First, let me just clarify that the Italdesign Aztec has nothing to do with the horrendous Pontiac...thankfully. The Italian car differs from the Pontiac SUV for having a correctly spelled name and for being 13 years older.
This unusual car was a brainchild of Giorgetto Giugiaro, who also gave us a Lotus Esprit and Maserati Bora. In the mid-1980s, he was experimenting with one-box coupé, a style that people had seen on the Bizzarrini Manta in 1968. He decided to create a futuristic-looking car, and present it at the 1988 Turin Motor Show.
The Aztec stunned the audience with its look. Giugiaro wanted to create an ultra-futuristic car (which was popular back in the days), but no one expected it this to be this...different. If Terminator T-R.I.P. could transform into a car, this would be it. There was also another car next to Aztec called Aspid. The Aspid was basically the same; the only difference was that it had a hard top and a smaller air-intake on the bonnet unlike the Aztec (but, that's a story for another time).
Aztec's hard-top brother Aspid. Credit: CarRevsDailsy.com
The Aztec came with a 2.2-litre turbocharged straight-5 engine sourced from Audi. The total output was 200 HP, which was enough to give this spaceship a top speed of 240 km/h. What's more interesting is that the 4WD system was borrowed from a rally monster-the Lancia Delta Integrale.
However, the most impressive thing is the design. From one point of view, the car looks very futuristic, even for today's standards. But, if you sit there and soak up the lines and curves, you'll get the feeling that the design is not that "futuristic". These designs were quite popular back in the days, and Giugiaro was one of the people who took it to the next level. Actually, the best futuristic bits were inside the car.
Since the interior was meant to look like a jet cabin, the driver and the passenger were separated into two glass compartments. And because normal verbal communication was quite difficult, the driver and the passenger were able to talk by using microphones and speaker installed in the car.
And the craziness didn't stop there. The entire body was reinforced so that the car gets minimum damage in case of crashing or rolling. The passenger also had some interesting bits on his side, like a console...that's not connected to anything. They put it there so that the passenger gets the feeling of what it's like to be a fighter pilot. However, the driver did have an additional computer, which could share information with the passenger's computer. This meant that the passenger could play with the boring things (following the sat-nav, setting air-con...) and the driver could be more focused on the road.
When Giorgetto was asked about the car's design, he said that it's "sculpted". And, to be honest, it does. A lot of things are weird on the body, but in the end Italdesign created a nice rolling sculpture from many unusual pieces...something like a collage. Over the years, it didn't really age, and even today the Aztec looks like a daily driver of a James Bond villain.
Furthermore, Aztec is a concept car that was produced in more than one unit. After its reveal, the Japanese were so impressed by the car that they requested Italdesign to make more. The exact number was never revealed, but it is suspected that somewhere between 18 and 50 units were made. About 5 of them are in Japan, while others are sold in Europe. Unfortunately, they are rarely being used, and it's really sad knowing that something as cool as this is just sitting in a garage and collecting dust.