The proposal for the AZ-1 goes as far back as 1985 when Suzuki created the Suzuki RS/1 as a midship sports car project for volume production. Suzuki went as far to design the car for the Tokyo Motor Show more than just a design exercise, they designed the car to be functional with a front/rear weight distribution of 45:55. powered by a 1.3 liter G13A engine from the Cultus.
The Autozam AZ-1, known as the framecode PG6SA, is a mid-engined sports kei car, designed and manufactured by Suzuki but sold by Mazda under its Autozam brand. It debuted in October 1992 until production ceased in 1994, and was perhaps most noted for its gullwing doors. Power came from the same Suzuki-sourced 657 cc turbocharged engine used by the Mazda Carol that produced 64 PS (47 kW) at 6500 rpm and 85 N·m (63 lb·ft) at 4000 rpm. Suzuki produced its own badge engineered version named the Suzuki Cara (PG6SS).
This was followed up by the Tatsumi Fukunaga designed RS/3, unveiled for the 1987 Tokyo Motor Show, retaining many of its design features of the predecessor but many of its design features were worked on to meet Japanese safety regulations as well as being a practical sports car. Unfortunately, the project was abandoned in favor of the roadster project they had been working on, named later as the Cappuccino.
Mazda’s design team, led by Toshiko Hirai, who was also responsible for the MX-5, took over the design project, despite having a limited budget and capacity.
The car was made available to the buying public on September 1992, with two colour options, Siberia Blue and Classic Red, both came with Venetian Gray lower panels. Each cars were sold through the Autozam dealer network in Japan.
Unfortunately by the time car came into production, the recession in Japan had just come into force. Selling for 1,498 million ¥ (the equivalent of $12,400), it was slightly less than a Eunos Roadster, but marginally higher than its competitor, the Honda Beat selling at 1,388 million ¥ and the Suzuki Cappuccino at 1,458 million ¥, the AZ-1 was considered to be too expensive and too cramped, both for a kei car, the car failed to sell within its target of 800 per month, even in the midst of an economic recession, production of the car ended after the following year, but Mazda had plenty of stocks to shift off.
With the total production of 4,392 over a year, plus 531 for the Cara version (mentioned later in the article) to 28,010 to the Cappuccino and 33,600 for the Beat, both with production reaching into the latter half of the 1990s; this makes the AZ-1 the rarest of the kei sports cars.
Mazda also introduced the Mazdaspeed version to showcase the parts that were available for the car, the body kit features an enhanced bonnet, front spoiler and rear wing. Unlike the production version, the car came in an all-red or blue body colour. It also came with a host of options including shock absorbers with sports spring sets, strut bars for the front and rear, mechanical LSD, enhanced air filter and a stainless steel and ceramic muffler. It also came with its own brand of alloy wheels as opposed to the production’s steel wheels.
In 1996, renowned tuning company and rotary specialist, RE Amemiya produced another one off example for the Tokyo Auto Salon, called the GReddy VI-AZ1 (named after its long-term partner, the sixth incarnation of their partnership project car), it was influenced by the AZ-550 Type-C but longer and wider, incorporating a 20B three rotor Wankel engine, mounted longitudinally.
The only part of the car that has traces of the original AZ-1 is the gullwing door. The car uses suspension parts produced by Bilstein that can be found in a Porsche 962 and the brakes from a Ferrari F40. The car was rebuilt again in 2000 with the car now resprayed to white, also a wing replacing the ducktail spoiler of the original, also replaced was the tire with a slightly wider version, brakes are replaced by those from a Ferrari F50. The car have since then been sold on to a private owner in Japan.