In 1988, Italdesign marked its 20th anniversary by introducing three remarkable concept cars: the Asgard MPV, Aspid coupe, and Aztec barchetta. Extraordinary show cars have a rich history in the world of automobiles, and the Italians have demonstrated a particular talent for turning imaginative designs into tangible creations.
Giorgetto Giugiaro, the founder of Italdesign, embarked on his automotive career at the age of 17, starting at Fiat in 1955. After gaining experience at Ghia and Bertone, Giugiaro established what would eventually evolve into Italdesign in 1968, a consultancy serving manufacturers and coachbuilders.
Among the trio of concept cars, only the Aztec was operational. Diverging significantly from Italdesign’s production vehicles, the Aztec represented a bold reimagining of the barchetta, boasting separate cockpits, a mid-mounted engine, and four-wheel drive. The transmission components were sourced from the Lancia Delta Integrale, the five-cylinder, 20-valve, turbocharged 250bhp engine was borrowed from the Audi Quattro, and an aluminum, carbon fiber, and Kevlar body enveloped a steel ladder-frame chassis.
To gain access, one had to first tilt the cockpit canopy upwards and then open the door. Once inside, the driver and passenger communicated via an intercom system. While the Aztec’s underpinnings were not particularly groundbreaking, its “sci-fi” aesthetics were truly striking, with intricate details making it resemble more of a spaceship than a conventional automobile. High-tech side panels housed coded buttons that controlled the locks and interfaced with the built-in hydraulic jacks and various vehicle functions.