Rare Rides: The 1990 Nissan Autech Stelvio Zagato AZ1 You've Never Heard Of

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

A car styled by the Italians and built by the Japanese — the combination everyone says they want. It’s rear-drive, a coupe, and has luxury trappings in the finest Italian tradition. It was so expensive when it was new that most people couldn’t afford to look at it. All these qualities make this a Rare Ride you are required to like. Required, do you hear me?

It’s the Nissan Autech Stelvio Zagato AZ1, and you’re going to look at it.

It all began with a Nissan Leopard, the very same car which became the US market Infiniti M30 as seen in the latest Picture Time. The Leopard wasn’t quite exciting enough, and Nissan’s tuning subsidiary Autech had some ideas. However, Autech’s focus was (and is) mainly on the mechanical bits of Nissan vehicles, so Autech looked for outside assistance from Italy.

In comes the Zagato part of the name. Autech inked a single-model deal with design firm Zagato in 1987 for a new luxury coupe aimed at the Japanese domestic market.

While Autech modified the engine and chassis components, it left the interior and exterior redesign entirely to Zagato. And the company went nuts.

Gone are the standard wing mirrors, replaced with integrated fender mirrors. Fish gills come to mind. The rest of the exterior was completely redesigned as well, with more rounded corners and a wider stance. There are also unique Zagato dinner plate wheels (a great design).

Zagato applied much stylish Italian suede and regular cows to the interior of the Zagato, giving the cabin a luxury flair not found in the standard Leopard.

Helpings of real wood are also here (presently experiencing some finish issues).

All this modification didn’t come cheap. First unveiled in 1989, the Stelvio arrived at dealers for 1990 with a $200,000 price tag. That’s more than Honda’s superb NSX. But the Stelvio is considerably more rare than the garden variety NSX. The builders made just 104 of these luxury coupes.

I’m conflicted about the Stelvio. It checks all the boxes: rare, JDM, Italian, luxurious, rear-drive, VG30. But it’s also awkward, and has no real reason to exist other than itself. So, that makes it art, and that’s how art goes — this just happens to be art you can drive to work.

This one is for sale at a dealer in England, which is not a part of America, for just under $37,000. Best of all, it’s importable under the 25-year rule, and shares the same mechanical components as the M30 and the Nissan 300ZX. Just don’t dent the bodywork.

[Images via eBay]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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2 of 18 comments
  • MaintenanceCosts "But your author does wonder what the maintenance routine is going to be like on an Italian-German supercar that plays host to a high-revving engine, battery pack, and several electric motors."Probably not much different from the maintenance routine of any other Italian-German supercar with a high-revving engine.
  • 28-Cars-Later "The unions" need to not be the UAW and maybe there's a shot. Maybe.
  • 2manyvettes I had a Cougar of similar vintage that I bought from my late mother in law. It did not suffer the issues mentioned in this article, but being a Minnesota car it did have some weird issues, like a rusted brake line.(!) I do not remember the mileage of the vehicle, but it left my driveway when the transmission started making unwelcome noises. I traded it for a much newer Ford Fusion that served my daughter well until she finished college.
  • TheEndlessEnigma Couple of questions: 1) who will be the service partner for these when Rivian goes Tits Up? 2) What happens with software/operating system support when Rivia goes Tits Up? 3) What happens to the lease when Rivian goes Tits up?
  • Richard I loved these cars, I was blessed to own three. My first a red beauty 86. My second was an 87, 2+2, with digital everything. My third an 87, it had been ridden pretty hard when I got it but it served me well for several years. The first two I loved so much. Unfortunately they had fuel injection issue causing them to basically burst into flames. My son was with me at 10 years old when first one went up. I'm holding no grudges. Nissan gave me 1600$ for first one after jumping thru hoops for 3 years. I didn't bother trying with the second. Just wondering if anyone else had similar experience. I still love those cars.