We were first introduced to Derek Cho-Sam and his wife Rita last summer when they told us all about a Nissan 370Z with a VQ37 engine under the hood that they had rebuilt. Derek and Rita own and operate DRZA Auto in Tavares, FL. The couple opened DRZA (pronounced Drizza) back in 2012, after they finally grew weary of working for others.
The Florida-based shop specializes in import cars and engine work, but can accommodate some domestic V8 engine work as well.
“We specialize in Nissan and Infiniti,” Derek says. “We do all kinds of other cars, but we’re known for and specialize in Infiniti and Nissan stuff.”
According to Rita, DRZA Auto can do anything from regular repair work all the way up to full engine builds, full restorations, modifications, and fabrication – all in-house.
“We can do pretty much anything here beside bodywork and painting,” Rita says. “We try not to get involved with that too much.”
Today, DRZA Auto operates out of a 6,500 sq.-ft. shop, which is run solely by Derek and Rita. Derek is ASE certified and is a master Nissan technician, while Rita has a background as an administrative assistant. But don’t let that fool you – Rita has picked up plenty of automotive knowledge over the years as well.
“We are pretty meticulous about our work, the type of work we put out and our reputation,” Rita says. “We’re 100 percent word of mouth. We take pride in our work and do it very detailed.”
The list of DRZA Auto’s capabilities is pretty lengthy, and that has earned the shop its good reputation, which brings in plenty of new customers such as one recent project for a customer looking to swap an LS engine into his G35 four-door sedan. The build proved to be more complicated than it sounds.
“A customer came to us with a stock G35 sedan,” Rita says. “The customer wanted to put an LS in there. He had it at another shop where they started the project, but they couldn’t finish it. He ended up bringing it to us.”
According to Derek, the G35 was actually at four other shops before arriving at DRZA.
“There were four other shops trying to build this car the way it is and how we got it,” he says. “None of them could figure out the wiring and all the other logistics to it to make the car work the way it is. One shop scrapped it completely. Others wanted to gut the car and make it a full-blown race car. That’s one of the reasons I’m kind of proud of the car, because we got it working.”
A few things made this build challenging. The customer wanted to keep the factory push-button start, the reverse camera, the air conditioning, and with the car being a G35x, it also had all-wheel drive.
“We got an LS2 engine out of a crashed GTO,” Derek says. “We completed the swap and put the LS2 in there and got everything running to factory spec with the push-button start, air conditioning, reverse camera, the wiring – we did everything that needed to be done. Originally, this car was a G35x, which is the all-wheel-drive system, so we had to modify the subframe assembly drastically to fit the LS2 in there.”
DRZA had to make its own mount brackets, which Derek says they did using a Sikky engine bracket and motor mount, but they had to modify the subframe to fit it. They also cut and modified the subframe to fit the radiator assembly.
“The radiator support on the subframe had to be cut and modified,” he says. “We actually brought the radiator condenser assembly about 8˝ forward, so we could fit the engine in and have room to service the belts, the alternator and all of that stuff.”
The shop also had to change the all-wheel drive system to a rear-wheel drive, so DRZA took the front end off an ‘07 370 and installed that into the car. They also modified the transmission tunnel for the T56 assembly and the custom drive shaft, and they made their own setup for the power steering all in-house.
Clearly, this customer wanted to have something different, and he wanted more horsepower and torque, which the LS2 engine delivers on.
“The extra two cylinders of the LS engine provide a lot more torque,” Derek says. “For people who want to create or make bigger horsepower with cars like this, the LS is the way to go because you have 8 cylinders and get more power out of it and it’s easier to find parts for it.”
Going from a V6 to a V8 in a four-door sedan is a bit unusual, and Rita agrees.
“The customer wanted to have something different,” she says. “The Infiniti engines are good, strong engines, but I think he just wanted to be a little bit unique.”
Since DRZA initially finished this LS swap in the G35, the car was sold to a new owner who now plans to drift with it. The unique factor has gone up once again.
Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade Motor Oil, Elring – Das Original and Scat Crankshafts. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor, Greg Jones at [email protected]