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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Dingus
Dingus
1 month ago

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

Dennis Ames
Dennis Ames
1 month ago
Reply to  Dingus

saw the headlights, and said Mazda as well.

Mike B
Mike B
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Ames

Me three!

Aron9000
Aron9000
1 month ago

What the hell is a Clef??? I know a bass clef or a treble clef. Or is it an obnoxious postal worker who is 45 and still lives with his mother??

Ronald Pottol
Ronald Pottol
1 month ago

It just screams Mazda to me.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
1 month ago

I suppose I should be glad I couldn’t be more wrong. I saw the red, white, and blue badge and started thinking something MVS was considering as something cheaper than the Venturi

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 month ago

Meanwhile I was convinced it was some rare prototype/variant of the GM EV1, or some other similar electric concept. If you omit the little circular lights up front, it could easily pass for the EV1 sedan we never got.

R53forfun
R53forfun
1 month ago

I just wanna applaud the Holden Camira reference. So random. Love it (the reference, not the actual Camira … That’s a picture of a shitty one but they were ultimately all shiiiit).

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
1 month ago
Reply to  R53forfun

If you hang around the Autopian Discord at all, you may have witnessed me slowly losing my mind attempting to find any existence of the Holden Camira on Google Maps, it took me several weeks and something close to 30 hours of browsing Street View, to finally find one… Captured by Street View in 2010…

R53forfun
R53forfun
1 month ago
Reply to  FlavouredMilk

I haven’t yet signed into the Discord, but damn, a Camira lasted until 2010? I’m amazed. And sorry for you. And the poor bastard driving the Camira 🙂

They were a hit in regional Victoria, Australia in 1986 or so in my experience and the plates in that pic more or less align with my recollection.

Hope your sanity is returning :).

FlavouredMilk
FlavouredMilk
1 month ago
Reply to  R53forfun

Well, if you find your way there, you can read over my efforts, ha, posted plenty of other neat Street View spots while I was looking. As for my sanity? I wasn’t happy with finding one that was 14 years out of date, I’m still looking. The goal is to find one from no earlier than 2020. If I manage to find one locally, I’ll drive out and hopefully get a real pic of one, ha. Haven’t seen a surviving one in the flesh since 2015.

Sarah Blikre
Sarah Blikre
1 month ago

I’m trying to fight the urge to be needlessly pedantic, but the ZX2 was an Escort not a Focus.

Box Rocket
Box Rocket
1 month ago
Reply to  Sarah Blikre

The Focus came as a ZX2 as well for the facelifted model (2008-2011) that didn’t have the hatch or wagon, and only came in coupe and sedan forms, IIRC. I don’t believe they had any badging declaring them as such but I thought that was a carryover artifact from the first generation that fizzled out after a year or two. But I could be misremembering.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
1 month ago

Hmmm. Derivative pieced together stuff. I would have guessed Nissan; the Japanese Pontiac.

V8 Fairmont Longroof
V8 Fairmont Longroof
1 month ago

I was close – was guessing Eunos…

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 month ago

No, I didn’t know this model but knew of Autozam…these look pretty good!

Michael Rogers
Michael Rogers
1 month ago

It’s like Beck, only for cars instead of music.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago

Trying to sell the Clef next to the Cronos was nothing but treble.

Root Beer
Root Beer
1 month ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Gonna hate myself for adding to this: Same car, but different bass prices, what’s the point?

…yep, hate myself

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 month ago
Reply to  Root Beer

Don’t feel bad if puns aren’t your forte. It’s still appreciated by the staff, even if it falls flat. I think it measured up just fine, personally.

DysLexus
DysLexus
1 month ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

I’ll take a “crack” at this too.

This is just like the “gluteal cleft” of basic 90’s automotive transportation.

“Everybody has one and they all stink”

Wezel Boy
Wezel Boy
1 month ago

The headlights definitely said 90’s Mazda MX-6.

Daniel MacDonald
Daniel MacDonald
1 month ago

While a bit generic otherwise, the nose actually has more personality than the ’90s 626. Which drove great but was a bit bland in spite of how good the MX-6 looked.

Alec Harvey
Alec Harvey
1 month ago

I always thought the Clef was cool, used to see the occasionally around in NZ. The Mazda MS-8 is an interesting one to look at as well with the dash mounted shifter.

Fuzzyweis
Fuzzyweis
1 month ago

I was thinking 90s Mazda too, I really liked the styling of the MX-6 when it came out, and the MX-3 with it’s smallest production V6 was cool, and the Millenia with it’s” Miller cycle V6″, like the average person would know what the heck that was.

Sad how now Mazda’s just crossovers and the Miata, not a truck or a sedan to be seen.

Chrisjbuffy
Chrisjbuffy
1 month ago
Reply to  Fuzzyweis

The Mazda3 sedan is still alive! For now.

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
1 month ago

This should’ve been sold here. Perhaps it could’ve been sold here as a Ford or Mercury

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 month ago

“Autozam!” is what Gomer Pyle would say when he fixed a car.

Gubbin
Gubbin
1 month ago

Completely unschooled me immediately thought, “Mazda! Or, like, a bigger Ford Probe, which is basically a Mazda!”

Mr E
Mr E
1 month ago
Reply to  Gubbin

Ditto. First thought was a 90s MX-3, but the circular lights inside the headlights threw me for a loop.

OttosPhotos
OttosPhotos
1 month ago
Reply to  Gubbin

Yup, Mazda 626 was my first guess.

Alexander Moore
Alexander Moore
1 month ago

Autozam Clef. I guess since I’m in the comments I could have cheated, but I’ve really loved the look of this thing for decades. It’s perhaps the most ‘normal’ Autozam product and way better looking than any of the ’90s Mazda sedans we got here (except the 929). I was always salty that the Clef was never rebadged here as a ‘Mazda 525’ or something.

Torque
Torque
1 month ago

Based on general design I was guessing 1990s Mazda.

Which reminds me since it came up, I can’t remember the last time I saw a Mazda Millenia with its “Miller Cycle” engine.

JumboG
JumboG
1 month ago
Reply to  Torque

My friends auto-immolated itself.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
1 month ago
Reply to  Torque

I was guessing Mazda from the top shot, but the incorrect emblem was making me second guess myself.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
1 month ago
Reply to  Torque

Yeah those lights look identical to the NB Miata so I knew it was Mazda but didn’t expect the Autozam. I forget about that little experiment outside of the AZ-1

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
1 month ago
Reply to  Torque

I had a Millenia S, admittedly not a smart buy and not well cared for, but man it had problems all the way from broken cupholders to a pretty big hard to trace drain on the battery to a massive oil leak, plus premature rust. Great idea, not so great execution.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
1 month ago

All that design analysis and you don’t do the reveal until near the end of the article?

That was quite the clefhanger.

Chris D
Chris D
1 month ago

Not really, you could read “Autozam CLEF” on the license plate.

Marques Dean
Marques Dean
1 month ago

The rear quarter reminds me of the 4th generation Hyundai Sonata (EF platform-1998-2001).

Beasy Mist
Beasy Mist
1 month ago

I certainly can’t prove I knew, but the side profile pic told me this was a 626. It was always my favorite generation of that car and the lines are shared so closely with the non-facelifted Millenia as well.

Citrus
Citrus
1 month ago

I knew it was an Autozam Clef! Because I’m a double nerd – it was also the name of a character in Magic Knight Rayearth, and all the characters in that series were named after cars.

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