Home » I Can Almost Guarantee You Don’t Know What Car This Is, Even If You’re A Car Supernerd

I Can Almost Guarantee You Don’t Know What Car This Is, Even If You’re A Car Supernerd

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Asparagus grows like a practical joke. It looks like someone bought asparagus from the greengrocer, stuck it in the ground pointed up, and then tried to prank their friends by claiming that’s how asparagus grows, except that’s exactly how asparagus grows. Now, imagine the car equivalent of that. The right blend of anonymity and era-specific elements to give off the impression of an airbrushed genericar from an insurance commercial, yet complete series production. You are about to witness the boring/interesting bell curve wrap around in on itself, as something so fascinatingly boring takes the stage.

There are likely a handful of truly obsessed individuals out there who’ve seen this thing before. Maybe they’ve even owned one before. If you can go full Pete Weber about this car, I’d suggest biting your tongue for now and just watching everyone get confused.

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This is a car that looks like nothing and everything from the ’90s all at once like it’s a four-wheeled replicant or something. Up front, you get the vibes that someone looked at the grille treatment on a Honda Beat and wanted to turn that frown upside-down, and then they swiped the headlight treatment from the Lexus SC300 but messed up the scaling.

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Around the back, things get even weirder. It looks like a hairless 1994 Pontiac Grand Am, especially in the lighting department. Those taillight silhouettes and bumper lights suggest that whoever made this thing builds excitement, except we all know damn well it wasn’t Pontiac, right? Never before has a car looked like so many other cars and also no other singular car at the same time.

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It looks like an Accord Del Sol. It looks like a Holden Camira that badly needs an Epi-Pen. It looks like a Ford Focus ZX/2 had incestuous relations with a Contour and this is the result. In the words of Matt Hardigree, “I’ve never seen a car that looks less like itself the more photos you see.” Those wheels were definitely shared with the Mazda MX-6, and the 2.5-liter KLZE V6 is a legendary Mazda engine, but what Mazda could this be?

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As it turns out, it’s an Autozam. An Autozam Clef, to be precise. It’s basically a swoopier 626, the missing link between Mazda’s midsize sedan of the ’90s and MX-6. Ain’t that something? From 1992 to 1994, Mazda made a quantity of these vehicles, although I suspect Mazda’s the only thing that knows how many. Being at a tax disadvantage in its native Japanese market can do that.

See, the Autozam Clef was built on the GE platform and taxed the same as Mazda’s more traditional Cronos (that’s a 626 to North Americans) sedan. Given the sorts of conservative and proper types who’s buy a family sedan in Japan, it’s not surprising that many of them chose the Mazda over the Autozam. Plus, these two models were basically identical on the inside, so why not go for the Cronos? It just made sense, like investing in mutual funds and brushing your teeth.

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However, those who did choose the Autozam are surely getting the last laugh some 30-plus-years later. It’s almost like a rolling case of “This Man,” except it’s entirely real and not at all invented in a collective fever dream. In fact, the Autozam Clef is among the more clever JDM cars to import. Not only is maintenance fairly straightforward, but people won’t believe their eyes when one of these things passes by. Now wouldn’t that be fun to watch?

(Photo credits: Mazda)

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Industrial_design_guy
Industrial_design_guy
20 days ago

The first thought that came to mind was mazda, purely based on those headlights. They have a total 2nd gen Miata vibe. When I saw the pic with wheels, I immediately recognized the 626 wheels, figured it had to be a Mazda of some form.

Carlos Ferreira (FR)
Carlos Ferreira (FR)
21 days ago

That first picture reminded me of the Mazda MX-3, which was also sold in Japan through Autozam (it was the AZ-3).

Black Peter
Black Peter
21 days ago

yes, I was sure it was Mazda related due to that similar design language.

Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
Do You Have a Moment To Talk About Renaults?
21 days ago

Oh wow, I glanced at the car and was like “pretty sure this is a Mazda”, but I’d never guess what it is exactly.

Myk El
Myk El
21 days ago

I think I only knew this because it’s one of the massive number of automotive references in Magic Knight Rayearth. Why a Magical Girl Manga/Anime was that loaded with automotive references, I will never know.

Mike B
Mike B
21 days ago

My initial thought was that it remined me of 90’s Mazda (MX3? The little hatchback with the small V6). I was half right, so at least I got that going for me.

M0L0TOV
M0L0TOV
21 days ago

You should see some of the fun stuff the Aussies did with the button plan. A Nissan Patrol marketed as a Ford Maverick? Sure! A Nissan Stanza as a Ford, exemplary! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Button_car_plan

Dingus
Dingus
21 days ago

I feel good about myself at least thinking it was a mazda. It has mx3 vibes at the nose.

Dennis Ames
Dennis Ames
21 days ago
Reply to  Dingus

saw the headlights, and said Mazda as well.

Mike B
Mike B
21 days ago
Reply to  Dennis Ames

Me three!

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