Sometimes a concept car is left as just that — a stunning example of what can be achieved by the best creative minds in the automobile industry and a headline-grabber for its creator. At other times, the concept car is a teaser ahead of a planned production run, allowing excitement to build and giving the manufacturer time to refine raw promise into a polished road car.
The two-door Italdesign Aztec supercar was both, and neither. For it first appeared at the Turin Motor Show in 1988 as the perfect concept car, showcasing the design excellence of the great Giorgetto Giugiaro, with the intention that selected features might be incorporated into future road cars. But a Japanese company liked the car so much that it commissioned a short production run.
This was undertaken by building a bodied chassis in Italy, after which a tuned Audi 2.2 litre engine was transversely mounted behind the cabin by German performance specialist MTM, driving an all-wheel drive system based on Lancia Delta components.
The unexpected feature of the Aztec was that there were two cockpits that required the driver and passenger to sit separately and communicate via headsets. The interiors were well appointed with a set of instruments and controls for each occupant.
The car had an unusual wedge-shaped design — though clearly efficient aerodynamically, it had a smooth, unadorned front, straight sides with external control panels and a squarish back end complete with an unusual raised spoiler. Access to cockpits was by side doors with glass panels and fold-up hatches, removable for open-top motoring.
It is easy to see why this bold and daring concept car appealed to the Japanese, who love anything that pushes the boundaries of technology, design and imagination. The Italdesign Aztec certainly did all of that . . . and more.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
2,226 cc Straight Five
Top speed of 150 mph (241 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Aztec wasn’t Italdesign’s only sensational concept car at the 1988 Turin Motor Show — the company had also created the Aspid, a coupe version of the Aztec, and the futuristic Asgard people carrier.