AZ-1 was designed and manufactured by Suzuki but sold by Mazda under its Autozambrand. Debuted in October 1992 until and was noted for its gullwing doors. Suzuki produced its own badge engineered version named the Suzuki Cara (PG6SS). The car is also popular as a grey import in some markets, and has been converted to left-hand drive for the Canadian and other left hand drive markets. Designed by Tatsumi Fukunaga (Suzuki RS/3 – read below) and Toshiko Hirai (Design leader).
Suzuki Cara was almost same as Autozam version with only minor detail changes including the addition of fog lamps. It’s nice.
Heart: Power came from the same Suzuki-sourced 657 ccturbocharged engine used by the Mazda Carol.
- Wheelbase 2,235 mm
- Length x Width x Height: 3,295 mm x 1,395 mm x 1,150 mm
Origins of AZ-1
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.
After another concept based on RS/1, Tatsumi Fukunaga designed RS/3, unveiled for the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show. The project was abandoned in favor of the roadster project they had been working on, named later as the Suzuki Cappuccino.
Mazda prototypes of AZ-1
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 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-coolingwheel discs. Compared to the Type B, this version was far more spartan in comparison.
Production of AZ-1
2 color options were available since car became available in 1992: Siberia Blue and Classic Red, both came with Venetian Gray lower panels. Each cars were sold through the Autozam dealer network in Japan. Sadly, AZ-1 was considered to be too expensive and too cramped, both for a kei car, the car failed to sell within its target of 800 per month, even in the midst of an economic recession, production of the car ended after the following year, but Mazda had plenty of stocks to shift off.
Offical tunes of Autozam AZ-1
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.
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.
Other versions of AZ-1
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 spotlightsdetached 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 1996, 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 in 2000 who repainted in into white.
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 Yens for the body alone, plus another million Yens for painting and fitting. The genuine car in fact feature a conventional opening doors.