Nissan’s $160,000, Totally ’80s Italian Coupe Shares a Name With Alfa Romeo’s SUV

The next time you hear someone mention a Stelvio, don’t assume they mean the Alfa Romeo SUV. The Stelvio, which the Italian automaker released for the 2018 model year, is a luxurious crossover with potent powertrains. But there’s another, obscure Stelvio, a joint effort between the Italian coachbuilding company Zagato and the Japanese carmaker Nissan.

The Autech Zagato Stelvio AZ1 debuted during the height of Japan’s bubble economy, Automobile Magazine reported. Rolling in money, Nissan paid Zagato to create an even sportier version of the Nissan Leopard. Thus, this totally ’80s coupe was born.

Nissan’s Autech Zagato Stelvio AZ1

Zagato is known for producing sporty cars with unconventional styling. The auto designer was responsible for creating the Alfa Romeo SZ and the Aston Martin Vanquish sports cars. The Stelvio AZI boasts not only a unique exterior but also high-class construction choices.

It features a hand-crafted aluminum body, a fiberglass roof, and NACA scoops on each wheel to improve aerodynamics. The driver’s mirrors are situated above the fenders, giving its frowning grille a set of angry eyebrows to match.

The Stelvio AZI’s interior is even more luxurious, with faux walnut paneling around the dash, leather seats, and plush Alcantara door panels. Hand-woven Coco mats adorn the floor, and a Bose sound system pumps beats. There’s also a Momo steering wheel, a popular option for race cars at the time.

The Zagato Stelvio AZ1 comes outfitted with a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that reportedly produces 276 hp and 279 lb-ft of torque. However, Silodrome pointed out the car’s actual power output is probably around 300 hp. Safety requirements at the time stipulated that engines should not exceed 280 hp, but this rule was rarely enforced.

The Stelvio AZ1 also has a four-speed automatic transmission and a knob to send the car into sports mode. Road and Track testers said they felt the vehicle’s unspoken power from the start. The engine growls just like a V8, and the instant torque provides seamless acceleration. 

It also has both a front and rear independent suspension, allowing it to retain a better grip on the track. In contrast to the car’s light curb weight, the steering wheel is heavy, but this doesn’t hamper its performance.

All of these unique features contributed to the Stelvio AZ1’s sky-high price of $160,000, Road and Track reported. That’s about $336,000 in today’s dollars.

What happened to the Stelvio AZ1?

The Autech Zagato Stelvio AZ1 could’ve been a contender, but luck wasn’t on its side. A few years after the car’s conception, Japan’s economy crashed. As a result, only half of the planned prototypes made it to completion. Its high retail price simply wasn’t feasible for even the most affluent.

Can you buy one today?

The Stelvio AZ1 is incredibly rare, and only two of them appear to reside in the United States. One of them belongs to Myron Vernis, a car collector in Ohio. He purchased his Stelvio AZ1 at an online auction for only $45,000.

The second one might still be for sale on Bring a Trailer. The highest bid was over $25,000, but it failed to meet the reserve. Even if the seller wanted only $20,000 more, that’s still a steal for a piece of ’80s automotive history.