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GM displaying armored sedans to gauge public interest

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LOS ANGELES — A well-equipped Cadillac these days means adding armor to the accessories.

At the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show last week, General Motors Corp. was showing off an armored Cadillac that protects passengers in a steel and glass cocoon, capable of deflecting .44-caliber bullets and grenades.

It was originally conceived for overseas markets and U.S. diplomats, but the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks increased security concerns domestically.

Scaletta Moloney Armoring Corp., based in Bedford Park, Ill., is building the armored cars in partnership with Cadillac.

Scaletta Moloney president Joseph Scaletta said inquiries have soared 40 percent.

"It's a concept car to see if the retail market is interested," Cadillac's Jay Fanfalone said, adding there appears to be enough interest to sell several hundred armored Cadillacs annually for personal and corporate owners.

"Ninety percent of the luxury vehicles we armor are Cadillac DeVille's. It was born to be armored," Scaletta said. The company builds so-called flag-holder and motorcade vehicles for the U.S. government, but Scaletta was reluctant to give details.

The personal, anti-ballistic Cadillac Sedan DeVille, which weighs another 1,100 pounds for a total rolling weight of 3 tons, would compete with armored versions of BMW's 7-Series and DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans.

The black Cadillac that was on display in Los Angeles is stretched eight inches and has run-flat tires, inch-thick bullet-deflecting windows and steel plating to protect the passenger compartment, including undercarriage steel plates to protect against grenades.

Ransom wouldn't disclose the price tag for the armored versions, but he said it would be competitive with the Mercedes and BMW models costing $100,000 to $154,000.