1993 Nissan AP-X concept by Marcello Gandini was rumored to be a Z32 successor

At the 1993 Frankfurt Motor Show Nissan debuted the AP-X, a sports car concept meant to blend driving pleasure and environmental responsibility. The futuristic coupe was penned by Marcello Gandini, he of Lamborghini Miura, Countach, and Lancia Stratos fame. There was also a rumor that the AP-X was a planned Z32 successor. Gandini passed away Wednesday, March 11 at the age of 85, so lets take a look at the legend’s sole Japanese work.

Gandini penned much more than Italian supercars, though any single one of his  iconic creations could have been a crowning achievement in another designer’s career. Gandini worked on more mundane cars too, like the Renault 5, Citroën BX, and E12 BMW 5-series.

Gandini’s work on the Nissan AP-X came at a time when Nissan was collaborating with other Italian carrozzerias, which yielded creations like the Autech Stelvio. The AP-X featured Gandini trademarks like the diagonally cut rear wheel arch and favorite cues like the window-in-window side glass.

The four-seater AP-X was roughly the size of a the Nissan Fairlady Z 2+2 that was in production at the time, leading some observers to conclude that the concept was based on the Z32 chassis. Some went even further, speculating that the AP-X was to succeed the 300ZX as the Z33.

Mechanically, it seemed to be on that track. At the heart of the AP-X was a concept engine Nissan dubbed the VQX. The 24-valve DOHC direct-injection V6 displaced 3.0 liters and used aluminum throughout to reduce weight. Its 247 naturally aspirated horsepower and 217 lb-ft of torque was generated in part by molybdenum-coated pistons, a feature that made it into production years later on the 350Z. Nissan boasted that this setup returned fuel economy of a 2.0-liter sports car.

The AP-X featured all of Nissan’s latest tech wizardry of the era, like Super-HICAS rear-wheel steering, active LSD, traction control, ABS, and carbon fiber panels. Unfortunately, it also featured a bit of tech that most wish Nissan never fell in love with, a continuously variable transmission, but back in ’93 a CVT was considered cutting-edge stuff.

In an era when highway racers were running rampant in Japan, safety was another priority of the AP-X.  Infrared sensors scanned for pedestrians at night while a separate warning system alerted pedestrians to the car’s presence. Millimeter-wave radar front and rear kept track of distances between cars in front and behind. There was even automatic accident reporting and an emergency brake warning system.

Several of these systems reported information to a curved panel on the dash above the gauge cluster so drivers didn’t need to take their eyes off the road if an alert sounded. Most controls were located on buttons surrounding the cluster and useable without removing hands from the steering wheel.

The AP-X even employed a drowsiness monitor that scanned the driver’s eyes for sleepiness. If it detected that the driver was off to slumberland, it would emit both an audible and a scent-based alert. Sadly, the exact fragrance has been lost to history.

The rear center brake light was what Nissan called a “hologram type”. Essentially, it was projected onto the center of the rear glass without a physical light located there. Oh, and Nissan made sure to mention it had dual airbags too.

Whether it was really meant to succeed the Z32 or not, history had different plans. What isn’t in doubt is that the AP-X was ahead of its time. Some of its safety technology has only begun to appear on production cars in recent years, decades after the AP-X was shown. The fate of the actual concept is unknown, but a 1/5 scale design model exists at the gallery in Nissan’s Yokohama headquarters building.

Additional Images:

Images courtesy of Nissan.

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8 Responses to 1993 Nissan AP-X concept by Marcello Gandini was rumored to be a Z32 successor

  1. steve says:

    Mister Zagato meets SVX!

  2. Fashion Victim says:

    Correctly predicted today’s vehicles, ultra slim lights, no bumpers, no trim protrusions.

  3. speedie says:

    More of a small window than a window within a window for me. Interesting design but not on the list of his best. I also wonder how well the engine will get rid of the heat it generates. No clear indication of engine bay vents anywhere.

  4. Alan says:

    A lot of this looks unusually production-ready for a concept. Maybe not regulation-ready, but yeah.

    Love the interior. The exterior is a mixed bag but mostly very good.

  5. Eus says:

    ugly bastard

  6. Franxou says:

    I don’t know if I would call this a possible successor to the Z32, it looks too much “early 90’s futuristic” to be the next iteration for the late 90’s, it looks more like a modern Z31?
    It feels as if the designer wanted to hide the width of the car and bring back the long and narrow predecessor on a Z32 chassis

  7. Bob says:

    Reading this triggered a memory of a “Concept Cars” VHS tape I had as a kid, I swear that while this wasn’t on it, there was *some other car* in the video that also featured a scent that was released in the interior for a similar reason. Was this a thing?

  8. Julien says:

    I want those wheels on my MR2^^

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