Brian Mitchell’s name should be familiar if you’ve looked at results of any significant sound quality auto sound competition in the last 15 years. Whether using his Zombie Apocalypse Chevy Cruze or the amazing Cadillac ELR, he’s racked up hundreds (yes, hundreds) of first-place and best-in-class finishes across the country.
Brian has two jobs: By day, he’s a sales manager for ARC Audio. After 5 p.m., he heads to Liquid Trends, his custom car audio shop in Modesto, California, to work on vehicles for a few select clients. The shop isn’t your typical consumer-focused affair. It’s basically by appointment only and typically only handles larger projects.
The Plum Crazy 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat Redeye you see here is a perfect example. Mark Bruno owns the vehicle. He worked in the car audio industry for companies like Rockford Fosgate and Fujitsu-Ten many years ago but has since moved on to selling real estate around Pebble Beach, California. The Challenger is a weekend toy that could also perform well in sound-quality competitions. After many conversations at events around California, Mark asked Brian if he would consider upgrading the audio components and installation in the Challenger in hopes that the vehicle would score better in competition.
After some planning, discussion and deliberation, Brian decided that this vehicle would be the perfect project to advance his goal of winning the Mobile Electronics Magazine Installer of the Year award. The scope of the upgrades blossomed from the “make it cool and sound better” level to a full-on “show what you can do” project. While the photos tell an amazing story, many subtle aspects of the project might not be apparent to the average onlooker.
Dodge Challenger Audio System
The Dodge Challenger arrived at Liquid Trends with an existing competition-grade audio system. The all-important front stage includes a set of Focal Utopia M TBM tweeters in the A-pillars, a pair of 8WM woofers up high in the kick panels, and ribbon-style midrange drivers in pods on the dash. The project would leave these speakers untouched but supply them with a crystal-clear signal from new ARC Audio SE-Series amplifiers. An ARC Audio SE 4200 powers the left speakers, and a second SE 4200 is dedicated to the right drivers to maximize stereo separation. One channel drives a tweeter and one the midrange, with the remaining two channels bridged for the woofer on each amp. An ARC Audio SE 2300 amp wired in a bridged configuration powers the monster-sized Stereo Integrity subwoofer you might have noticed in the trunk.
The Challenger uses an ARC Audio PS8-Pro digital signal processor that’s been upgraded with the PSC remote control for signal processing. Unlike other processor remotes, the PSC allows detailed system calibration and adjustment from its compact full-color OLED display. We’ve resisted the urge to ask if it can run Doom. A PAC Audio interface that connects to the factory-installed source unit provides the audio signal to the PS8-Pro processor.
Dodge Challenger Wiring Upgrades
Part of the competition process requires demonstrating that every aspect of the vehicle upgrade is up to a standard that ensures maximum performance and reliability. Brian rewired the car with Stinger power, signal and speaker wiring. The vehicle has two Stinger batteries to ensure that the amps have the current they need when the music is loud. Techflex nylon braid looming protects the wiring as it runs through the cabin.
Individually addressable RGB LED lighting was routed along with the wiring. The LED lighting shows the direction the power or signals flow through the cable. This lighting upgrade garners the vehicle additional points in the installation portion of competitions.
Speaking of power, you may have noticed the custom fuse block on the right side of the trunk. Brian built this from scratch using layers of black and clear acrylic plastic. A copper bus bar runs up the center of the fuse holder and connects to the vehicle’s batteries. From there, dedicated fuses for the amplifiers, the vehicle electronics, an external power supply, and a pair of Viair compressors ensure reliable power delivery.
Brian used his CNC laser to engrave the function of each fuse in the clear acrylic that keeps fingers or tools away from the electrical connections. It’s also worth noting that 1/4-20 fasteners secure the fuses and the cover. All of the upgrades in the car mount use button-head hex 1/4-20 fasteners that thread into hand-threaded holes. Brian used these same fasteners for all the upgrades he added, so service and maintenance are quick and easy.
Infinite Baffle Subwoofer Delivers Deep Bass
No car audio system would be complete without authoritative low-frequency performance. Brian and Mark chose a Stereo Integrity 24-inch subwoofer for the Dodge Challenger’s audio system to handle the bottom few octaves. Brian mounted the massive subwoofer to a baltic birch stack-fabbed baffle that uses the spare tire well as the enclosure. The enclosure uses the vents in the vehicle’s rear body panel to allow air pressure to escape and enable the subwoofer to play much lower than it would if the enclosure were sealed. Brian mentioned that the vents are just over 50% of the surface area of the subwoofer to ensure that it can breathe well. This is effectively an infinite baffle design. The trim ring and mounting flange around the subwoofer sit off the floor and include a ring of LED lighting to give the subwoofer a floating appearance.
Uniform Cosmetic Theme
You might have noticed that the dust cap on the subwoofer looks different than anything a regular consumer might find. That’s because Brian had the dust cap hydro-dipped in the same “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” skull design that’s present throughout the rest of the installation. The hydro-dipping is also present on the cosmetic shroud of the PS8-Pro on the left side of the trunk and the cooling shrouds of the three SE Series amplifiers at the back of the trunk.
A look in the back seat reveals a pair of Viair tanks that have also found the skull design. The purple trim piece around the center console is the final piece of the skull theme in the interior. Several trim pieces under the hood have also received the same skull cosmetic upgrade.
Looking under the hood of the Challenger, you’ll see the massive supercharger that sits atop the 6.2-liter Hemi. The supercharger’s upper lid, catch can, injector cover lettering and several filler caps all share the copper color scheme. Brian picked up on this theme by creating hand-bent copper tubing that connects the air compressors to the rear seat air tanks and the manifold under the amp rack. A careful eye will notice that the copper theme includes the SRT badge in the front grill and the edges of the violet racing stripes on the exterior. Should you find yourself on the ground beside the car, you might notice that several of the AAD Performance suspension component upgrades are a similar color.
The strut support bar in the trunk is the same copper color. However, it was built to serve as the heart of the amp rack. In stock form, the bars curve upward from their strut-top mounting brackets to maximize cargo room. Brian and his friend Robert Boyd fabricated new bars, and TIG welded them in place. Crucially, the welding was done in the vehicle to ensure that the bars would continue to help maintain the rear geometry.
The next cosmetic theme is the honeycomb-weave carbon fiber. Mark ordered four sheets of the material, and Brian laminated it to a substrate so he could cut accent pieces to go around the subwoofer and alongside the digital signal processor and the custom fuse holder. These panels conceal the fasteners that hold everything in place. The mounting board under the air suspension compressors and tanks is the same material. The interior trim on the center console shares the same woven fabric. Mark carried the hexagonal theme into the custom embroidered seats and Alcantara door panel inserts.
The center panels of the amplifiers that conceal the adjustment knobs and switches were treated to some time on the CNC router at Creative Custom Finishings to add additional skull artwork. Once done, a satin-black ceracote treatment gave them a durable finish. The inside top panel of the PS8-Pro processor, the bodies of the Viair compressors and a few cover panels under the hood received the same design and black ceracoate treatment.
Another item worth noting is the rear seat trim piece that replaces what would be the seat back. Brian didn’t like the shape of the original seat-delete panel, so he created a new one that matched the vinyl and Alcantara look of the trunk. It doesn’t stand out, which means the execution was magnificent.
It took a team of genuine experts to bring the project together. Of course, Brian Mitchell led the way on the installation with the assistance of Robert Boyd. LeatherSeats.com in Oklahoma City handled the custom seat and door card upholstery. Billet Technologies in Florida, took care of the CNC work on the billet parts. Creative Custom finishings in Crestline, CA, did the hydrodipping and paint on the CNC-machined parts as well as all of the hydrodipped parts in the car inside and out. Destroyed Kustoms in Temecula, California, assisted with the carbon fiber on the dash and steering wheel.
Brian’s goal of using this project as part of his Installer of the Year entry was achieved. He won the prestigious award, putting him in a select group of fabricators on the planet.
As for the plan to improve the Dodge Challengers’ performance in auto sound competitions, the upgrades were also a huge success.
Normally, we’d wrap up an article with a suggestion to visit the shop that performed the work. As mentioned, Liquid Trends and its owner Brian Mitchell are slightly different – but in a good way. Instead, we suggest checking out ARC Audio’s amplifiers and signal processing solutions. We’ve been very impressed with their value and performance for decades. You can learn more about their solutions by visiting the ARC Audio website.
We congratulate Brian on winning the 2022 Installer of the Year award. To Mark Bruno, congratulations on putting together a truly stunning show and competition vehicle, and welcome back to the car audio community. We love the attention to detail and continuity. Thank you for letting us share it with our readers!