In the latest episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, our favorite denim-clad comedian drives a mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive car with Gullwing doors. If you aren’t sure what vehicle that describes, it might be because the Autozam AZ-1 was never imported to the United States when new. With the 25-year clock having run out, they are starting to pop up stateside.
The blue 1992 Mazda Autozam AZ1 featured in the episode is owned by Ashley DeLuca and weighs in at just 1500 pounds. In Japan, the AZ-1 belongs to a class called kei cars, short for kei jidōsha, which are limited in dimensions, engine size, and horsepower. When the Autozam was new in 1992, that engine limit was 660 cubic centimeters. But the three-cylinder packs a turbo and is mounted between the driver and the rear axle, making this two-seater a mid-engine city car. The small turbocharger helps bring the total output from the 12-valve DOHC mill to 64 horsepower and 63 lb-ft of torque. Not numbers to write home about, but while driving, Jay seems impressed with how quickly the coupe builds speed.
With the engine and transmission occupying the rear of the car, one might think (as Jay did) that the front of the car would have some storage space. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Just a spare tire, the horn, and brake components occupy the area under the small front clamshell.
With no storage space and only two seats, the Autozam seems to fit the market of a city car for a driving enthusiast. Jay compares its usefulness to that of a Ferrari F40, and the owner quickly points out that the price of the AZ1 makes it much more attainable than the car from Maranello. Even with 65,000 miles on the odometer, this AZ1 holds a value less than $15,000.