An Autozam AZ-1 Built For The Track

There’s nothing more unique about the Japanese domestic market than the class of cars referred to as kei, or lightweight.

With restrictions on body dimensions and engine sizes, there has always been fierce competition between manufacturers to come up with exciting vehicles, and for that very reason kei cars have long been some of the most wildly designed machines on Japanese roads.

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These days, the kei class is mostly dominated by micro vans, but back in the early ’90s it was a different story. The Autozam AZ-1 which Mazda made in collaboration with Suzuki (which sold its own version called the Cara), was one of the more special creations. Its Ferrari Testarossa-inspired styling cues and gull-wing doors made it an instant hit.

When Blake and I came across this one at the idlers Games at Tsukuba Circuit over the weekend, we were both left truly impressed.

I find it so cool to see one of these little cars used for proper track work, especially given how rare and sought after (read: valuable) they are now becoming. The owner of this particular example has taken years to refine its performance, starting with interior additions like a massive turbo boost gauge and a lap timer, not to mention the Swiss cheese lightening made to the composite doors.

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The AZ-1’s classic two-tone red and gunmetal exterior is set off beautifully against Campagnolo magnesium-alloy wheels, which of course are shod in Yokohama Advan A050 semi-slicks ready to carve up Tsukuba’s tarmac.

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This is what ‘right’ looks like, simple but important mods made to a cool and quirky car all in the pursuit of performance.

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The tiny Suzuki F6A 3-cylinder wasn’t the last word in ’90s Japanese power given that it only developed the maximum allowed output of 64PS, but you can rest assured that every owner out there has fiddled around with their car’s ECU or turbo to boost that to well over 100 horses.

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And yet again I’m left teary-eyed reminiscing over those very special years in Japanese car production when manufacturers weren’t afraid to tap into their engineers’ knowhow and passion to conceive something unique and exciting.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, no, I don’t know how fast the owner was lapping Tsukuba in. But it’s beside the point of this car anyway, as I’m sure he was having just as much fun as Nakai-san was in Rotana!

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino
dino@speedhunters.com

2017 idlers Games on Speedhunters

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31 comments

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1

A bunch of people used to run Gunsai and other hillclimb events with souped up AZ-1. Tons of fun to watch and always really fast...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT_rxBP_xsY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaLTufE3z5E

2

Holy moly they are quick. And steering with the rear wheels as well haha. Looks like a massive bag of fun.

3

Keep in mind those are not stock though... Most certainly around 100/110hp. That means upgraded turbo, ecu, injectors, fuel pump and a good tune for all this after lol... Stock AZ-1 don't come with a LSD either, so there an extra $1000 into this :)

4
https://www.instagram.com/bigcirclelittlecircle/

I've been lucky enough to have imported one and I'm happy to say they are a blast to toss around

Author5
Dino Dalle Carbonare

I want one with a 13B swap

6

Personally I think the Speedhunters AZ-1 should have a superbike engine... maybe a V4 to mix things up!

7

better with a g13b :)

Author8
Dino Dalle Carbonare

What and no brap? lol

9

Just dump an LS in and call it a day...

10

Good luck fitting an LS in a kei car

11

excuse my french but that's fuckin cool. Please do more coverage on stuff like this. I look to blogs to show me this stuff since I can't travel.

Author12
Dino Dalle Carbonare

We're always hunting :D

13

And yet again I’m left teary-eyed reminiscing over those very special years in Japanese car production when manufacturers weren’t afraid to tap into their engineers’ knowhow and passion to conceive something unique and exciting.

I think that will (hopefully) change with Toyota very, very soon. When you've got a race driver and passionate car enthusiast in charge of a car company, I think that's a pretty good sign of thigns to come.

Author14
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Well you know, I used to say the same 5 or so years ago when Mr. Toyoda said that he'd inject much sportiness into each model at the time the 86 was fresh news. The 86 came and went but aside for a few cool concepts at motorshows we haven't seen much after that right? Everything seems to be pointing towards the fact that the new Supra is just a rebranded new-gen Z4 with a roof - which is ok, don't get me wrong I'd rather have that than nothing at all. But aside from that there isn't much of anything else right? No turbo 86. GSF and LC are Lexus you can only dream about but yet don't really reinvent anything mechanically. I don't know, just my thoughts.

15

This will probably sound very naive but isn't it 5 or so years what it takes a car company to make a great sports car? I'm a hot hatch fanboy and personally I'm very excited about the upcoming Yaris GRMN. Even though I probably won't buy one, I hope its succesfull enough to give Toyota a reason to come up with crazier (better) cars. Greetings from Chile!

16

Unfortunately that is true. Toyota just ain't what it used to be in sports anymore. I've only had Toyota's and they are all 90's, where Toyota sports cars were good. I know they're trying to get back but it's not the same anymore.

17

You sir are 100% right, again. Toyota's are the MOST boring cars around, and has been in the past 20 years, sadly.

18

I wish there were any cool small cars like this in India, and our car modding laws weren't so vague...

Author19
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Import an S660 :D

20

If that were so simple/cheap (though I admit I don't know that much about the process or fees).
For reference a Cayman S costs $150K here, and that's when you buy it directly from Porsche. Who knows how much a direct import would cost...

Author21
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Oh wow!! So you have luxury tax I guess...

22

Gotta love the subtle "italian flavour" all around! Most people don't even know that Campy used to craft wheels, alongside (supreme) cycling components...

Awesome build tho, and awesome post as always Dino!

Author23
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Thanks Riccardo! Campagnolo wheels were the ones to have back in the day!

24

What did you say?

Author25
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Boo!

26

I've been wanting one of these ever since I seen it in Gran Turismo. A bridgeported 13b would be so glorious in this car.

Author27
Dino Dalle Carbonare

Like the crazy one Amemya built back in the nineties

28
JBfromSiliconValley

....really needs a Tesla electric motor between the rear wheels. Since its a track focused car, only 10-20 mins worth of battery juice could be frunked. Longer than 20 mins required? flip front with quick swap batteries in the pits.

29

expect wheelies in ludicrous mode :)

30

Yes yes yes. More of this sort of thing please.

31

This is the coolest car you guys have featured in a good while.

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