USF Car Enthusiasts Meet
The new group, focused on showcasing modified cars and learning, meets every other Friday on campus.
TAMPA, Fla. (March 10, 2011) – Anyone walking to their cars inside the LeRoy Collins Parking Garage every other Friday night can hear the engines revving, music playing and the sound of University of South Florida students enjoying each other’s company.
This is USF Car Meets, a student organization that invites car enthusiasts from around campus and the community to show off their modified cars and make friends. The meet grew from just a handful of participants to more than 200 in just a few short months.
“USF Car Meets allows people to bring their works of art here,” said co-president Conrad Kieliszek. “This is their art form, their way of expressing themselves. We provide the venue, our members provide the art. Cars do play a big role in people’s lives. You see them everywhere. I see cars as an extension of who you are, of who I am.”
University Police are aware of the meet, Kieliszek said, and have come out on occasion to keep an eye on the meets and address the participants on safety.
“We appreciate UP for doing their job and periodically staying in the garage during our meets,” Kieliszek said. “They made it clear that they do not mind us meeting on top of the garage, that they’d rather us be there than out on the street racing. It’s a way for members to show off the cars in the garage without showing them off in the street physically.”
The club attracts a variety of members, including many women who modify their own cars, Tampa Bay residents, community car clubs such as the Second Nature Car Club and even USF employees.
USF Physical Plant Employee Carlton Massey heads up to the garage when he’s not working. He often has his own car with him, decked out in graphics inspired by the board game “Operation.”
“I saw the cars and one day decided to come up and check it out,” said Massey. “I want to come back more often.”
Modifying cars can get expensive pretty quickly but Kieliszek said that many of the club’s members go to college and hold typical college jobs that don’t allow them to fund a lot of expensive, professional modifications.
“In the end, its not about who has the most modded car, it’s about what you consider your car to be, what you want your car to be,” Kieliszek said. “Eighty percent of our members have below $10,000 cars, some modified, some not. It has grown to be such a big club that it doesn’t matter what you drive but how passionate you are about cars.”
Others do take it to the extreme and spend a lot of money, citing it as well worth the expense.
“Most college students would find modifying cars overly-challenging and expensive,” said co-president Ronald Tomlin said. “However, for those of us that have a passion for it, the cost is well worth the benefit and we welcome the challenge. It just ads one more thing we'll be learning during our time as a USF student.”
The group isn't just about modifying cars though.
“Many of our members enjoy the car culture and following new makes and models being produced,” Tomlin said. “We often go to car shows such as the International Car show, which showcased almost all brands of cars and all their new models. We also are quite friendly with our friends at General Motors. With their marketing focused on word of mouth and going down to the customers for feedback, USF Car Meets was a prime target for invites to special "Ride and Drive" events such as "Main Street in Motion" hosted by General Motors.”
Kieliszek said that the group also heads out to legal racing venues as a group, such as a drag strip at Bradenton Motorsports Park, 45 minutes south of USF.
Tomlin describes USF Car Meets as a subculture of professional students and future business persons that share a common bond.
“Without cars, most of us would have to figure out what to do with the 50 percent of our time we spend working and dreaming of our cars,” Tomlin said. “USF Car Meets gives us a place to let loose our passion and share it with those with similar interests.”
Daylina Miller covers student activities and trends. She can be reached at 813-500-8754.