If cars are supposed to be mechanical representations of their owners, then it's only befitting this Nissan 350Z looks and acts the way it does. Owned, modified, and driven for the better part of the past decade by drift ace Rolando Alfaro, this car is one hell of a piece of work (as is its owner). We recently caught up with the talented driver after Gridlife South to hear all about his recent adventures and the car that has kept him going all these years.
To stress just how interesting this cat and his car are, let's point out that Rolando first learned to drive at the tender age of seven... in a junkyard...in a junker. Since then, he's owned everything from Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 rocket ships to stealthy Nissan R32 Skyline sedans, and this: a badass Z33 with a brand-new identity and the credentials to match.
Some of you may recall Rolando's first feature in late 2016, when the car was still sporting a Nissan engine and trans, all wrapped up in 3M "Dragonfire" vinyl and rocking uber rare Blitz wheels. Covered in reflective graphics and loaded with drift-ready performance enhancements, it served its purpose well as a car with little to lose and a massive amount to gain in the drift game.
It was a glorious time to be in the drift scene, too. And, upon obtaining his Formula DRIFT PRO2 license in 2014, Rolando found himself fully immersed in the sport. However, proverbial wrenches were thrown, and both the car and Rolando's drifting career were benched shortly after our feature on his Z hit newsstands. With school and personal life taking precedence, Rolando admits that although a couple of builds occurred during his multiyear hiatus, he steered clear of pro driving. Burnt out and unsure as to what might come, both man and machine were ready for a new direction.
However, still waters tend to run deep, and before long Rolando was back under the bonnet. A partnership with ISR Performance brought with it unexpected opportunities, and Rolando ditched the old VQ V-6 for LS engineering. With its outstanding price-to-play starting point and a seemingly bottomless barrel of aftermarket upgrades, the mildly modded GM V-8 was crammed into the Z. While Rolando's LS2 only makes 366 hp and 388 lb-ft of torque on pump gas, Rolando says these seemingly low numbers are nothing to fret over. His old VQ only had 255 ponies, and it outperformed an onslaught of vehicles packing more firepower.
Being that Rolando's last LS swap was prone to cooling issues, a Chase Bays radiator was installed up front on this rebuild, complete with custom framerail mounts and a core support delete. With his setup sporting twin 2,500-cfm fans blowing cold and a water pump with multiple flow modifications dialed in, Rolando tells us he has yet to encounter any overheating issues after six events.
Building the car by himself meant a hefty investment in time was needed. It took Rolando more than a year to complete both performance and appearance swaps, with close friend Alex Hamby documenting everything. The same Mr. Hamby who captured all the photos for this feature also filmed the car's transformation in order to make an interlude between Rolando's High Stakes drift flick and its tire-shredding finale. Picking up where the first film left off, this intermission illustrates how Rolando proceeded to rip, strip, spray, and swap his 350Z after drifting into his garage to escape from the baddies.
With filming and rebuilding complete, Rolando now has both a roaring American V-8 and a sequel of sorts in his possession. Like a GTA or NFS chop-shop cut-scene without all the corny video effects or soundtrack, Rolando's Nissan 350Z has transformed in front of our very eyes. But please don't call it a resurrection... Its owner prefers to refer to it as more of a "new and improved" approach to 350Z galvanization.
Painted gloss black, with dark matte and reflective 3M vinyl graphics repping the original livery, Rolando's 350Z has returned for another helping of high-speed hijinks, this time with a big-ass V-8 up front. Although Rolando did not originally plan on returning to competitive driving, piloting his rebuilt 350Z in big-bash style events this year has rekindled his interest in the sport. Professional driving may not be as important as it once was, but the feeling Rolando gets every time he fires up his Z is impossible to underplay.