"I've always lived my life in the fast lane without getting a ticket," Schiller says. "Every time I would hear someone's system from down the street, I always knew I wanted that in my car." So this past summer, she traded in her old Firebird, bought a world-class audio system for her new car, and found herself a champion in the world of car-stereo competitions.
"I always wanted the big sound, but I wanted clarity -- to hear the words as well as the bass," she explains. "So I took my car in, told them I wanted something really show-quality, and I got it. Then they said I should start competing."
Schiller soon found herself up against other volume enthusiasts who'd spent months and thousands of dollars to achieve a speaker setup better than those in most local rock clubs. She took first place -- and did so five more times at contests sponsored by local car-audio stores before receiving an invitation to the United States Autosound Competition International, which returns to Kansas City this weekend. Taking up all of Bartle Hall with exhibitors' displays, bikini contests and dancing hydraulics, the show promises trunks bountiful with funk and plenty of bass for any onlooker's face.
Divided into categories of sound quality and sound pressure level (the latter consisting of people striving only to be loud), the show is a bizarro-world version of NASCAR where speed is eschewed in favor of volume. The event culminates with the world championship awards, a ceremony Schiller has no doubt she'll be attending.
With her Trans Am entered in the frightening category of 600-plus watts and clocking in at more than 150 decibels, Schiller remains unshakably calm and confident. "There's no one around that I'm scared of," she says. "The way my car is set up, and how clean it looks, and how loud and clear it is, I know I'm going to win."
Schiller is one of very few women on the circuit, which makes the stakes seem even higher. "It all comes down to being strong-minded and having a good head on your shoulders," she says. "Sometimes I hear guys talking, saying, 'You just got beat by a girl,' but in the end I always smoke 'em."
Schiller has no plans to get out of the fast lane. "My favorite part is pulling up to a contest in my car. It's red, it's shiny, it's sweet-looking and it takes first every time. I might get another car and enter that, too. But I'm not going to stop. I always wanted people to hear me coming from two blocks away," Schiller says with a grin. "And now they can."