Unusual Vehicles is a segment that looks into the history of an unconventional car. Japan have produced some weird machines, with one of the most unorthodox being the Autozam AZ-1. Considered a kei car, the AZ-1 was a supercar in miniature, featuring gullwing doors and a composite body. What started out as a concept car turned into a production vehicle that became one of the most unique offerings of the kei range.
The creation of the AZ-1 goes back to 1985 when Suzuki built the Suzuki RS/1 for the Tokyo Motor Show. It was followed up by the RS/3, though the project remained incomplete until Mazda took over. The redesigned car was constructed for the kei range, having a regulated engine of 660 cc.
Sold under the Mazda sub-brand Autozam, the AZ-1 debuted at the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show. The Type A model had pop-up headlights, Ferrari Testarossa inspired side strakes and distinctive gullwing doors. Two other versions, the Type B and C, were designed differently. The Type B had a greenhouse pyramid roof and racing interior, while the C took inspiration from the Mazda sports prototype racers.
All versions were well received, though the Type A was chosen to be produced commercially. Only minor adjustments were carried out on the Type A, such as the pop-up headlights being dropped for fixed versions. Ironically, a lot of the development took place in the UK, despite the fact the car was never meant to be sold outside Japan.
In 1992, the car was made available to the public. However, the AZ-1 came out as the wrong time because the recession in Japan had hit the market. Considered to be too expensive and too cramped, the AZ-1 failed to sell within its target of 800 per month.
The failure to sell led to a number of special editions being developed, like the Mazdaspeed and Suzuki Cara. The Mazdaspeed came with optional extras like shock absorbers and ceramic muffler. The AZ-1 is considered the rarest of the kei sports cars.