As a Super Bowl Champion and one of the top defensive players in the NFL, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril knows all too well how tough the grind of a football season can be. It doesn’t get any tougher than in the closing weeks of the regular season in December, when temperatures start plummeting and players can feel the cold seep into their bones the moment they step on the field. During these times, the mind tends to wander. Right before having to get themselves laser-focused on the playoffs, players have a small amount of time to think about what they’re going to do in the off-season. It was during the waning days of his Pro Bowl-worthy 2016 season that Cliff hatched a plan to live out one of his biggest car-enthusiast dreams.
“There’s only a two-month window [for NFL players] where you don’t have to work out, so I try to fit in all my charity work and my family trips. This year, I wanted to do something else, too. Something a little different.” A car enthusiast since before he could even drive, Cliff often goes online to check out car show pics, videos and even recently attending the Charlotte stop of the DUB Show Tour. Years ago, he started watching videos of high-end car rallies, where celebrities and other wealthy exotic car owners would go on Interstate, and sometimes international treks, on some of the most legendary roads in the world. “I heard about these rallies like The Gumball  and goldRush [Rally]. I’d watch their videos on YoutTube with all these Lambos, Ferraris, and McLarens. It looked like they were having a great time, so I thought, ‘Why not try it?’”
But the question was: how does one stand out amongst the sea of six-figure European exotics that tend to run in these high-profile rallies? Cliff’s answer: bring a 2016 Dodge Hellcat sporting 800-plus horsepower and 24” Forgiatos that can go toe-to-toe (in a straight line) with any of them. He had already owned the Hellcat for a few months, and hit up his friends at Ultimate Audio in South Carolina with the idea of doing a custom widebody for his ride. They referred him to Z Designz in Los Angeles, who specialize in fully-fabricated bodywork that takes it to a level far beyond what is possible with off-the-shelf body kits.
Not a fan of the Liberty Walk-style riveted widebody setups one often sees on the car show scene these days, Cliff envisioned a widebody setup that was just as imposing, but far more slick and streamlined. “The dopest thing about it,” Cliff says, “is that it almost looks like it comes from the manufacturer like that. So many people come up and ask, ‘Man, what dealership did you get [the Hellcat] from?’ and I’m like, ‘You can’t get this at the dealership.’ The way the lines flow, it’s a head turner for sure.” Performance-wise, bolt-on mods like exhaust, headers, and pulleys, along with an engine tune, were all that were needed to enhance the stock Hellcats’ already prodigious power numbers to even more absurd levels.
Always one to be closely involved in all his car builds, Cliff took part in his Hellcat’s transformation from beginning to end. “My wife hated it,” he laughs “’cause I’ll be up at night Googling like crazy on the iPad, going through different pictures and writing things down. I was texting with [Z Designz owner] Zee [Siddiqi] almost every day for six months straight, talking about how everything would look.” Although he prides the bodywork as being almost OEM-like in fit and finish, he did insist on one thing that could never be mistaken for the factory units: the mammoth 24” Forgiato wheels powdercoated matte black with red accents. Measuring an unreal 15.5” wide and sporting enormous 9” lips, the only tires that can fit them are 355-series Pirellis that are sometimes out of stock for months at a time. “The crazy part is, even with wheels this wide, I can still break the tires loose going like 60,” Cliff says.
With his 6.2-liter Hemi-powered beast complete, it was off to Beverly Hills, ground zero for the 9th annual goldRush Rally. The nine-day event is less a race and more a moving multi-million-dollar car show that spans six states and almost 4,000 miles. In between the drives are track events, five-star hotel stays, and private parties. “It was cool from the jump. Just meeting up in L.A. with all these car lovers. It must’ve been over $20 million in cars there. There were like three Buggatis there. One of them was a black and white one worth like $3.5 million. There were tons of Lambos, Ferraris, and McLarens. Everyone loved the Hellcat, though. I was the only domestic there, other than one Mustang.” Starting in Southern Cali, going up to Washington and ending in Vegas, Cliff decided to do half the rally, since it would take him right to Seattle, where he owns a home.
“One of the coolest things we did was going up from L.A. to San Fran. We took the scenic route up by the coast. The scenery was amazing. Then they shut down the Golden Gate Bridge for us and gave us a police escort. It was about a hundred cars from the rally on the bridge.” When asked if he’d be down to do another rally, Cliff said, “For sure. I can’t wait to do it again. It was probably one of the coolest things I’ve done. It’s like when you’re a kid, and you’re playing a racing video game. That’s the only other time you can see cars like this all in one setting.”