power from other systems.
Extra Battery Each 3,000 kWs Lead Acid Battery, 60 lbs, $75, 0.3cf (see pp. VEL 30, VE 88).
GPS 0.5 lbs, $100 (pp. VEL 26, VE 58).
IFF 5 lbs, $1,000 (pp. VEL 26, VE 58).
HighGlare Headlights (Front and/or back pair mountings) - 1-mile Searchlights - 10 lbs, $1,000 per pair (VEL 25, 48, VE49) (this is for fixed mountings; variable mounts are extra 10 to 20% cost).
Laser Sensor 0.5 lb, $50 (see pp. VEL 26 , VE 60).
Low Light TV (LLTV) 2-mile range -- 1 lb and $500 (see p. VE 50).
Radio/Cell Phone Jammer May be illegal in many areas. (pp. VE 60, CV 51, VEL 26).
Remote Control This may be a combination Engine Start/Stop Door Unlock/Lock keychain with 0.1 mile range -- Transmitter: Ultra-short radio (see below) neg. wt, $6, In Vehicle: Tiny dumb dedicated computer in vehicle with ultra-short receive-only radio (0.35 lb, $8).
Two-way Radio Vehicle-mounted long range radio/cell phone with scrambler (10 lbs, $1,100, 1,000 mile range)(see pp. VEL 25, VE48).

Wish list

The following are technically available, but for one reason or another, not popular as civilian refit additions:
Blackout Paint Essentially really cheap Modest IR cloaking, -2 to detect. $50/sf (see pp. VXi 25, UTT85).
Improved Bumper These reusable bumpers and one-shot crumple zones are typically front-mounted (see p. VXii 18).
Laser Optics Detector Detect scope, LLTV, and PESA lenses, 4 lbs and $5,000 per mile, neg. power (see p. VXi18).
LCD Skin Provides a -2 spotting penalty for good camouflage, or +2 when being spotted is desirable. Requires a computer and terminal to operate (sold separately above), computerized controls, or a set of RGB/darkness dials (perhaps 1 lb, $20) (see p. VE 91).
Modest Sound Baffling This may already be present in some luxury cars to reduce noise pollution, see p. VE91! (p. VXii 26).
Mutable License Plate 1 lb, $500 (see pp. VE70, VEL27).
Nitrous Oxide boost Increases engine output by 20% (0.1 lb and $2.5 per kW of boost) (see p. VE84).
PESA 4 lbs, $16,000 per mile range (see p. VE 53).
Tough Tires GURPS "Puncture-resistant" tires. $1,000 per set of four. (see p. VE95) .

One final option is to remove all windows and install multiple LLTVs instead! (see Vision, p. VE25).


Portable Etheric Mesh (TL5+n) 5 lbs and $15 per 100cf, neg. power (see p. STE 59).
Psi Shielding 0.1 lbs and $100 per sf, neg. power (see pp. VE92, P73).

"New" Technology:

(add to the top of table on VE52 and/or VEL25)
Radio range lbs $ Range Power
Ultra-Short x0.03 x0.03 x0.001 0.001
Extra-Short x0.1 x0.1 x0.01 0.01

Adventure Seeds

PC/Patron/NPC gets sudden popularity boost of the bad kind, security is needed in less stable countries.
Low-budget PCs in an ordinary vehicle must try to stop villains in an armored car. With armor, extended range, run-flat tires, and perhaps a couple of dirty tricks, it will not be easy to keep up, much less stop them!
A stolen upgraded vehicle could also serve a gangster/supervillain well in escaping the scene of a crime. Especially useful tricks are rotating license plates, and/or LCD skin on the vehicle. (See also the intro paragraph)

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© December 2003 by Eric Funk

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