Mazda Autozam AZ-1 Stops By Jay Leno’s Garage

Mazda Autozam AZ-1 10 photos
Photo: screenshot from YouTube
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Back when the MX-5 was fresh in its first generation, Mazda experimented with the idea of a kei car with sporting attributes and the engine in the middle. Enter the Autozam AZ-1, equipped with gullwing doors and a turbocharged three-cylinder driving the rear wheels.
Produced from 1992 to 1995, the AZ-1 is twinned with the Suzuki Cara because Suzuki manufactured the 657-cc engine among other arrangements between the two parties. Mazda built 4,392 examples of the breed, and Suzuki rolled out 531 units of the Cara between 1993 and 1995.

With 64 PS (63 horsepower) and 85 Nm (63 pound-feet) on tap, performance was far from amazing. But on the other hand, don’t forget that the curb weight sits at 720 kilograms (1,587 pounds). In addition to the size of the vehicle, the secret to this low weight also comes in the form of fiber-reinforced plastic for most of the body panels.

The AZ-1 started getting interesting as of late in the United States for a very good reason. Being born in 1992, the AZ-1 can be legally imported from Japan to the U.S. of A. starting from 2017. That’s the reason a handful of  them made the trip to America, thanks to people like Ashley DeLuca.

A mechanical engineer who also owns an RX-7 and MX-5, Ashley was invited by Jay Leno to the infamous garage to showcase her pride and joy. Bought while DeLuca was still living in Japan, the car stayed in a parking lot for about a year before she imported the AZ-1 to California.

Problems, you ask? DeLuca found one with the starter wiring, and that’s about it. These things are extremely reliable, even though they’re more than a quarter of a century old. In regard to aftermarket upgrades, the front strut tower brace and turbo boost gauge add a little extra to the recipe.

If you were in the market for some pint-sized JDM goodness from the early 1990s, what would you buy between the AZ-1 and Honda Beat or Suzuki Cappuccino?

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About the author: Mircea Panait
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After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
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