Jay Leno Fell in Love with the Gull-Winged Autozam AZ-1

We can't say we blame him.

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YouTubeJay Leno's Garage

The Autozam AZ-1 may have been sold by Mazda, but the credit goes to Suzuki, really. It came up with the concept and the powertrain, and excellence followed.

This chapter of kei car history started in 1985, when Suzuki presented the RS/1 mid-engined sports car at the Tokyo Auto Show. That concept was followed by the Tatsumi Fukunaga-designed RS/3 in 1987, but the project was cancelled soon after in favor of the wonderful front-engine Cappuccino.

But Mazda picked up where Suzuki left off, running a trial with a trio of concepts designed by Miata ace Toshiko Hirai in 1989. In the end, the board settled for the most "conventional" looking of the three, minus pop-up headlights but with its awesome Gullwing doors signed off for production.

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Mazda

Being part of Mazda's kei-car lineup, the AZ-1 was badged as an Autozam and entered the market with two colors, Siberia Blue and Classic Red. Power came from Suzuki's 657 cc, four-valve turbocharged and intercooled three-cylinder, which revs to 9000 rpm, produces 64 horsepower and about the same amount in torque. Other numbers include a weight of just 1580 lbs, a six-gallon fuel tank and 40 MPG.

Unfortunately, the Japanese economy crashed by the time the AZ-1 hit the streets, and due its higher price tag than either a Cappuccino or Honda Beat, sales were slow. Mazda tried to justify its pricing with an even more-expensive Mazdaspeed version, while Suzuki marketed the AZ-1 as the Cara. Suzuki also put its tiny powerplant into the Alto Works, the AWD hatchback of our dreams.

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Ashley DeLuca

A little over two years ago, if you happened to be a former RX-7-owning, Miata-racing mechanical engineer working in Japan, you could grab an AZ-1 for around $7000, and spend another $4000 bringing it to the US.

Now that the Autozams are US-legal, prices can climb as high as $15,000 excluding import fees—even for a standard model. But, Jay Leno might just be willing to spend that much on an AZ-1. Mostly because he now knows he can fit inside, and that they're a blast to drive.


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