Allen, now 47, had spent more than a decade at Nissan preparing for her Z-car moment. Hired in 1984 out of design college, she worked on the original Nissan Quest and other vehicles.
“There are car designers who love cars, and they know about every famous car,” she says. “Then there are designers who love form. I'm from that genre — putting form together, creating a personality and a point of view into something that has motion in it and beauty. It's a very exciting process for me.”
After the 350Z, she tackled the Titan pickup. The job required a full immersion in pickup culture and the South.
“Our challenge was to put together a truck that was undeniably full-sized, absolutely Nissan, but very aesthetic in a handsome, tough modern way. We felt a lot of the trucks at the time were very conservative and very conventional.
“The project was so big they loaned us four young Japanese guys. So we took these guys on a road trip. We did things like Route 66, not the traditional roads. We took them through the South. Here were these young guys who did not know why we were doing this big truck and didn't know much about the U.S.
“These Japanese guys were used to eating rice bowls, etc. for lunch. Here we were stopping at truck stops and getting big hamburgers and piles of fries, biscuits and gravy. By the end of the trip, they were wearing Stetson hats and cowboy boots. They embraced the South and the big trucks.
“I, myself, had never driven a full-sized truck before that program. So the whole team was immersed. It bonded us. It led us to the reality that people need these trucks for their work. We saw this with fresh eyes. Our naivete was our advantage.”