The what? Yep, the Stelvio is a rare bird. Only 104 were ever made, which makes it only a tad more common than the 89 V8 Zagatos that were built. The backstory is fascinating. Autech was founded in 1986 and its first task was to add a bit of pizzazz to the largely dull second-gen Nissan Leopard. Its chairman had exactly the right credentials. Shinichiro Sakurai had headed up the original Prince Skyline project team and had also worked on the astonishing Nissan MID4 supercar design study. This introduced a forerunner to the ATTESA all-wheel drive systems that later made the Skyline R32 GT-R an unbeatable track weapon.
The powerplant is a version of the VG30DET 3.0-litre V6 turbo that’s amped up to the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ figure of 280hp (209kW), although it’s likely it made a few more ponies. Power went to the rear wheels via a fairly conventional ZF four-speed, but we’re not really here for the oily bits. What’s remarkable about the Stelvio is its styling.
And indeed its price. At 18m yen, the Japanese bubble-era Stelvio was hugely expensive. It made an NSX-R look a bargain. Nissan sold 88 examples to the general public with a few more squirrelled away by company executives.
The production workflow saw Autech strip the Leopard back to a bare chassis, which was then shipped to Zagato’s Terrazzano di Rho plant in Italy. Zagato would then hand-craft each of the Stelvio bodies from aluminium, the cost of which barely needs reiterating. And yes, those bumps on the bonnet are actually the mirrors. In addition to the outlandish, voluptuous exterior which, bizarrely, featured NACA ducts on the wheels, the interior was also given the once-over.
In came cream leather and contrasting wood veneers before the car was returned to Japan whereupon Autech would start plugging in the uprated mechanicals. It was an utterly crazy plan, even for what was a projected run of just 200 cars. Still, we love a bit of craziness here at Wheels and the Zagato Stelvio AZ1 is our kind of crazy.