Getting to the top of the pile takes hard work, ambition and skill, but mix in passion and you’ve got something special. Phil Leach, owner, founder and managing director of SQ Plus (based in Manchester, England), has skyrocketed to the highest ranks of Europe’s in-car entertainment installers immediately after opening its doors.
“I started SQ Plus in 1999 because I was fed up with working for everyone else when it was my skills that were being noticed,” the 42-year-old explains. “It began with a 1,000 square-foot unit, and within 12 months, all the start up costs had been paid back and we’d outgrown the premises. A year and a half later we moved to our current premises, which are three times as big.”
Since then, no other UK outfit has come close to matching the reputation of SQ Plus, nor the number of awards piled high in its trophy cabinet. SQ Plus was also recently named the UK’s premier installer by the trade itself. “It’s always an honor to be recognized, and each and every title means a lot to me, but we’ve stopped doing the competitions to the same degree as we used to because of the time participating eats up,” Phil says.
Instead, he’s been building up the complete custom car “one-stop shop” side to SQ Plus, an ambitious venture for the UK. “I’ve already achieved my ambition to have one of the most successful car audio companies in the UK, and adding a paint and body shop is a natural progression for us,” he says. As with its mother company, the paint shop is state-of-the-art and run by the most recognized airbrush artist in the UK and Europe, Darren Horton; Darren can do any design imaginable.
Existing customers, including soccer players from the English Premier League, car manufacturers and, of course, the general public have all taken advantage of the addition, having seen the benefits of this partnership. The best known is undoubtedly SQ Plus’ Citroen C2 “Alien” concept, which has become, arguably, the best known modified car in the world thanks to its center-steering conversion, dazzling install and stunning exterior.
The C2 is not only a big part of SQ Plus’ history, but it’s helped establish its future, and pushed Phil to his most difficult project to date. “The Escalade was done to show ‘the ultimate’ to the customer,” Phil explains. “It was finished as if it had come from the factory, but required a complete rebuild of the interior to achieve it—dash, center console, roof, trunk—everything. It meant moving the switches around; door-mounted controls have been rewired into the center console, the clock’s shifted to the middle, the air conditioning up to the roof and so on.”
Since there are so many features to this Escalade, it really is difficult to know where to look, even when you’ve seen as many tricked-out installs as we have. The centerpiece of the vehicle is the Crestron touch-screen control in the middle of the dash, which is usually used for multi-room home theater applications. It not only operates the bewildering array of screens, audio equipment, DVDs and Xbox controls, but also the vehicle’s basic functions; everything from the headlights to the window mechanisms to the windshield washer jets can be operated through this single interface.