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Nissan 350Z Concept Cars

350Z Designers Interview: Design Details
Ajay Panchal was a designer of the 350Z.
Ajay Panchal was a designer of the 350Z.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

In a 2002 interview, Nissan 350Z designers discussed design details. The designers included Diane Allen, chief designer, Red Studio, Nissan Design America; and Ajay Panchal, designer exploratory group, Nissan Design America.

Q: Can we talk about some of the details? Where did the idea for the door handles come from?

Panchal: The classic designs that last are very simple, so we tried to accentuate the details as much as possible and to make them iconic. I love architecture, cool stereos, cool objects that are not always automotive. The door handle is maybe like a cell phone. It bridges the whole section. It plays up the fact that the section is hollow because you have a contact that is positive above it.

Q: It is in contrast to the concavity of that whole panel?

Panchal: Exactly, it's the opposite. Once again we talk about the car being seen as a lot of contrasts and then we have this softening versus the techno, the hard and soft, curves and straight. There are just so many contrasts to the car; positive and negative.

Q: Was the lip at the rear edge of the hatch for aerodynamic purposes, for styling or to increase interior volume and practicality of the car?

Panchal: A combination, but definitely aerodynamics. It's a very fast car and as far as touring down the road it must handle very well. That break [the widest part of the car, kept low on the 350Z] really helps by keeping the car on the road.

Allen: Aerodynamics were a big deal. The rear was originally much lower; we thought carving away that implied-trunk was the best thing we could do to communicate the sports-car image. But the aero numbers came in, and the Audi TT was dealing with that problem over in Germany, and we knew we had to get the tail up higher. And we wanted to do it without a spoiler.

As we worked it out, we realized the car didn't lose any integrity. If anything, it started to convey much more motion. By bringing the tail up and introducing larger tires than we initially had I think we helped the design.

The vertical door handle is a distinctive 350Z feature.
The vertical door handle is a distinctive 350Z feature.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Q: What inspired the shape of the headlights and the taillamps?

Panchal: That's a tough one. Sometimes you just do stuff. At the rear, the shape seems to lock in the design. In car design you want things to lock into place so they just don't feel like they are there for styling. It's not added on. This is the inherent element of this car. I think the taillights help communicate the overall shape of this car. I love that.

Q: What was your thinking about the headlamp design? Was it to make the new Z look menacing with its "eyes" coming at you?

Allen: Actually the one sinister cue was worth a lot. We didn't want the car to be seen as cute, friendly or just handsome. The new Z needed to have somewhat of a sinister quality.

Panchal: The way I see it, every line has a purpose and function. Nothing on this car is extra. We really thought about everything and got rid of anything that wasn't going to make a statement to help this car in every view. The tail, vertical details are something you never see on a sports car. Usually, sports-car detailing is horizontal, long and thin. This is just reverse, flipped over. I think this is what feels pretty fresh about all these details.

Q: So the door handles and the front marker running lights are vertical details?

Panchal: Right. We need to celebrate things that you know you are going to touch or you are going to notice. When this car is driving at night you are going to notice the turn indicator flashing. And when you walk up to the car, the door handle is going to be a cool experience because no other car in the world has one like this.

Allen: So you can see there was a real balance to get the beauty countered with super dynamic form and then accent it with techo detailing. It was a real conscious effort, not accidental.

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