Kyle Conquilla — a computer information systems student — looks to drive change through the car community by setting a higher standard for what it should be.
To Conquilla, cars are more than just a few thousand pounds of metal, rubber and cloth. Cars and the community around them helped Conquilla express himself and grow out of his shell.
“Back in high school I used to be a very quiet, held back, and soft-spoken individual,” said Conquilla. “I have a car that everybody’s interested in. I’m forced to talk, and overtime I became more of a social butterfly, more outspoken and more confident person because of the car community.”
Inspired by teams and brands like Kings Must Rise and Nightrunner International, Conquilla started out with a small team of seven car enthusiasts. He started to build his small platform and following by observing the direction of the car community, and car content, was going at the time.
“As an 18 year old at the time, you’re not really there financially, or there in maturity either,” said Conquilla. “As with naivety and immaturity, comes a lot of conflict. I have a lot of past members who have left because of my mistakes.”
Learning from his mistakes, Conquilla took them as opportunities to grow as the leader of Status 7. He had always kept the idea of using cars for charitable purposes on the backburner in the back of his mind.
The COVID-19 pandemic sparked Conquilla’s want to support the community when he noticed his favorite local coffee shop started to struggle. He hosted his first Cars and Coffee, a morning car meet centered around a café, at Aroma Craft Coffee in Walnut expecting only a small group of cars to show up. Instead, at least 100 cars filled the parking lot and marked the start of Status 7 as a positive force in the local car community and made a childhood dream a reality.
Using “engines and espresso” as a springboard, Conquilla started to use his newfound influence to support other local businesses by hosting car meets at their locations. Conquilla was not content with simply hosting car meets and started to build a brand around Status 7.
“We made stickers, and the proceeds were for charity,” said Conquilla. “At the time, either 50% or 75% of the proceeds went to No Kid Hungry.”
No Kid Hungry’s goal is to make sure that every kid in America has healthy food.
With the addition of “Tastea nights,” hosted at Tastea in Chino Hills, Conquilla launched a new set of decals donating proceeds to the American Foundation for Suicide Awareness.
While the pandemic allowed Conquilla to build a positive sphere of influence in the San Gabriel Valley, a negative force started to sweep across the whole car community. The rise of street takeovers and other deviant car events were the impetus from Conquilla to want to do better for the community.
“That’s not what I want the car community to look like.” said Conquilla. “For us, its events that you can take your baby cousin to or you can take a sweet ride that you just built from the ground up and not have to worry about any law enforcement trouble or it getting wrecked.”
Even through his efforts to flip the current narrative and perspective of the car community, he still fell victim to the biggest fear of the owner of a modified car.
“All of a sudden I was pulled over going less than 20 mph,” Conquilla said. “That police officer thought I was a criminal. I was profiled and it wasn’t right because I wasn’t breaking the law. I was stopped, pulled over and profiled because of my car and because of who I am as an individual.”
In California, it is illegal to have modifications that are not California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved, and it is illegal to have an exhaust louder than 95 decibels. Police do not carry decibel meters, so they are expected to use their best judgement.
In the case of Conquilla and many car enthusiasts, this gives police probable cause to pull over any car. Despite Conquilla having legal modifications and showing the officer the appropriate CARB certifications, he was still given an exhaust ticket.
“… gives them the power to pull over anyone and hassle them if they believe they’re in the wrong,” said Conquilla. “Truthfully, a lot of us car people are not in the wrong and sometimes we’re getting pulled over for no reason. That’s why we need to leave the car community in a better light. For a lot of us, cars are an escape from reality. If this one thing gets taken away from us, then what do we have left?”
Feature image and photo credit courtesy of Andre Davancens