Written & Photographed by Kishan Sondagar
While hanging out at the Nokia Charity Auto Show by our booth I hear Brandon A. in the background, “YOOOOO! an Autozam!”. I turn quickly to check out a classic red Autozam AZ-1. Not the usual car you would see at a meet in Ottawa. Just as we realized the owner was about to leave the meet we rushed over to throw him a business card; a quick greeting, contact information exchange, and in no time the small gull-winged coupe was lost in the crowd.. Until Brandon and I were reunited with the rare KEI car once again a couple days later.
At first glance the AZ-1 is absolutely amazing, especially for its year and current condition; and at first glance for someone who’s played Gran Turismo 2, 3, 4 and 5 as a kid are more prone to having a “YOOOOO!” factor. A fair bit of my car knowledge actually comes from the hours and hours of playing Gran Turismo years ago and to see an Autozam in the flesh is a rare and amazing sight. This particular AZ-1 was imported in May of 2016 through an importer located in London, Ontario. With only 4,392 of them ever made it took quite some time to find the one worth bringing over.
When received it wasn’t in the current state that you see today. Riddled with electronics mounted anywhere and everywhere within the tiny cabin; 3 on the dash, 2 on the center console, one behind the passenger seat, LED interior lighting, an air filtration unit, a rats nest of wiring inside the ‘frunk’, dry-rotted tires, a horrid cheap plastic steering rimmed steering wheel, cigarette burns in the driver’s seat (that explains the air filtration unit), and obviously the hole infested dash from the mounts for the electronic gizmos and such. After removing the excessive amount of electronics, a dash was sourced out and replaced. Along with the dash came a new Nardi steering wheel, rims and tires, a full interior cleaning, and a replacement of the Japanese head unit to an aftermarket one due to the fact that Japanese radio’s host a different radio frequency than North American standards.
A little background on what the Autozam AZ-1 is: Autozam was a brand name under Mazda, and the AZ-1 was sold by Mazda’s Autozam brand but designed and Manufactured by Suzuki. Being one of the most renown KEI cars mainly from its use of gull-winged doors and rarity of only being 4’392 manufactured due to the recession in Japan verses its competitors (the Honda Beat and Suzuki Cappuccino).
The AZ-1 is powered by a 3 cylinder turbo charged DOHC 12-valve engine with a relatively small displacement of just over half a litre, 656cc to be exact; which In my honest opinion is a great match to the light curb weight of 1’590lbs. I had the chance to take a ride in the KEI car and it pulls just enough to put a smile on your face. Boosting around 10.5lbs pushing the 3 cylinder to what is stated to be the KEI car agreement of 64hp.
You can follow the AZ-1 on Instagram @littlecirclebigcircle