Today on Regular Car Reviews, we have the Mazda Autozam AZ-1. One of the least regular cars ever made.
This is a Japanese domestic market legend, arguably the peak car of the Bubble Era, a product born of extravagant weirdness the likes of which we will probably never see again. A niche within a niche, built anyway despite it being unclear who the audience truly was. And yet as Mr. Regular describes it, like the friends you had when you were 12—loyal, up for adventure, eager to explore the world with you, unencumbered by the ugliness of life yet to come.
The video also dives into the AZ-1's unique history. A joint venture between microcar mainstay Suzuki and Mazda that had its genesis in the mid-1980s, it went to the 1989 Tokyo Motor Show as three different but similar concepts. Three years later, one of them went to production, built by Suzuki and sold by Mazda through the latter’s Autozam sales channel. At the time it competed with several sub-Miata kei-class sports sports cars like the Honda Beat and Suzuki’s own Cappuccino.
Anyway, the AZ-1 couldn’t survive the Japanese recession of the 1990s, so it was only made for three years and remains relatively rare today. But more and more of them are finding their way to the U.S., like this blue example in the video, which later sold on Bring A Trailer.
What’s it like to drive? Tiny, if you’re a tall and wide-assed American. Even Mr. Regular, who I’d describe as thin and of average height, has to take his shoes off to work the pedals because they are so small. The bizarre windows aren’t great for visibility. And it attracts so much attention it’s kind of hard to take anywhere.
But it’s so small that it feels fast, even if it really isn’t. He says the kilometer speedo actually feels like miles per hour when you’re driving it—much quicker. It has to be revved constantly and howls in your ear when it does.
Worth $16,000, like this blue one? Maybe for now. Mr. Regular says it’s pretty much the coolest car you can own at the moment—but he’s not sure that moment will last forever, and it comes with such immense sacrifices that you have to really want it.
I don’t care. I do.