“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.
“The main idea behind the install was to integrate as much home technology into the car as possible,” Phil says. “Each passenger can listen to a different piece of music or watch separate visual sources like DVD, TV or Xbox—it should keep everyone happy.”
In addition to the amazing centrepiece, the audio alone is extensive and impressive. “The trunk area was made to hold eight amps and four subs, all panels were made from wood and Fiberglas, then trimmed in leather or Alcantara,” Phil explains. “The rear seat was made into two single seats because we needed to let the center console carry on through to the back of the car.” It’s not just raw power either, with four distinct settings saving the occupants’ hearing: Sound Quality, Surround Sound with 5.1, Loud and Very Loud.
Detailing is equally as impressive as its audio, too. A practical feature to preserve the life of the 26-inch alloys is the inclusion of cameras in each arch, linked to the in-dash screens that allow the driver to see just how close they are to potentially rim-wrecking curbs while parking. SQ Plus knows that anything can happen while out on the road, and made sure to test every possible breakdown scenario—doubling the amount of work required compared to modifying any other show car, but SQ Plus’ philosophy is doing the job right the first time.
Wrapped in a full Platinum body kit, accessorized with chromed billet fittings and energized with a supercharger pushing horsepower up to the 500 mark, the SQ Plus Escalade is the complete package. “Retail value would be about $300,000, which is expensive, but we could do something similar for a tenth of the cost that would outwardly look pretty much the same,” Phil says.
With the arrival of an international market (thanks to the Internet) and SQ Plus’ ability to buy a car from a manufacturer on the customer’s behalf, customize it to their requirements, then ship it out, Phil plans on building a global client base. So, whether you’re in Europe or the U.S., Phil’s kingdom is coming your way.
• 26-inch Gianelle 10-Flush chrome wheels
• AP Racing big brake kit (front and rear)
• Varad lighting
• cameras in each wheel arch
• Magna Supercharger
• twin 225-amp alternators
• Full Platinum body kit with modifications to fit wheels
• E&G Classic grille
• chrome door handles
• one-off fuel door by Fuel Doors
• dual twin exit Powerflow exhausts
• paint and body modifications by Darren Horton of SQ Plus
• Alpine NVE- NO99P navigation
• Alpine DHA-S680P DVD changer
• four sets of Dynaudio 220 MKII components
• Dynaudio Esostar MD 330 D tweeters
• 5-inch MW150.5 mids
• two 8-inch Diamond D308D4 subs
• two 10-inch NESA dash screens
• 2-inch screen in rear-view mirror
• Dynaudio 220 MKII components in rear doors
• two 8-inch Necvox headrest screens
• NESA DVD single player
• 20-inch screen
• camera in tailgate
• custom power slide amp rack
• four Diamond TDX Technology D915D2 subs
• five Diamond Audio D9800.2 amps
• three Diamond Audio D9800.4 amps
• two Alto EQ equalizers in the trunk
• Dynamat sound proofing
• Cresnet P-TL cable
• Crescat IM-P cable
• IR to serial converter
• quad splitter
• power inverter
• programming cable
• DAB tuner
Crestron Home Audio/Video Equipment:
• CP2 Rack
• PAD 8 audio controller
• TPS 4500 touch panel
• CT1000 touch panel
• TPS video card
• I/O boxes
• Kramer 8x6 AV matrix switcher
Photos: Jason Simms