In its dreams, this Italdesign Aztec is a ’90s spaceship

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For most folks, turning 20 generally consists of cake, maybe some candy, and a few handfuls of confetti. For Giorgetto Giugiaro’s Italdesign Giugiaro design studio, turning 20 consisted of a batch of utterly amazing cars, chock-full of wild concepts and bold ideas.

One such ride from that celebration is currently for sale on Bring a Trailer, and we simply can’t get enough of it.

Giorgetto Giugiaro was voted “Car Designer of the Century” in 1999—a ridiculously prestigious award, but fitting for the man who penned the likes of the Maserati Boomerang, the first Lotus Esprit, the BMW M1, the Volkswagen Golf Mk1, and a sleek little stainless-steel ride called the DeLorean DMC-12.

For his studio’s 20th birthday, Giugiaro envisioned a future-facing concept car to be unveiled at the 1988 Turin Motor Show. It was called the Aztec, and boy oh boy was it a doozy.

1988 Italdesign Aztec
1988 Italdesign Aztec

1988 Italdesign Aztec

The Aztec’s looked like a space pod standing still, with skirted rear wheels and twin bubble canopies that folded up towards the middle of the car. The exterior contains traces of C5 Corvette (head-on) and a M100 Lotus Elan (rear three-quarter).

It was powered by a strange Ital-Teutonic blend of mechanical bits, with a Lancia all-wheel-drive system and a mid-mounted, Audi-sourced 2.2-liter turbocharged five-cylinder mated to a five-speed manual transaxle.

A control panel with a three-digit keypad was fitted to aluminum body panels on each side of the car, allowing everything from an auto self-leveling oil change (112), coolant level check (123), actuation of the toolkit housing panel (133), and deployment of the hydraulic jack system (212). Got all that? No sweat—Giugiaro had the codes painted onto the panel, lest you forget.

Inside, two cushy leather chairs supported the occupants, who were meant to talk to each other electronically because of the twin-canopy design. In front of the driver, a two-tone Nardi steering wheel framed a custom instrument cluster. If you had the distinct displeasure of not being the driver, fret not—there’s a sweet curved grab handle and a period Halda rally computer in front of you.

Giugiaro had planned to produce 50 Aztecs through an agreement with a Japanese company called Compact, but less than half (many sources say 18, others aren’t so sure) of the cars were actually completed.

1988 Italdesign Aztec

Despite their rarity, these wacky contraptions have appeared at auction before. Bonhams had one at its 2010 Dubai sale with a pre-sale estimate of $100,000–$150,000, and a New York dealer has one listed for sale through Hemmings without a listed price.

One Aztec even managed to make it onto the big screen, as the ride of choice for Dr. Joe Buchanan in the 1990 sci-fi horror flick Frankenstein Unbound.

This particular example reportedly spent time at the Shanghai Automotive Museum from 2011—2015 before coming stateside as part of a California collection. It’s got 400 kilometers (roughly 250 miles) on the clock, so the winner will essentially take charge of a brand-new Aztec.

With 11 days left, the price sits at $36,000.

At the end of the day, even if the vehicle fails to meet the reserve, we can take refuge in the fact that all vehicles sporting the Aztec (or Aztek) nameplate are… visually arresting, whether penned by the Car Designer of the Century or by a committee of suits at General Motors.

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