In the summer of 1990, four friends decided to start up a car club. Robby Quisol, along with his brother Sonny, and friends Bubba and Phillip, served as the founding members of this aptly named club. This name came easy to the four men, who all carried keys for the same make of automobile; the legendary Chevy Impala. The Impalas car club was born, and the initial chapter was called Nor Cal to represent a broader area, even though all of the members were from San Jose, CA. The club’s foundation was based off of one common principle, a principle which it still adheres to today; every member must own an Impala! About two months into the venture, Phillip and his family moved to Colorado. This is about the time that Pete “Kiki” Rodriguez came in to the fold. Kiki’s motivational personality and dedication to the club served as a driving force behind the club’s success. It should be noted that Kiki still brings those influences to the table today.
In 1992, a club from Salinas named “Reflections of The Past” called upon the Impalas for some guidance. Then president of this club, “Junior,” talked with Robby and wanted to take a different approach to his own club, hoping to create a more family-oriented environment like the Impalas had. He was frustrated with the more casual approach his club had taken on, and longed for more unity among its members. After all was said and done, the club became the Central Coast Chapter of the Impalas Car Club and this was the first chapter of the club formed outside of the original Nor Cal chapter. In 1995, Sacramento became the second city to start a chapter, and this branch set a standard for car building that all of the other chapters are still trying to emulate. That’s what happens when you inspire a few LRM shoots and articles. Sacramento also just celebrated their 15-year anniversary as a chapter, and this branch is still going strong.
The later years of the ’90’s would serve to be monumental years for the club, as they continued to add chapters in Reno, NV., Merced, CA, Fresno, CA., the East Bay, Modesto, CA., and Chico, CA. The Modesto Chapter was founded by none other than Kiki Rodriguez, who moved his family from San Jose to the valley in favor of a better cost of living. Many of “La Gente” followed suit during this time period, and the area bubbled with fellow Lowrider enthusiasts. Kiki, along with Tony “Bones” Torres and Martin’ Carranza, started a chapter that is now one of Impalas’ largest, with a membership upwards of 30 members. “I remember going to my first meeting and not making it. I blew my engine due to a careless mistake on my part, and I called Kiki to let him know what had happened. I told him I would probably be down for a while now and being in a car club without a car just didn’t seem right. The next day, he called me and told me to get a truck because he found me an engine! The following weekend, we drove to San Jose to pick up a motor from another member, and my ride was up and running in a week. That was the turning point for me, and membership was not only mandatory, but also a no-brainer because of the help and love that was directed towards me by the family.” Eventually, Sonny and Bubba ended up moving out to the valley, and are now essential members of this chapter as well.
Now with ten years under the club’s collective belt, the founding members are in awe of what has transpired. Most of them only figured that the club would last a few years, before ultimately fading out as most things do with time. Thanks to the family bond that this club has, and the commitment of its members, fading away will never be an option for the Impalas! Fast forward a few years, and you can see the birth of a few more chapters and the debut of a website called “Layitlow.com.” On this site, clubs and individuals can check each other out, as well as get help from one another regarding their rides. This is where some of the Impalas’ out of state chapters were conceived. Prospective members would show interest in the club and would receive information forwarded to them. After a certain criteria was met and all of the information and meetings were completed, new chapters were authorized by the now “Board of Directors,” aka the “Founders”. With all of these chapters starting to pop off at the same time, it seemed that the only area in Califas that was untapped was the Southern California region. In past years, a chapter was formed in San Diego, but unfortunately, this chapter only lasted a couple of years and was disbanded by its President because his members were not showing the commitment that was expected by him, nor were they following the club’s by-laws.
It was hard to have a chapter fail in such a short time, but the fire to start a SoCal Chapter was still burning. In late 2007, an individual by the name of Marcos “Mr. Rabbit” Arrelano came in to the picture. “Mr. Rabbit,” as he is affectionately known, had just parted ways with his long time club and was flying solo. With not much direction or a solid idea of where he was going to end up, I contacted him through Layitlow. Mr. Rabbit showed a lot of interest in the club and was excited about the possibility of starting something fresh in the area.
There were concerns of starting this new Chapter by the BOD because of the past failure in that area. Fortunately, Kiki’s ex-brother-in-law had settled in Chula Vista, and just so happened to be a close partner of Mr. Rabbit. This is definitely proof of just how small of a world we live in. After a few odds and ends were taken care of, Mr. Rabbit was given full green light on the chapter. The new San Diego Chapter was started on Chicano Park Day of 2008, and was commenced by about 50 members from chapters as far as Chico, CA,. and Phoenix, AZ. What a great way to kick off a new chapter! The rebirth of San Diego opened up the door to the start of the Orange County Chapter in 2009, and this chapter just celebrated its first year in the family, as did the club chapters in Atlanta and New Mexico.
Even with all the additions to the familia, one thing that has remained the same is Impalas long-lived tradition! Every year, all of the Chapter Presidents get together for an annual meeting to discuss the year’s events and the circumstances that their respective chapters are facing, as well as to get to know new members and chapters. Chapter anniversaries are also recognized during this time, in addition to discussing new business as it pertains to the club. Impalas also throws an annual “All Chapters BBQ,” which one-chapter hosts each year. This annual event is done solely by the hosting chapter and is in no way an easy task. It takes a lot of preparation and a lot of “Feria” to make this event happen. The main theme of any of these functions is always “Family,” first and foremost. Family is the one thing that really bonds the club together, and Impalas works hard to ensure that this focus is never lost. The Impalas are also doing their part to help rid the stereotypes that plague all Lowriders in general. That destructive stereotype that we’re all “Gang Members” or “Drug Dealers” and that’s how we get the money to build our cars has haunted our culture for decades. In reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into building a nice ride, (Not to mention the 12-hour days at work), as well as a lot of understanding from the wives when you’re in the garage all night or at one of the members homes helping him get his ride ready for the next event. I think at some point, we’ve all done that once or twice.
The Impalas also try to do their part with local schools by helping to organize small car shows for the kids and their parents, as well as by holding fundraisers to raise money for school supplies. Donating turkeys at Thanksgiving, and giving toys to needy families during Christmas are tasks that this club also actively participates in. Some chapters have a better rapport with their local governments than others do, and thus get to do more activities in their cities. If we don’t try to bridge those gaps, then we’ll never accomplish anything. Getting involved with local events and getting the city officials to notice the plaque and how we carry ourselves as a club is a top priority for members of the Impalas! All in all, the past 20 years of Impalas Car Club has been an exciting and fun filled journey; sure it has had its high and low points, but that’s how it is when you’re building something legendary. Impalas still continue to grow and prove to themselves and the culture that the sky’s the limit. Now with 28 chapters representing from Kentucky, Atlanta, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon and the many in Califas, the Impalas all are still bound by one thing ? Family. Whether at a local show with six members or a major event with sixty-plus showing together, it all still remains the same. Though we are many chapters, we are still one family!! Impalas Forever, Forever Impalas!