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Mattman Specialty Vehicles

Written by John Bellah

Located in San Marcos, CA, Mattman Specialty Vehicles has been building specialized and tactical vehicles since 1991. Mattman is not a dealership. They have no specific ties to any particular vehicle manufacturer. This means that they can research what is the best chassis for that agency’s application. Therefore, the end-user can have their choice of chassis, wheelbase length, and powertrain design best suited for their specific applications.

Popular chassis utilized by Mattman include those from International, Freightliner, Ford, and Chevrolet. The Ford E-350 chassis is popular with van-type conversions. For cab/chassis conversions, many agencies select the Freightliner chassis with their reputation for durability. For larger applications bus chassis, such as Bluebird or Prevost, are utilized.

Mattman will outfit an existing chassis; if requested by an agency, however, this practice is discouraged due to warranty and/or possible service problems down the road. An exception to the rule might be a surveillance vehicle—a brand spanking new van—that might draw attention in the inner city areas, whereas an older vehicle could be converted into a comfortable, well-insulated, high-tech surveillance vehicle that on the outside, would appear to be an old “beater” delivery-type van that wouldn’t be worth a second glance.

While most agencies opt for diesel power, John Mattman, the company’s president, said that the Chevrolet C-series Chassis with the 8.1L gasoline engine is popular for those agencies that specify gasoline power. And while Mattman will build a vehicle with a manual transmission, to date, no agency has specified such a vehicle, preferring automatics, with the Allison Transmission being the transmission of choice.

Mattman builds their vehicles to order and will assist the end-user in designing the vehicle towards their specific needs. It is strongly suggested that everyone involved with the vehicle become involved with the planning in a pre-construction meeting. This includes the emergency operations personnel, if it is a command post, crime lab people if it is designed to be a crime lab, SWAT personnel, and so on.

The fleet administrator should be there to help chose the proper powertrain and discuss maintenance issues. Communications personnel should be on hand to discuss electrical and communications requirements.

Mattman’s construction design is AUTO-CAD computerized; thus the end-user will have a visual idea of what the assembled vehicle will look like, both inside and out. This also includes wiring schematics for component servicing and future upgrades.

Mattman does all of their fabrication and conversion work with only two exceptions, paint and upholstery. These items are sub-contracted out. Mattman employs their own specialists that do the fabrication of the framework, cabinetry, electrical, and the installation of the components. Mattman Specialty Vehicles prides itself with quality commercial-grade construction.

At the end of each working day a quality control inspection is performed. You will find no pressboard on a Mattman vehicle. First off, pressboard will not meet OSHA Standards. This is one of the reasons why a motorhome conversion doesn’t make sense, as this type of construction just doesn’t hold up well under severe service. Mattman makes their own cabinetry out of 3/4” casings, with drawers made out of ½” stock.

An example of their upper-end mobile command centers is the recently completed Con Edison unit for New York City. Mounted on a Bluebird Bus Chassis, this ultra-modern command post is outfitted with an extendable camera and light tower on the rear of the unit. Persons outside can see the latest events by viewing one of the two plasma-screen monitors on the outside of the command post. A pair of 20-KW generators supplies electrical power.

Montgomery County, MD recently took delivery of a similar unit with a 65’ extendable mast for lighting and communications. As with the Con Edison unit, two 20-Kw. Generators provide electrical energy. Costing $1.2 million, the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s new Mobile Command Center is claimed to be the most advanced mobile command center to date.

Mounted on a 45’ bus chassis this state-of-the-art center features several workstations, plasma-screen monitors both inside and out, a remote-control camera as well as satellite up and down-links capable of transmitting and receiving voice, video or data. Their communications also included traditional “landline” as well as cellular and satellite telephones.

In addition to mobile command centers, Mattman also builds sub-stations, DUI checkpoints, mobile crime labs, and SWAT and bomb/arson vehicles as well as other specialized vehicles.

John Bellah is the technical editor of Police Fleet Manager and corporal with the California State University, Long Beach Police. He may be reached via e-mail at jbellah@csulb.edu.

Mattman History

Mattman's beginnings started in 1983 by Jurg Mattman, a former federal agent. Focusing on dignitary protection in 1990 Mattman was contracted to provide security to the nationwide Bill of Rights Tour. Such an event required a mobile command post that would accommodate a 26-member team of security professionals. Mattman retained Classic Coachworks of Little Rock Arkansas to build a $1.5-million vehicle on a 40' Eagle Bus Chassis to meet the needs of the event.

During the event, other law enforcement agencies were impressed with the craftsmanship and quality of this vehicle, and Mattman and Classic Coachworks merged to form Mattman's Specialty Division in 1991.

Starting with two employees, Mattman Specialty Vehicles currently employs 55 employees housed in their modern 20,000 square foot facility that has the capacity to produce 4-5 specialized vehicles per month, depending on the type of vehicle. While large vehicles require approximately six months to produce, smaller vehicles can be equipped and converted in 4-6 weeks, depending on how they are equipped.

The list of Mattman customers is extensive, with many agencies operating more than one Mattman Vehicle. Included are the FBI, CIA, HUD, Border Patrol, Customs, Social Security, and the US Navy. Airports include Dallas/Ft. Worth, Los Angeles, and Massport/Logan (Massachusetts).

The California Highway Patrol, Department of Justice, Ohio State Highway Patrol, and West Virginia State Police have Mattman vehicles as well as Hillsboro County, Fl, Montgomery County, Md, Los Angeles and Middlesex Counties. The cities of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Toledo, San Diego and News York are also Mattman customers, just to name a few.


Published in Police Fleet Manager, Jan/Feb 2006

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