When it comes to imported cars from Japan, it doesn’t get much more special than the Autozam AZ-1. Most people have never even heard of Autozam, and for good reason: It was never sold here in America. Autozam was a sub-brand of Mazda in the early nineties, that specialized in small cars, known as Kei cars in Japan. Kei cars are small cars built within the restrictions of engine displacement (660cc) and size and weight restrictions. One of those cars was called the AZ-1.
Right off the bat, this car is tiny. The AZ-1 makes the Miata look like it has a strict diet of McDonalds and ho-hos. Once you step inside, the story isn’t much different. If you require tons of leg room, the AZ-1 won’t deliver. However, the head room isn’t as sparse as you’d think. Because of the interesting door design and how low you sit in the chassis, head room is not an issue. Speaking of the doors, the AZ-1 has Gull-wing doors. Yes, like the DeLorean.
The engine is a three cylinder that’s been turbocharged. While it makes under 100hp, you wouldn’t notice it. I didn’t have the opportunity to drive the AZ-1, but riding shotgun felt like I was the copilot of a personal space ship. No, the AZ-1 won’t beat today’s traditional imports. But if you buy an AZ-1 to do late night highway races, you’re missing the point. Autozam only made 4,392 AZ-1s. Say 10% have been crashed or parted out, that means that there’s at most 3,952 cars left in existence. The charm of the AZ-1 is how rare it is, and how unique it is.
So would I buy an AZ-1? In a heartbeat. They’re the closest you can get to a road-legal go-kart. Not to mention anywhere you go you will be the center of attention.