Shop Showcase: SDHQ Offroad In Gilbert, Arizona

SDHQLEADART_1_edited-1Anyone can start a business here in the land of opportunity. Whatever some say may be the key to prosperity, whether it’s meeting a bottom line, making the right connections, loving what you do, or some combination of these and other factors, it can’t hurt to cultivate as many as possible if success is to be achieved.

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The storefront of SDHQ Offroad always has one cool ride or another on display.

Super Duty Offroad Headquarters (abbreviated as SDHQ) in Gilbert, Arizona, has carved out a special place for itself here in the Southwestern United States. Servicing the off-road needs of enthusiasts from all over, the business has grown from its humble beginnings in 1999, when it had two people working out of a 1,000 square-foot bay, to a thriving operation encompassing over two dozen employees and 20,000 square feet of space.

We took the opportunity to chat with operations manager Serena Pruett to better understand the background of this badass business and its reason for being. From our conversation, we were able to learn how it got its name, where you can see the company this year, and how they can turn customers’ hand gestures into plain English.

The Interview

SDHQ_04Off Road Xtreme: Who was it that founded SDHQ Offroad, and what is his background? How did he settle on the name?

Serena Pruett: Our founder is Ryan Marselis. He is originally from San Pedro, California. He has had a wide spectrum of life experiences that helped him shape what he has built today. He has spent a lot of time along side his Grandfather helping the many veteran organizations that he was a part of, some time on the Bering Sea as a fisherman, as well as time in the medical field where he worked inside the Emergency Department, Mental Heath Department, and behind the wheel of an Ambulance.

SDHQ_0115 years ago the business was named Superduty Headquarters and the only work being performed in the shop was on the Ford Super Duty, like the F-250 and F-350. During the beginning of the business he quickly became known as “Mr. Superduty” and customers would make road trips across the country to visit the shop and have work done on their trucks. After turning away non-Superduty business for quite awhile, Ryan ultimately settled on the SDHQ Offroad name and broadened the business to include just about all makes and models.

ORX: What were some of the milestones of SDHQ’s evolution from its beginning up to now? What were some challenges that the company faced?

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Whether or not the customer knows what he wants, SDHQ is ready, willing, and able to help him achieve his off-roading dream.

SP: One of the game changers was when we moved parts that we constantly used in the shop into the showroom for the guys that build their own projects. We have also had some milestone vehicles, creations on which we pride ourselves on building, since they’re something that the factory won’t do.

Some of these include the EcoBoost Raptor, as well as a 2014 Tundra single cab 5.5-foot and 6.5-foot bed. The latter of these is unavailable in stock form because Toyota only makes that truck with an 8-foot bed. We also made a double cab Tundra with 5.5-foot bed, which Toyota only offers in a 6.5ft bed. Some other projects in the works are a supercharged long travel Ford Raptor with a manual transmission conversion, and an LS-powered Toyota FJ Cruiser.

In 2011, we took a big step forward when we started our race support program. It involves using a 44-foot vending trailer that heads out to 40 events a year and does contingency for the racers. We sit track side on two-day events in case someone needs a part to get back on the track the next day. We even chase the Best In the Desert Vegas to Reno Race all the way to Reno with the rig, which helps to facilitate teams getting to the finish line of the longest point-to-point race in the States.

SDHQ_06We were also fortunate to spot a trend in the market a few years ago in regards to Ford Raptors. People were calling for quality Raptor aftermarket products, and while there were good options out there, there wasn’t anything great. We took it upon ourselves to take a product that would normally be a custom one-off piece and make it to where someone can order it off our website and have it sent right to their door and ready to bolt on to their truck.

Meanwhile, there are small changes we make every day. They constantly propel us in forward motion in order to stay on top of the latest and greatest products.

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The 20,000-square-foot facility and over two dozen employees serve as a testament to how far SDHQ has come since its beginnings in 1999, when it was just two guys and a 1,000-square-foot garage.

ORX: With parts from various aftermarket businesses in stock and a well-rounded shop crew, SDHQ seems like a one-stop shop for the off-roader’s needs. What are the sorts of customers SDHQ attracts? In other words, is it more of the guys who want their trucks built from the ground up, or the guys who need advice and parts to do it themselves?

SDHQ_03SP: We don’t target one or the other, we appeal to both. Someone can walk in and know exactly what they want or need, but we are always here to help devise a plan if needed. There are a lot of people that walk right in and go to our builder parts grab what they need, bring it to the counter, and head right out to get the job done.

Other times, we get someone that comes in and says, “I’m not sure exactly what it’s called, but I need one of these…” followed by a series of odd hand gestures. This goes on until one of us shouts out “Tube disconnect?” or something similar. There are just so many different levels of customers, from the “Here’s what I want” person to the “What would you do if this was your truck?” person.

ORX: What were some of the biggest developments at SDHQ in 2014?

SP: We have been doing a lot of improvements around the shop: new equipment, more inventory, and expansion with the mezzanines, just to name a few. Product-wise, in 2014 we got busy hitting the Tundra and Tacoma market pretty hard in 2014, along with expanding our Ram 2500/3500 lineup.

ORX: Will SDHQ be at any major off-roading events this year? If so, which ones?

SP: We go to 40+ events per year. We will be at the Lucas Oil Off Road Expo and all of the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series events, Best in the Desert races, King Of the Hammers, SCORE stateside races, Ultra 4 events, along with any SNORE events we can fit in between.

Truckin’ Along

SDHQ_27Servicing customers and building and selling parts are just two portions of the SDHQ experience. Outside of these functions, the company has created some truly epic rigs worthy of mention, like this supercharged 2013 Ford SVT Raptor that’s equipped for an off-road rampage, anytime, anywhere.

At A Glance

  • Owner: SDHQ Offroad
  • Build: SDHQ Offroad
  • Engine: Stock 6.2-liter V8
  • Wheels: 17-inch Method matte black Double Standards
  • Tires: 35-inch Toyo Open Country AT2s
  • Suspension: ICON 3.0 remote reservoir coilovers/3.0 secondary bypass shocks; Camburg Engineering lower control arms; SDHQ tie rods/limit strap kit/spindle gussets; Deaver 3 leaf springs
  • Mod Highlights: Whipple supercharger;  aFe Power 3.5-inch cat-back exhaust

On hand to answer our questions about it was SDHQ’s Jason Holmes, who had a hand in its build and development. “The goal of this build was to make a truck that could handle any and all types of terrain without changing the suspension to a full long travel type set-up,” he said. “The truck rides fantastic on the street and still has great road mannerisms. Anyone could easily drive a truck like this everyday comfortably and still take it off-road without an issue.”

The project was a fast and intensive one, going from start to finish in two weeks’ time. Some of it was devoted to things like bumpers, suspension, alignment, and wiring, while the installation of the supercharger and tuning accounted for a full seven days. “This is definitely one of our most favorite trucks,” commented Holmes. “It’s fairly mild by our standards, but it’s more than capable of conquering hotspots like Barstow and Ocotillo Wells.”

At the heart of the Raptor, the stock 6.2-liter V8 has been kept in place, and has been upfitted with a Whipple supercharger and an aFe Power exhaust kit. Other modifications include an upgraded core and heat exchanger, 3.25-inch pulley, and GT500 throttle body, bringing in a respectable 505 hp and 505 lb-ft of torque.

“The truck served its purpose as a great showpiece that not only looked great with the highest quality parts in the industry, but it held its own in some of the most brutal terrain we could throw at it,” said Holmes. “We are very happy with how the Raptor came out.”

This Ford SVT Raptor went from bone stock to ready to rock in just two weeks, and now makes 505 hp and 505 lb-ft of torque thanks to the supercharged 6.2-liter V8.

Sum Of Its Parts

SDHQ_28No market stands still for too long, and SDHQ is always on the lookout for what’s about to become a hit versus what’s going to crash and burn. The company has recently taken up the cause of lighting elements and how to mount them, and for that, the call has been answered with A-pillar light mounts that suit a variety of makes and models.

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With 1000 feet of useable light broadcasting from a four-inch-wide lamp, the Vision X Light Cannon is a mighty weapon for use in nocturnal off-roading.

“The mounts are an example of the production pieces we’ve been doing in-house,” explained Holmes. “We have offerings for Ford, Toyota, and Ram at the moment, all made from 3/16-inch mild steel that’s been CNC machined for precise fit and finish.”

Models like the 2007-present Tundra, 2010-present 4Runner, 2010-present Ram 2500 and 3500 HD, and 2010-present Raptor are all represented. Bolt-on installation means the mounts can come off and on with ease, with no cutting or drilling required.

SDHQ recommends the use of VisionX Light Cannons for use with the mounts, as they fit perfectly and provide ample illumination out to as far as 1000 feet, all in a compact and lightweight package that measures 4.7 inches in diameter. With up to 13 different cover filters available as well, the Light Cannon is a hearty piece of artillery to have in the heat of off-road battle.

Building Greatness, Day By Day

SDHQ_25To say that SDHQ Offroad is just another shop that focuses on off-pavement vehicles is to miss a vital point about them. From the parts they make to the trucks and SUVs they create, SDHQ is staying on-point in the wide world of off-roading and isn’t letting off the gas anytime soon.

The service is friendly and extremely knowledgeable, and even if a customer comes up empty on the search for a particular product for his rig, he can be sure that SDHQ won’t leave him feeling lost or empty. As the company’s About Us page states: “We may not be the first off road shop you walk into, but we will certainly be the one you remember.”

SDHQ’s contact information can be found below, while announcements, promotions, events, and other news can be found on its official Facebook page. To meet them face to face, you can either head to the shop located on the corner of Elliot and McQueen in Gilbert, or look for them at future events like Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.

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Article Sources

About the author

David Chick

David Chick comes to us ready for adventure. With passions that span clean and fast Corvettes all the way to down and dirty off-road vehicles (just ask him about his dream Jurassic Park Explorer), David's eclectic tastes lend well to his multiple automotive writing passions.
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