Then there’s one of their current projects: A 2016 black widebody Dodge Charger Hellcat made for Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril. The 800+ horsepower monster was built with the goal of battling head-to-head against the legion of Lambos, Ferraris and McLarens at the 2017 goldRush Rally, while also being a comfortable daily driver for the 6’3”, 260 lb. NFL standout. Oh, and then there’s the fact Z Designz also customizes million-dollar helicopters at their fabrication facility, located adjacent to Brackett Field Airport in La Verne, CA. DUB caught up with Z Designz’s mastermind, Zee Siddiqi, as he was putting the finishing touches on the Hellcat on the eve of the goldRush Rally.
How did you first get into customizing cars?
My eldest brother was involved in the big import racing scene back in the ’90s. He had a car show called “Drag Wars.” I got to see car culture there and then I started falling in love with modifying, designing, and building. From there, after I finished college, I got heavy into the marketing side of cars. I had the pleasure of working for a lot of big shops on the east and west coast like Galpin Autosports, Ultimate Auto, and West Coast Customs.
When did you decide that you wanted to branch out and own your own shop?
After getting experience for 10 to 12 years, I reached a crossroads and decided to start my own business. It was a scary thought and it still is. When I’d listen to motivational speakers say “Sky’s the limit,” I thought, “Well, that’s always worked for me in my car builds, so why wouldn’t it work in business?”
What vision do you bring to the table when it comes to customizing cars?
The great people I worked for at those big shops always pushed me to learn the entire process of building a vehicle. One of the things I pride myself on is that from the paint to upholstery to fabrication to welding to metal shaping, I’m very well-rounded. There isn’t one aspect of a build of a vehicle that I couldn’t do myself.
How does your company, Z Designz, fit your unique perspective on customization?
With Z Designz, one thing I never want to lose sight of is that all processes being done under one roof. We don’t have to source anything out to anyone. That’s the only way you can say you’re the creator of something. And beyond that, the difference in what we offer is service. It’s the experience. The process of involving the customer from the ground up.
Another very unique thing you guys do is customize helicopters. How did you branch out from cars into aircraft?
It was kind of a fluke thing. I found this large facility for my business, but it’s actually on airport property. As more aviation companies started moving to this area, I couldn’t stay here unless I did some aviation work. I noticed that the fit and finish in aviation (customization) was nowhere near ours with cars. We got aviation-certified in structural refinishing, upholstery, and electronics and I did a couple of small projects. Other companies saw the fit and finish on our work and it just snowballed from there.
What are some of your favorite projects at the moment?
We got Cliff’s Hellcat, for one. Then there’s an 800-lb. Nemesis single-passenger race car we’re building. The client wants to put a 400 horsepower Audi turbo motor with 6-speed transmission in it. There’s nothing we can’t do. Sky’s the limit on automotive. We’re also building a Bell Ranger helicopter for SEMA. We’re building a carbon fiber interior, matte Mercedes black and gray paint with red accents outside, suede leather inside. It’s going to kind of merge the aviation and automotive world together.
Since you say that there’s nothing your shop can’t do when building cars, what’s the least amount of car you need as a starting point?
A customer can come with nothing but a piece of paper with an idea. In fact, it’s quite the contrary of what people think. It’s actually easier to have a blank canvas than it is to reverse engineer out designs to fit an existing platform. When it’s from scratch, we can set the suspension wherever we want. We can mount the motor wherever we want. We can place the transmission wherever we want.
Looking back at the nearly two decades you’ve been a car enthusiast, what has changed the most as far as what interests you?
I used to be really driven towards aesthetics. Now as I’m getting a little older, I’m starting to realize I want my designs to have a lot of real world function. To have a purpose. Vents need to create downforce, wings need to have a reason to be shaped and angled a certain way. That’s now what I’m pushing toward.
What mark do you want your company to leave in both the car and aviation industries?
Aviation customization is going to blow up. The industry doesn’t have anybody that has the fit and finish of the custom car world. But automotive is always going to be my passion. We’re always going to be building concept vehicles and we’re always going to be building SEMA cars. I’ll have to see what the future holds.