Sleepless in Seattle as a Hellcat Roars Through the Streets


As much of Seattle tries to sleep, the Hellcat supercar goes on the prowl, the howls of its engine and the explosive backfires from its tailpipes echoing off the high-rise towers downtown.

Windows rattle. Pets jump in a frenzy. Even people used to the ruckus of urban living jolt awake, fearful and then furious.

Complaints have flooded in for months to city leaders and the police, who have responded with warnings, citations, criminal charges and a lawsuit, urging the renegade driver to take his modified Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat from the city streets to a racetrack. Instead, the “Belltown Hellcat,” with its distinctive tiger-stripe wrap, has remained on the move.

For hundreds of thousands of people with Instagram accounts, the driver is a familiar character: @srt.miles, otherwise known as Miles Hudson, a 20-year-old resident of one of the Belltown neighborhood’s pricey apartments. For all the aggravated residents who view him with increasing disdain — “Entire neighborhoods are angry and sleep deprived,” one resident wrote their local council member — many more are tracking his escapades on social media, celebrating a life unencumbered by self-consciousness or regret.

When Mr. Hudson posted a video (350,441 likes) showing his speedometer topping 100 miles per hour during a downtown outing to get boba tea, a follower asked: “How does it feel living my dream?” When he posted a video (698,858 likes) showing the rowdy rattles of the Hellcat, another replied: “You really make the town so fun at night.”

In one self-reflective post, Mr. Hudson captured video (69,742 likes) of himself watching a television news segment that discussed the city’s concern about his driving, and proceeded to rush frantically around the apartment, pretending to be fearful that the police were on to him. “I like your content so when they arrest you I’m coming to get you,” one follower replied.

On one recent night when a police officer stopped Mr. Hudson, he pulled out his phone to show the officer his Instagram account and endeavored to explain that he was professionally unable to alter his late-night driving habits.

“No disrespect, but I feel like I’m doing my thing,” he told the officer, according to body-camera footage. “I’ve turned it into a career, and the car has paid for itself. 650,000 followers.”

To some residents, the city’s failure to stop Mr. Hudson’s exploits is but another example of its inability to bring an end to the homelessness, street crime and occasional mayhem that have plagued the downtown area since the pandemic. And it all raised a mystifying question about the incentives of modern life: What happens when fame and infamy can be equally lucrative?

The Belltown neighborhood has been transformed in recent decades from a grungy, semi-industrial arts district to a sort of ideal of moneyed urban living, with bike-friendly streets, hip cafés and condo towers so desirable that one penthouse there became the setting of the steamy “Fifty Shades of Grey” book series. This month, the rooftop of one such luxury tower featured a $1.7 million McLaren sports car to entice a prospective buyer. Other rooftops feature decks with lounge chairs and firepits, offering views of the Space Needle in one direction and waterfront sunsets in the other.

Mr. Hudson’s own Belltown apartment showcases panoramic views, decorated inside with neon lights and anime artwork. In his online postings, he can be seen playing video games and consuming iced pumpkin cream chai tea lattes.

He debuted the Hellcat seven months ago on Instagram, showing off the power of its engine and the interior ceiling lights that looked like a night sky. He casually took viewers along on an outing to Starbucks.

It did not take long, though, for a different social media story to emerge, one of unfolding chaos, narrated by Mr. Hudson in breathless expletives as he rolls around the city. If not out in his car, roaring through the streets, he is in the apartment, late at night, trying his hand at cooking.

In one video (669,757 likes), he got off the couch to ride a hoverboard over to his kitchen to cook some burgers, but the pan soon burst into flames, and Mr. Hudson raced around on his hoverboard trying to contain it. He had a fire extinguisher on hand in a later video when he tried to fry Twinkies. There was no fire this time, but the Twinkies were charred to a crisp. “I can’t cook,” he shouted.

His refrigerator, shown in another video (886,343 likes), looked to be barren save for some condiments and Lunchables.

Through the bleak Seattle winter, he posted about modifications to his car. In a video with nearly 700,000 likes, he could be seen out on the street at 2 a.m., starting it up. “It sounds like a shotgun,” he said, and asked his followers if it was too loud.

“Never too loud, I say not loud enough,” someone replied.

For the neighbors, the vehicle was plenty loud, and complaints were pouring in to city officials. One woman wrote that she lived with P.T.S.D. and woke up in fear because the backfiring vehicle sounded like gunshots outside her building. “This is the first time in 13 years that I’ve started seriously considering moving out of downtown,” she wrote. Another wrote in after 6 a.m. saying the tiger-striped Hellcat had been revving up and down streets for two hours. “What will it take for this to end?” the man wrote.

Chris Allen, who lives in the city center, said the backfires sound like explosions rattling the windows of his 17th-floor unit. While he regularly used a white-noise machine to drown out the blare of motorcycle and emergency vehicles, the machine was no match for the Hellcat, said Mr. Allen, adding that he has appealed to Meta, which owns Instagram, to take down Mr. Hudson’s account.

“He’s clearly committing crimes,” he said. “He’s documenting it on Instagram. It’s frustrating that Instagram hasn’t taken this down.”

Eventually, though, the wheels of bureaucracy began to turn. Police officers stopped Mr. Hudson once in January, giving him a warning, then again in February, giving another warning.

During the early morning hours one night at the beginning of March, the police stopped Mr. Hudson yet again. This time, he was cited for having a modified exhaust system that amplified noise. Mr. Hudson soon paid the $155 fine.

And the complaints kept coming. A couple weeks after the citation, Mr. Hudson posted a video (79,267 likes), recording himself starting the car remotely from his apartment balcony. Below, on the street, the vehicle roared to life, exhaust blasting out the tailpipes. Mr. Hudson then panned across the Seattle skyline.

“I am the Arkham Knight,” he said, referring to the Batman villain. “I am actually the Arkham Knight. My city actually hates me.”

For the police, the Instagram videos were a trail of criminal breadcrumbs around the city, complete with narration, time stamps and footage of his speedometer.

At the end of March, the city charged Mr. Hudson with two counts of reckless driving for “operating a motor vehicle with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons and/or property.” At yet another traffic stop a few days later, an officer brought out a decibel meter, recording the Hellcat at 84 decibels even while idling, the equivalent of a diesel train.

Mr. Hudson declined to talk to The New York Times without payment, but he told a reporter at The Seattle Times in March that the city needed to focus its attention on other problems. “There are way bigger issues than a Black man with a nice car who makes noise occasionally,” he said.

At that point, a different city department stepped in. The Department of Construction and Inspections sent a notice, saying it had “investigated and found a violation or violations of the Seattle Noise Control Code.” Mr. Hudson was ordered to modify the vehicle and to not “operate any motor vehicle that causes sound in violation of the Seattle Municipal Code.” The notice came with a potential fine of $1,300 per day.

To the new city leadership recently elected in Seattle, many of whom had run on law-and-order campaigns, Mr. Hudson has become an example to be made. Bob Kettle, who represents Belltown on the City Council, said that something needed to be done about what he described as the city’s “permissive environment.”

“It’s shocking that somebody can make money by disturbing or impacting thousands of people on a nightly basis,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Hudson responded with a new tactic. In answer to the city’s orders not to drive his car, he posted a new video (528,359 likes) in which he could be seen getting in the passenger seat of the Hellcat, with a woman at the wheel. She drove them away, the car roaring once again.

Now the city is trying a new strategy: The city attorney this month filed a civil complaint, seeking a court order to force Mr. Hudson to modify his vehicle and penalties that could total tens of thousands of dollars.

A response came, from a different authority figure: Mr. Hudson’s mother, Rebecca Hudson. In an email to city officials, she said the Hellcat was off the streets and in the shop.

“This letter is just informing and responding to you that I am working on it and he is no longer driving the car or having it in his possession,” she wrote.

For a couple of weeks, Mr. Hudson’s Instagram account (now up to 758,159 followers) remained quiet. Some people began to hope that the saga was nearing an end.

Then, late one night last week, residents reported hearing the Hellcat once more. Someone captured a video of the tiger-stripe vehicle. It was, they said, as loud as ever.

Mr. Hudson posted the clip to Instagram: “Villain arc,” he wrote.

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