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Canadian designer's concept is basis for Nissan's 370Z

Is this a repost? Searched for it but couldn't find it. ohwell. Canadian auto designer's concept is basis for Nissan's new 370Z sports car Randy Rodriguez was one of those

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Old 02-23-2009, 05:01 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Canadian designer's concept is basis for Nissan's 370Z

Is this a repost? Searched for it but couldn't find it. ohwell.

Canadian auto designer's concept is basis for Nissan's new 370Z sports car




Quote:
Randy Rodriguez was one of those boys who filled his school notebooks with drawings of dream cars.

"Always, sketching on everything," he remembers. But what was a time-waster in class turned into Rodriguez's future and led to a dream assignment for a kid from North Surrey Secondary in suburban Vancouver - redesign the car that was the love of his youth.

The 31-year-old Canadian's original design concept forms the basis for Nissan's new 370Z, the sixth generation of its iconic sports car.

Where posters of Italian exotic cars once covered the walls of his bedroom, now his own sketches are posted around his desk at Nissan Design America in San Diego, Calif.

Rodriguez was hired by Nissan in 2002, a few weeks after graduating from Detroit's College for Creative Studies, where he went on a partial scholarship.

Bruce Campbell, design vice-president at Nissan Design America, remembers Rodriguez wasn't much of a talker at his initial interview. Until he talked about restoring a 1977 Datsun 280Z with his brother.

"It opened the floodgates and he started talking about his love for the Z and Nissan," says Campbell. "He did have the passion."

"I've looked at portfolios that were much, much better but they lacked passion. It didn't come from their gut. That's super important, and you can't measure it either."

So it wasn't surprising Rodriguez would submit a sketch for Nissan's worldwide design competition to replace the 350Z.

All Nissan design staff, no matter how junior, can offer concepts based on the project's parameters, says Campbell.

"We start out with, say, 50 sketches on the wall and through evaluations and critiques it will get narrowed down ultimately to two or three that we're confident in," says Campbell.

Rodriguez's first sketches "were filled with emotion, rawness, exaggeration and freshness."

The challenge was to refine the concept into a viable production model without baking out that passion, he says.

"If you were to reproduce one of his sketches and actually make a model of it, it would be like 'aw c'mon, this is a cartoon. We can't do this.' "

Rodriguez's concept was heavily influenced by his love of the first-generation Z, with elements of Nissan's current GT-R supercar.

"The best Zs were the first generation 240s and the last generation 350," says Rodriguez, who has owned 10 of them and currently drives a restored 1977.

Nissan is well aware of the original 240Z's iconic position.

Introduced in 1969, the rakish 240 had Italian flair and high performance at a bargain price. It stunned North Americans who in those days saw Japanese automakers as suppliers of inexpensive, reliable econoboxes.

Nissan wanted some of that heritage but didn't want to completely abandon the 350Z's modern muscularity. No retromobiles, please.

"For me, I wanted to give it more of that original 240Z soul but do it in a way that's thoroughly modern and forward thinking," says Rodriguez.

The 240Z references in Rodriguez's drawings are clear: a sleek silhouette, a prominent front air intake that also invokes the GT-R, a distinct character line along the car's belt line that he says gives the illusion of the original's longer hood.

The concept's big wheels were inspired by the Italian MV Agusta motorcycle that Rodriguez parks by his studio desk. He has a garage full of motorcycles.

Most of Rodriguez's ideas survive in the production car refined by Nissan's designers in Japan.

"The car on the road now, they honoured the original theme so it's very close to what I did," he says.

The production 370Z has won praise inside Nissan and from automotive writers. It's slightly smaller than the preceding 350, yet more powerful and quicker.

Campbell says the 370Z's design offers emotional cues without undermining its sports-car cred.

"There's a front character line that goes from the front fender to the belt line and that actually drops a little bit, which is a very romantic line," the veteran designer says. "Yet it still has a very powerful stance and directional aspect."

Rodriguez believes the design will influence other Nissan models.

"We're trying to move more towards still modern products but more passionate, more emotive sensual design," he says.

"Everybody's making good, reliable cars and you need something to set it apart. What sets it apart mostly is the design of it. You look at it and it moves you."

Neither Rodriguez nor Campbell would discuss what current projects the young designer is doing.

Rodriguez also designed the exterior of the ICON A5, a new kind of light amphibious sports plane that can be folded up and towed on a trailer behind a car. It was one of Nissan Design's non-automotive projects.

"He obviously has the raw talent," says Campbell.

"I think his next challenge is to raise it to the next level, to become a little bit more mature in the sense of feasibility. But he knows this; we talk about it all the time."

The Canadian Press: Canadian auto designer's concept is basis for Nissan's new 370Z sports car

370zblog.com
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