6) 1992 Mazda Autozam AZ-1 & 1993 Suzuki Cara
Engine: 660cc F6A Turbo 3-Cylinder, 64 hp
Country of Origin: Japan
The Mazda Autozam AZ-1 & Suzuki Cara are mid-engined sports coupé bodied kei cars, designed and manufactured by Suzuki but sold by in the majority by Mazda under its Autozam brand. Both cars utilise a 657cc turbo 3-cylinder which produced 64 hp @ 6,500 rpm. The AZ-1 launched in October 1992 with chassis ID PG6SA for the Mazda and January 1993 with chassis ID PG6SS for the for the Suzuki. The difference, aside from the obvious Suzuki badging, was that the Cara had no optional ABS and fog lamps mounted in the front bumper as standard. For this reason it was slightly more expensive than its Autozam counterpart.
Both cars were available in a choice of either Classic Red or Siberia Blue over Venetian Grey lower panels. Unfortunately by the time car came into production, the recession in Japan had just come into force. The AZ-1 was considered to be both too expensive and too cramped for a kei car. The car failed to sell within its target of 800 per month, in the midst of an economic recession. Production ceased in February 1994 with less than 5000 combined models being produced. Both cars continued to be sold until March 1995.
In a bid to shift unsold stock, Mazda made an effort to produce special versions. Two Mazda limited edition models were produced from February 1994 until March 1995 making use of some of the unsold production cars – the Mazdaspeed version, launched in February 1994, and the M2-1015 which launched three months later in May. The Mazdaspeed version was available in Classic Red, Siberia Blue, Brilliant Black or Silver, without the Grey lower panels, although this version is most distinguishable by its Mazdaspeed styling pack including a deeper scooped bonnet, extended front bumper, a larger rear wing, and new alloy wheels. The Mazdaspeed package also included new sports suspension, chassis stiffening strut bars front & rear, a more free-slowing air filter, stainless steel muffler, and a mechanical LSD. The M2-1015 was produced by M2 Incorporated and was available in Brilliant Black, Frozen White or Silver, all one colour like the Mazdaspeed version. The M2 can be easily recognised by its large fog laps incorporated into the bonnet, as well as its unique front bumper and rear wing.
7) 2003 Bristol Fighter
Engine: 8.0 Litre Viper V10, 532+ hp
Country of Origin: England
Bristol Cars’ iconic two-seater supercar with gullwing doors and the turning circle of a London taxi; The ultra-aerodynamic Fighter could well be the sanest, most practical 200+ mph supercar ever made. The Fighter shared the same innovative design features as aircraft with the whole body shell being designed aerospace-trained engineers effectively as one big wing used to eliminate high speed lift. This gave the Fighter a drag co-efficient of just 0.28 Cd which meant that no other car at the time accelerated like the Fighter over 120 mph.
The fighter boasted a modified Dodge Viper 8 Litre V10 engine, producing a normally aspirated 532 hp or around 550 hp when closing in on 200 mph thanks to a mild ram supercharging effect. This enabled the 0-62mph sprint in just 4 seconds with a top speed of 210 mph. Bristol also produced a Fighter S with 637 hp or 660 hp with the aforementioned ram air effect. 2006 heard whispers of twin-turboed, 1026 hp, Fighter T with an even lower drag co-efficient of 0.27 Cd and a claimed top speed of 270 mph that was enough to worry the boys at Bugatti. Sadly however, no Fighter T was ever produced and the total number of Fighters produced is rumoured to be as low as 13 units.
8) 2005 Gumpert Apollo
Engine: 4.2 Litre Bi-turbo V8, 650+ hp
Country of Origin: Germany
In 2004, Gumpert officially founded GMG Sportwagenmanufaktur Altenburg GmbH in Altenburg, Germany, thus paving the way for the birth of one of the most exotic niche German supercars of the past decade: the Gumpert Apollo. The 2006 Gumpert Apollo was a mid-engine supercar that combined the extreme aerodynamic requirements of a performance-oriented, purist supercar with finer engineering details that would allow it to be a contender on the track. The Apollo was given air inlets at the front and on the side of the car, both in front of and behind the doors, the high-performance braking system with enough air to ensure that the car maintains optimum braking operation for the duration of a race. Engineers also included a high-set air intake that would provide the car’s two turbochargers with enough cool air. Lastly, there is a diffuser that gives all the negative lift the Apollo needs to put its power to the ground at high speeds.
The engine for the Apollo was based on Audi’s 4.2 Litre V8 which Gumpert strapped two intercooled turbochargers to. This engine came with from Audi with a closed-deck crankcase and dry sump lubrication. The aluminium cylinder heads had five valves per cylinder, two overhead camshafts per cylinder bank, VarioCam Direct variable valve timing on the intakes, and hydraulic valve clearance compensation. All-in, this made for an output of 650 hp with a 0-62 mph time of just 3 seconds, accelerating to a top speed of 224 mph.
Since it’s debut in 2006, Gumpert has developed several different versions of the Apollo. The first redesign was the 2007 Apollo Sport which came with new bodywork including an extended aerodynamic package that comes with a racing wing instead of the three-part spoiler the original Apollo came with, and redesigned taillights. Power was now 700 hp to go with a 0-62 mph time of 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 225 mph.
Two years later came the 2009 Apollo Speed with a revised design featuring a swooping front end with wider, more prominent wheel arches. The Speed also included suspension sitting 11 mm lower, a less restricted induction system, a small adjustable spoiler, and a fully enclosed carbon-aluminum underbody. For the 2009 Apollo Speed, Gumpert gave it a number of optional outputs, including the base 650 hp, a Sport version with 700 hp, and a Race version with 800 hp.
2010 saw the rebirth of the Apollo Sport with a much more aggressive design. Thanks to an optimised engine control, new recirculation valves and improved cooling, the new Apollo Sport saw an improvement on the output to 750 hp. The 2010 Apollo Sport also came with a number of new technologies, including a Formula 1-type electronic gearing system from the Apollo TT40e that provided extremely short gear shifts in as little as 40 milliseconds.
Gumpert went into administration in 2012 shortly after the announcement of the 2012 Apollo R & 2012 Apollo Enraged at the Geneva Motor Show. This being said however, there is word on the web that Gumpert could be set to return as early as 2018.
Excellent article! Some stuff there that was new to me. A gull wing Bugatti? Fantastic! I notice you didn’t mention the Mercedes C III.