Every now and then a build will come into a shop that plants major seeds for the future. That scenario happened for Chris Hilbert and his shop, Sound Decisions, out of Racine, Wisc. After completing a stealth box build for a client, he returned with a bigger job. That client was Master Sergeant Chris Moore of the 347th Air Force recruiting squadron out of Oak Creek, Wisc.; the job was to turn a 2014 Ford Expedition into a recruiting tool for the Air Force. According to Hilbert, it's working. "Moore has trucks similar to that in Texas and had great success with that. He was really happy. He asked us for estimates and went with it," Hilbert said. "It needed to be loud, visible on the outside and have lots of lights. The truck got tons of exposure at Oshkosh. The biggest thing was to get them more recruiting. Chris gets paid commission for the more people he signs up for the Air Force. He said this has made his job incredibly easy."
But the job was anything but easy for Hilbert and his team, comprised of installers Ian Glacio and Dave Northart. Due to the truck being leased, anything installed had to be easily removable once the lease ended. The build included a 20-inch flat panel screen and Xbox that were supplied by the Air Force. Audio equipment included one JL Audio XD1000/5v2 amplifier, four JL Audio 12-inch subwoofers, one JL Audio MM100S (marine control center) and two JL Audio MX650-CCX-SG-TLD-B component coaxial systems. Stinger, Compustar, iDatalink and Cobra rounded out the mix with various accessory products. Overall, the build took 10 days to complete. Although creating a custom build that is easily removable is a rare feat for the shop, they were well-prepared thanks to their previous training with Sonus, learning techniques that would come in handy with this and other builds. "I paid for my guys to go through training at Sonus two years ago. They implemented lots of techniques from that in this truck. There's fiberglass in the rear panels where the speakers are. Two screws hold each one of those panels in place completely. Using what we have there, it's easy to come out if we have to work on it," Hilbert said. "We knew the Xbox had problems with overheating, that's why we made mesh compartments so it doesn't overheat. They say they've run the system for as long as 12 hours without having to start the vehicle. Being in the back of the truck, it's important so you don't gas people out when they are playing the game." Since completing the job, Hilbert posted the job on the store's social media pages and website to attract attention. It worked. "Because of the pictures we sent, a store in Nebraska inquired to us about what we did and how we did it. I know the store in Nebraska saw all the same work we did and was asked by the recruitment office there, too. I posted this to our MESA forum where dealers actively search for this business," Hilbert added. "This is something that can be done anytime. They need to go to events, they need to attract young people, which are our 12-volt clients anyway. Keep in mind [the military] have funds for this type of work." Despite the budget to pay for the custom aspects, some of the parts had to be donated due to budget limitations toward accessories. Compustar and Stinger both contributed products to help make the vehicle the best it could be, given its high exposure rate. The truck also represented the made in America theme in the sense that all JL Audio marine products were made in the U.S. On a personal level, the build meant a great deal to Hilbert due to his father having spent time in the Air Force, which provided him the skills he needed to get a job with Honeywell in 1972. Eventually, he'd turn his skills to the 12-volt industry by opening Sound Decisions, passing it on to his son in 2009, when he passed away. To top it off, the Air Force was gracious enough to give the shop an award for their service, given how much they sacrificed to finish the job. When they lost in labor dollars, they made up for in exposure to get more work, and free advertising from multiple news stories, both local and national, as well as social media exposure and a follow-up job they recently completed for the Air Force on a golf cart. "It's gotten a lot of exposure for all the right reasons and it gets your name out there," Hilbert said. "We donated a fair amount of the labor for this project to make it go. We met their deadlines, achieved their goals, it was trouble free and more importantly, it's doing everything it's supposed to." Source: Mobile Electronics Magazine