The Japanese bubble era saw the debut of some of the country’s most legendary cars. It was also the time when the Japanese were pushing so many technologies and innovations into just about every car made during the period. From revolutionary luxury cars like the first Lexus LS to everyday supercars like the original Honda NSX, it was a good time to work for Japanese automakers.
While most of us are familiar with the cars and innovations that have emerged over the years, there are still gems that go unnoticed. One of them comes from Nissan, more precisely from the internal tuner Autech. What is Autech, you asked? Here is a brief history lesson.
Autech was founded in 1986 as a subsidiary of Nissan. The specialty of the company is to create unique and rather interesting conversions of existing Nissan models. Some of the memorable and notable models they’ve made include the long-wheelbase version of the Y31 Cedric, the four-door R33 GT-R, and a high-performance model of the Stagea wagon dubbed the Autech 260RS version. They even had a brief collaboration with Zagato.
One of their collaborations was called the Stelvio AZ-1. It’s on the radar of die-hard JDM enthusiasts, but there’s another one that few people know about. It is the predecessor of the Stelvio AZ-1, the Zagato Gavia. It’s understandable if this is the first time you’ve heard of it, as less than 20 of these cars are said to have been made. Youtube channel WasabiCars was able to get his hands on one and even give some driving impressions.
We won’t say what the verdict on the car is, as the video does all of the explanation. Instead, we’ll share some cool information about it. The Zagato Gavia may look like an ’80s vision of a futuristic GT coupe, but its underpinnings are much more humble. It actually rides on a modified Nissan Leopard F31 chassis, which was also offered in the United States as the somewhat forgotten Infiniti M30.
The Zagato Gavia also has a unique interior with some Italian touches here and there. That said, the gear selector comes straight from the ’80s Nissan parts bin. The rim design is even more interesting. Looks like a NACA drive that firmly places this car from a bygone era. Whether or not it has advantages is up for debate. Speaking of the coin bin, you might recognize two pieces of the exterior from other cars. The headlights are from an S13 Silvia, while the side mirrors are said to be from a Honda CRX del Sol.
What’s also interesting is what’s under the hood. Since this is an 80s GT cruiser, you would expect a hushed, pedestrian six-cylinder. While this is partly true, Autech has injected performance into it. It was actually the VG30 engine that was used in many Nissan V6s at the time. However, this is the VG30DET which means it has a turbocharger. It is claimed to develop 280 horsepower (206 kilowatts), as that was the power cap imposed on Japanese cars at the time. In reality, it could be closer to 300 horsepower.
It’s an interesting piece of JDM history, which deserves more than a footnote. In the end, the Zagato-Autech partnership did not succeed. However, it wouldn’t be the last time Nissan brought in an Italian design firm. The GT-R50 was designed by the folks at Italdesign and has been far more successful than the partnership with Zagato.