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Autozam AZ-1- 1993
During Japan’s “Bubble Economy” (1986-1991), the nation’s car manufacturers enjoyed a bit of freedom in their car designs. Cars designed for smaller and smaller niche markets were financially feasible during this period. Nowhere was this more evident than in the kei class, or “light car”, segment.
Suzuki Motor Corporation began designing a mid-engine sports coupe in 1985, displaying the concept at the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show as the RS-3. Design work was stopped soon after so that Suzuki could concentrate on the front-engine/rear-drive concept which would become the Cappuccino.
The RS-3 concept caught Mazda’s interest, and Suzuki agreed to let them develop the car for production under Mazda’s Autozam sub-brand. Toshiko Horai’s design team (which also created the Miata/MX-5/Eunos) took over and created three separate concepts for the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show to measure public reaction. Only one of the three had gull-wing doors and while it was not the best received, Mazda’s top brass chose it for production, with Suzuki handling the production for Mazda. Developing the AZ-1 for production was challenging, however, and took three years with the car debuting in September 1992. During the development period, Japan’s economy crashed and a recession began. As a result, less than 4,400 AZ-1s were built before production ended. Suzuki built an additional 531 cars for their brand, badged as the Cera.
Manufacturer: Suzuki Motor Co., Ltd.
Country of Origin: Japan
Drivetrain Configuration: Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Engine: Turbocharged, 63HP, inline 3-cylinder, 657cc, water-cooled
Transmission: 5 speed manual
Top Speed: 85 MPH
Years of Production: 1992-1994
Number Produced: 4,392
Original Cost: ¥1,498,000 JPY;$12,400 USD