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In the late 1980s, Mazda diversified in the Japan market with the launch of three new marques. The company created Autozam (オートザム), Eunos, and ɛ̃fini, in addition to the Mazda and Ford brands already marketed there. This selective marketing experiment was ended in the mid-1990s due to economic conditions, largely attributed to the collapse of the Japanese asset price bubble in 1991. The Autozam dealership channel is still in operation in some Japanese locations, but sell all current Mazda products.
The Autozam marque specialized in small cars and keicars with many models being rebadged Suzuki.
Autozam locations also briefly sold Lancia products to Japanese buyers. The vehicles sold are listed below. Of the Lancia products sold, only the top level Thema didn't comply with Japanese Government exterior and engine displacement regulations to encourage sales, giving Japanese buyers who visited Autozam locations an alternative to the Autozam Clef, which also exceeded width dimensions.
The following vehicles were part of the Autozam brand. Those that were rebadged versions are noted in parentheses.
- 1990–1994 Autozam Carol keicar (Suzuki Alto)
- 1990–1994 Autozam Revue subcompact car (Mazda 121)
- 1990–1994 Autozam Scrum mini MPV (Suzuki Carry)
- 1991–1997 Autozam AZ-3 coupé (Mazda MX-3)
- 1992–1993 Autozam Clef sedan (Mazda Cronos)
- 1992–1994 Autozam AZ-1 mid-engine sports car (Suzuki Cara)
- 1994–2003 Mazda AZ-Wagon station wagon (Suzuki Wagon R)
- 1998–2003 Mazda AZ-Offroad mini SUV (Suzuki Jimny)
- Lancia Thema
- Lancia Dedra
- Lancia Delta
- Lancia Prisma
- Lancia Y10
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Autozam vehicles.|
The Autozam AZ-1, known as the framecode PG6SA, is a mid-engined sports kei car, designed and manufactured by Suzuki but sold by Mazda under its Autozam brand.
Manufactured from October 1992 to 1994, the AZ-1 was noted for its gullwing doors. Power came from the same Suzuki-sourced 657 cc turbocharged engine used by the Mazda Carol that produced 64 PS (47 kW) at 6500 rpm and 85 N·m (63 lb·ft) at 4000 rpm.
Suzuki produced its own badge engineered version named the Suzuki Cara (PG6SS).
The proposal for the AZ-1 goes as far back as 1985 when Suzuki created the Suzuki RS/1 as a midship sports car project for volume production. Suzuki went as far to design the car for the Tokyo Motor Show more than just a design exercise, they designed the car to be functional with a front/rear weight distribution of 45:55. powered by a 1.3 liter G13A engine from the Cultus.
This was followed up by the Tatsumi Fukunaga designed RS/3, unveiled for the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show, retaining many of its design features of the predecessor but many of its design features were worked on to meet Japanese safety regulations as well as being a practical sports car. Unfortunately, the project was abandoned in favor of the roadster project they had been working on, named later as the Cappuccino.
Mazda's design team, led by Toshiko Hirai, who was also responsible for the MX-5, took over the design project, despite having a limited budget and capacity.
The redesigned cars, constructed in tube frame with floors and bulkheads constructed from aluminium honeycomb, clad in three different bodystyles constructed in fibreglass. The cars were constructed around the Kei car regulation of the time (maximum length 126 inches (3,200 mm), maximum engine capacity 550 cc), until this was changed for the following March, hence its model name, AZ-550 Sports.
First introduced at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show as the AZ-550 with three versions. First one of these, the Type A was a red sports car with pop-up headlights, front air vent and a distinctive Ferrari Testarossa inspired side strakes but most distinctive of all design features were the gull-wing doors.
Type B, themed as "High-tuned pure sports", was inspired by the trends in the tuning industry and in current concept car design, featuring greenhouse pyramid roof without a rearward sweep to the C-pillar. It had a racing car inspired interior, unlike Type A, it was aiming for the rough and spartan look and was the only model that a more conventional forward door hinging. It featured a pair of bulging headlamps and incorporated dual mufflers.
Type C, had a more distinctive body design as it was inspired by Mazda's Group C sports prototype racers, incorporating its signature colour scheme of blue on white and its number it bore at the 24 hours of Le Mans. Featuring a bigger air intake than the former two, venting to the forward-positioned radiator and exits it along the front rim of the cowl. There are many design cues typical to an endurance racer such as the wing mirror and BBS style brake-cooling wheel discs. Compared to the Type B, this version was far more spartan in comparison.
As the cars were well received by the visiting public and the motoring press, Mazda executives decided on production of the car. Although Type C was the better received of the three, it was the Type A which was given the greenlight by executives as they believed that it would be the one most commercially accepted by the buying public. The Type A would only receive a minor design alteration prior to production, as the pop-up headlights were dropped in favour of fixed units, purely for structural rigidity reasons. The front air vent was the other design alteration made to the car prior to production.
Nonetheless, the car took three years to get into production as the engineering team changed the car's internal skeleton frame to steel to allow for further rigidity. The dashboard design was also changed, to a less futuristic but still sporting look.
Much of the development work was carried out in the United Kingdom despite the fact that the car was never intended for sale outside Japan.
The car was made available to the buying public on September 1992, with two color options, Siberia Blue and Classic Red. Both colors came with Venetian Gray lower panels. Each car was sold through the Autozam dealer network in Japan.
Unfortunately by the time car came into production, the recession in Japan had just come into force. Selling for 1,498 million ¥ (the equivalent of $12,400), it was slightly less than a Eunos Roadster, but marginally higher than its competitor, the Honda Beat selling at 1,388 million ¥ and the Suzuki Cappuccino at 1,458 million ¥, the AZ-1 was considered to be both too expensive and too cramped for a kei car. The car failed to sell within its target of 800 per month, in the midst of an economic recession. Production of the car ended after the following year, but Mazda had plenty of stock to sell off.
With the total production of 4,392 over a year, plus 531 for the Cara version (mentioned later in the article) to 28,010 to the Cappuccino and 33,600 for the Beat, both with production reaching into the latter half of the 1990s, this makes the AZ-1 the rarest of the kei sports cars.
In a bid to shift unsold stock, Mazda made an effort to produce special versions. First to come was the Type L option, featuring an enhanced audio system including a sub-woofer in the boot. There were no exterior changes made to the car.
MazdaspeedAutozam AZ-1 Mazdaspeed
Mazda also introduced the Mazdaspeed version to showcase the parts that were available for the car, the A-spec, the body kit features an enhanced bonnet, front spoiler and rear wing. Unlike the production version, the car came in an all-red or blue body colour. It also came with a host of options including shock absorbers with sports spring sets, strut bars for the front and rear, mechanical LSD, enhanced air filter and a stainless steel and ceramic muffler. It also came with its own brand of alloy wheels as opposed to the production's steel wheels.
For 1994, There was also the M2 1015 by M2 Incorporated. The most distinguishing part of the car is the front fog lights incorporated into the bonnet, and the all-new front bumper and rear spoiler. The car came in three different colours: white, black and silver. Like the Mazdaspeed version, the car was painted entirely in a single color.
Fifty were to be produced and sold by the M2 dealer, but they only managed to sell about half of its stock. The dealer covered their losses by selling the body parts individually. A genuine "M2 1015" can be identified by the rear emblem stating the version name.
Suzuki CaraSee Suzuki Cara in Japanese Wikipedia
The AZ-1 was also sold by Suzuki as the Cara, with only minor detail changes including the addition of fog lamps.
Although the M2 1015 was the only version sold by the dealer, M2 also created other versions purely for show purposes and to test market their cars.
M2 1014 was a one-off off road inspired car built for the 1993 Tokyo Motor Show with design cues coming from the Lamborghini Cheetah. M2 1015A is a rally inspired featuring auxiliaries of a rally car including a pair of spotlights detached on the bottom of the bonnet. The M2 1015B incorporated a detachable top roof, instead of being constructed of glass, it was constructed in plastic.
In 1996, renowned tuning company and rotary specialist, RE Amemiya produced another one off example for the Tokyo Auto Salon, called the GReddy VI-AZ1 (named after its long-term partner, the sixth incarnation of their partnership project car), it was influenced by the AZ-550 Type-C but longer and wider, incorporating a 20B three rotor Wankel engine, mounted longitudinally. The only part of the car that has traces of the original AZ-1 is the gullwing door. The car uses suspension parts produced by Bilstein that can be found in a Porsche 962 and the brakes from a Ferrari F40. The car was rebuilt again in 2000 with the car now resprayed to white, also a wing replacing the ducktail spoiler of the original, also replaced was the tire with a slightly wider version, brakes are replaced by those from a Ferrari F50. The car have since then been sold on to a private owner in Japan.
There was also a one-off version built in 1996 named Abarth Scorpione commissioned by Shiro Kosaka, a renowned collector of Abarth sports cars, with numerous design cues from its genuine and rare namesake. The car is entirely rebodied at a cost of one million yen for the body alone, plus another million yen for painting and fitting. The genuine car in fact features conventional opening doors. For further details refer to this article (Japanese).
- ^ a b RS Prototype
- ^ RS-1
- ^ AZ Prototype
- ^ a b Production
- ^ AZ-1
- ^ 世界最小のスーパーカー（笑）AZ-1のページ:History of AZ-1
- ^ a b c d e f g 世界最小のスーパーカー（笑）AZ-1のページ:AZ-1 at the time of the motor show
- ^ Model B
- ^ Model C
- ^ a b Spoelstra, Marcel. "Development". The Suzuki Cara Enthusiast Website. Retrieved 2012-01-30.
- ^ Page 2
- ^ Honda Beat 1993 (used, imported, new): pics, specs, performance
- ^ Suzuki Cappuccino 1991 (used, imported, new): pics, specs, performance
- ^ a b c d e f g 世界最小のスーパーカー（笑）AZ-1のページ:AZ-1 after mass-production
- ^ The Cappuccino Story, Suzuki Cappuccino Owners Register for Enthusiasts (SCORE).
- ^ Honda Beat Information
- ^ The Trail - the history of MAZDASPEED:AZ-1 (PG) A-spec
- ^ a b c d 世界最小のスーパーカー（笑）AZ-1のページ:AZ-1 As a Show Model
- ^ a b Ｇｒｅｄｄｙシリーズ [Greddy Series] (in Japanese). Re-amemiya.co.jp. Archived from the original on 10 June 2010. Retrieved 2012-06-13.
- ^ "ＧｒｅｄｄｙⅥ （ホワイト）". Re-amemiya.co.jp. Retrieved 2010-07-25.
- ^ Abarth Scorpione
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Autozam AZ-1.|
- The Suzuki Cara Enthusiast Website
- AZ-1,the exciting micro coupé
- 世界最小のスーパーカー（笑）AZ-1のページ (in Japanese)
- マイスター鈴木のページ (in Japanese)
- AZ-1を楽しもう にっしゃのガレージ (in Japanese)
Micro Supercar: 1992 Mazda Autozam AZ-1
This Mazda Autozam AZ-1 is said to have only 7,000 km from new and to be in showroom condition. These cars featured a mid-mounted, DOHC, 660 CC,12 valve, turbocharged triple that delivered 63 HP at 8,500 RPM – both displacement and power are the maximums allowed under Japanese Kei (literally “lightweight”) car regulations. These pocket exotics featured lots of innovative engineering, but they’re best known for their two tiny little gullwing doors. Find this one offered here on Car and Classic UK for 12,995 pounds sterling (today ~$19,700) or best offer.
Though designed and engineered by Suzuki, whose Cappuccino Kei roadster shared the same F6A motor, most were sold as Autozam’s, with a smaller share of the car’s production run marketed as the Suzuki Cara. Autozam was a home-market Mazda sub-brand specializing in Kei cars, a Japanese tax break formula that allows many buyers to own a car without prior proof of a parking space, normally a prerequisite to car ownership there. The AZ-1 was part of the early 90s bubble economy Kei sports trinity, whose other members included the previously-mentioned Cappuccino, which was similar to a 3/4 scale Miata, and Honda’s Beat, a mid-engined convertible.
The little turbo triple in these cars is known to be a real gem, with an appetite for revs beyond its 9,000 RPM redline – fuel cutoff was not until 10,000 RPM. Handling is said to be very good, but quite darty – according to Road & Track, you better be on your “A” game to really toss it around. Even by Kei car standards, the interior of these cars is quite small, so no one over six feet tall need apply. Here’s an interesting interview with a Canadian owner, it provides a lot of insight on what the AZ-1’s like to own, drive and work on in a North American context.
These cars frequently show up on Japanese car export market sites like exchange.goo.net for about half of the asking price of this example, but, nearly without exception, they have much higher mileage, poorly-executed or tasteless modifications, and exude a general air of shabbiness – this one, as described, looks near-new. The above interior shot really demonstrates how well-cared for this car appears to be, the only mod visible on the entire car a small-rimmed, flat-bottom steering wheel. While the rally-style straight-ahead marker and suede covering might be a bit much, the general shape, size and style suit the car well – we’d definitely think about re-trimming it in black leather to make the car perfect.
The engine shot included here is not from the car listed for sale, as the seller did not include one, but does represent exactly what you’ll find under the rear lid provided it’s stock, as described. It’s not much to look at, and reportedly a real pain to wrench on, but they are known to be quite reliable and are engineered to take a thrashing, all the while returning at least 35 MPG. 63 HP doesn’t sound much, but AZ-1’s only weigh 1,600 lbs. and their five speeds are geared quite short, allowing 10.0 second 0-100 km/h runs with ease. Though not inexpensive, it’s likely impossible to find another this nice anywhere else in the world. The AZ-1 is one of the coolest, quirkiest and least-known sports cars to ever come out of Japan, and we’d love to own this one.
Mazda Autozam AZ-3
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