Japan is home to many weird cars and many of them are belong to the kei car segment. But weird isn’t always bad, as the Autozam AZ-1 mid-engine rear-wheel drive kei car proves.
Built between 1992 and 1994 under Mazda’s Autozam brand, the tiny coupe had all the attributes of a supercar: gullwing doors, side strakes, a turbocharged engine mounted behind the seats, a manual transmission that sent power to the rear wheels and a 9,000-rpm redline. Who cared that it only measured 3.3 meters (10.8 ft) bumper to bumper and had a 660-cc three-cylinder engine that made just 64 hp?
Thankfully, the power limit imposed by the Japanese government for kei cars didn’t ruin it, because the Autozam AZ-1 weighed almost nothing. Thanks to the fiber-reinforced plastic body, it tipped the scales at just 720 kg (1,587 lb).
That allowed it to reach an electronically-governed top speed of around 140 km/h (87 mph), but it could reach 160 km/h (100 mph) with the limiter removed. Nevertheless, the top speed isn’t what matters about the AZ-1, because you will have more fun doing 40 mph (65 km/h) in it that you will taking a supercar to 300 km/h on the Autobahn. It’s all about of the way the car makes you feel, and the Autozam seems quite good at this game.
There’s a lot more to learn about this quirky kei car from the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage. The video features a 1992 Autozam AZ-1 brought to the United States under the 25-year rule for car imports by its very knowledgeable owner, mechanical engineer Ashley DeLuca.