Photo: Italdesign/Spirant032

The Italdesign Aztec was one of the more outlandish concept cars of the 1980s, a surprise to even see one made for the show circuit, totally mind-blowing when a Japanese industrialist commissioned a run of road-legal versions at half a million a pop.

You’d be forgiven for not knowing about the 1988 Italdesign Aztec, as it was the rarest of the rare, combining rally tech with coachbuilt style. You get a tuned Audi inline five behind you and your passenger mated to a Lancia Delta Integrale drivetrain. Also pop-ups and external gauges.

Every so often one goes up for sale for about what it would have cost new and the whole internet freaks out that something so strange could go for so much. In 2014, one went up for sale in Japan asking $750,000 on eBay. Bonhams expected $290,000-$400,000 for one at Paris back in 2009, and gave a good rundown on why the car seems to exist mostly in the shadows:

Post-Turin the rights were bought by a Japanese industrialist, Mario Myakawa, who commissioned Audi tuner Motoren-Technik-Mayer (MTM) in Wettstetten, near Ingolstadt, to engineer the car for homologation and eventual limited production. The first working prototype was finished in time for the 1992 Monaco Grand Prix and driven round the circuit just before the race. At around the same time the Aztec featured in the retrospective exhibition of important industrial design landmarks held at the Musée Georges Pompidou in Paris.

‘When the Aztec prototype was exhibited at the Turin Motor Show in 1988 I found it difficult to imagine that it would become a real car,’ commented Giugiaro. ‘It is therefor of immense satisfaction that the Aztec is now actually a roadworthy car and not just a static styling exercise.’

German type approval was gained some time later, but the Aztec’s long-delayed arrival at a time of recession and with a price tag of DM500,000 effectively killed the project after only a limited number of cars - approximately 50 according to some sources - had been completed.

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I guess if you’re going to see an Aztec anywhere, it would be in Japan, but it was still a shock to the internet when one turned up at an otherwise normal retro car show in Japan the other day:

This was at Old Car Heaven held at Odaiba. That’s where Tokyo hosts its round of the D1GP drift championship, if the name rings a bell. Most of the cars there were your normal vintage car show fare, with little Datsun Fairlady Roadsters, various vans, and then also this Aztec, one of the rarest cars in the world.

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I don’t think the owner showed up just to ostensibly get the most eyeballs at the show, the car’s too weird for that, but it definitely won as far as I’m concerned.