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From childhood dreamer to car designer

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

Randy Rodriguez was one of those boys who filled his school notebooks with drawings of dream cars: “Always, sketching on everything,” the designer at Nissan Design America in San Diego, Calif. remembers.

But what was a time-waster in class turned into a 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’s original design concept forms the basis for Nissan’s new 370Z, the sixth generation of its iconic sports car.

Bruce Campbell, design vice-president at Nissan Design America, who hired Rodriguez in 2002, remembers he wasn’t much of a talker at his job 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,” he said. “He did have the passion.”

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

Rodriguez’s first sketches “were filled with emotion, rawness, exaggeration and freshness.”
The challenge was to refine the concept, which Campbell describes as “a cartoon,” into a viable production model without baking out that passion.

Rodriguez’s concept was heavily influenced by his love of the first-generation, Italian-styled 240Z, with elements of Nissan’s current GT-R supercar.

Nissan wanted some of that heritage but didn’t want to completely abandon the 350Z’s modern muscularity.

The 240Z references in Rodriguez’s drawings are clear: a sleek silhouette, a prominent front air intake that invokes the GT-R, a distinct character line along the car’s belt line that simulates the original’s longer hood.

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

 
 
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