Autozam AZ-1 -- Bug Eyes & Gull Wings
What's Autozam, you ask? Well, take one part Mazda, mix with a hefty helping of Suzuki and shake vigorously. Result: the Autozam AZ-1.
This rakish two-seat coupe packed a lot into a little, including a peppy 657 cc turbocharged midship mounted engine. While the frog-like headlights are a turn-off, way cool gullwing doors are an unexpected surprise (and useful in tight parking situations). Likened by some to a "mini Testarossa", the AZ-1 was made from 1992 through 1994. (via Japanoid)
Honda Beat -- Mr. Honda's Curtain Call
Company founder Soichiro Honda went out on a high note, approving the irresistibly cute Beat shortly before his death in 1991. Good one, Mr. H!
Over 33,000 of the mid-engine, two-seat convertibles were made before production ceased in 1996. The Honda Beat would surely have stolen a beat on the Mazda Miata had it been exported here. (via IGN)
Chevrolet MW -- "Rike A Lock"
Yes, a Chevy that's not sold in the USA! This badge-engineered version of the 2006+ Suzuki Cervo adds a glimmer of bowtie bling to Japan's boxy "high wagon" minicar market. Check out this Japanese TV ad for the Chevy MW...
Would the Chevy MW sell well for GM on America's mean streets and, more notably, wide-open highways? Just a single encounter with a speeding semi on the interstate might sour one on the MW, but city commuters who've been lusting after the Smart Car might think otherwise.
Eunos JC Cosmo -- Power, Luxury, Rarity
I saw a Eunos JC Cosmo "in the flesh" when I first visited Japan in late 1990 and was blown away by its beautiful, sweeping lines and obvious luxury touches. Eunos - Mazda's domestic up-market brand - had a formidable Benz & Bimmer killer with the JC Cosmo yet didn't throw down the gauntlet by directly competing with the German luxocars outside Japan.
Outstanding features of the JC Cosmo included a powerful 3-rotor Wankel engine and a GPS touch screen navigation system - in 1990! Exclusive and expensive, the meticulously crafted JC Cosmo was made in very small numbers from 1990 through 1996. (via 3rotor)
And there you have it, Ten Weird, Wild & Wonderful Japanese Cars We Never Got to Buy. Did I miss any? "Ten" is an arbitrary number, so if there's a fave of yours I missed, please let us know by leaving a comment!
Japanese Innovations Writer