Something completely different dropped by for the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage. It was a 1992 Mazda Autozam AZ-1. Never heard of it? Most Americans haven’t.
The AZ-1 was one of many Japanese cars built for the kei car space. For an incredibly quick debrief on kei cars, the pint-sized vehicles are built to a particular specification: 11 feet long, 5 feet wide and 6.5 feet tall. Engine sizes do not exceed 660cc and horsepower ratings sit at 63 hp. The cars were, and still are, popular because of their low tax and insurance costs.
Ashley DeLuca, a mechanical engineer, owns this particular Autozam AZ-1. In the video, she gave Leno the full rundown on the car before the duo took the turbocharged 3-cylinder coupe for a spin. As one can imagine, it’s not particularly fast, but with a weight under 1,600 pounds, it does feel quick, per Leno.
DeLuca said in the video that she had the chance to relocate to Japan for six months for work and she purchased the AZ-1 after only a couple of weeks. During her time in Japan, she attended various AZ-1 gatherings and made quite a few friends. Apparently, the Autozam family is closely knit.
The car was a collaboration between Mazda and Suzuki. Mazda designed the quirky car, complete with gullwing doors, and Suzuki manufactured it and provided the engine. Following its launch in 1992, the Autozam AZ-1 failed to sell well as Japan experienced an economic recession. The car was axed in 1995 with fewer than 5,000 AZ-1s built.
Today, the car is quickly becoming somewhat of a cult classic in the United States and, naturally, prices have steadily risen. DeLuca said in the video the car cost around $7,100, but today, prices hover around $15,000 in Japan. That’s before the cost of importing the car to the U.S.