Automotive Rotary Cars Sport

The History of Rotary Cars

Rotary cars have evolved with the rotary engine, newer models produced over the years. A rotary car often has a rotary engine, which is different from other engines because it can achieve intake, compression, combustion and exhaust while still rotating. The history of rotary cars dates back to the invention of the rotary engine in 1924.

The History of Rotary Cars

At 17 years, a would-be German mechanical engineer, Felix Wankel, had an idea a new internal gasoline combustion engine. In 1924, Wankel set up a laboratory to engage in research and development of the engine. During World War II, he took his knowledge of the rotary valves to the German Aeronautical Research Establishment. At around this time, a leading motorcycle manufacturer, NSU Motorenwerk AG, had an interest in his work and consequently, Wankel signed a deal with NSU in 1951.

1957 saw Wankel and NSU completed a prototype they called DKM. In 1959, the manufacturer officially released a statement announcing the completion of Felix Wankel’s rotary engine. This development saw several automotive companies around the globe rush for partnerships to have the rotary engine in their products. Among them was the Japanese automotive maker, Mazda. In 1961, NSU signed a contract with Mazda after the Japanese president’s approval.

Mazda established a Rotary Engine Research Department in 1963 to experiment and determine how perfectly the rotary engine would be in vehicles. Four years later, May 1967, Mazda released the Cosmo Sport, the world’s first dual-rotor rotary-engine car. The car would cover a quarter-mile in just 16.4 seconds and had a top speed of 115mph.

Mazda’s confidence was growing and, in 1968, it began installing the rotary engines in several other cars including its coupes and sedans. In 1969, Mazda launched the Luce R130 coupe, its first Luce having a rotary unit. Two years later, the company released the Mazda RX-3 which many car enthusiasts termed as a precious performer. The car would dispatch to 60mph in 10.8 seconds, with the quarter-mile mark reached in only 17.6 seconds. The RX-3 continued to be popular and successful up to 1978.

By late 1970s rotary car engines had become very popular in both the United States and Europe. Besides Mazda, other companies that were formed partnerships with NSU included Alfa Romeo, Daimler-Benz, Rolls-Royce, Suzuki, General Motors, and Toyota.

In 1982, Mazda released the Cosmo RE Turbo, the planet’s first rotary engine having a turbocharger. The Impact Turbo would later be released. Much advancement has since been made and several rotary cars manufactured. However, the production of rotary engines stopped on June 21st, 2012.

Automotive Rotary Cars Sport

Top Five Rotary Cars


Top five Rotary Cars

1. Audi A1 e-tron concept.

This car is unique in the sense that its wheels are actually not driven by its rotary engine. An electronic motor producing 101bhp powers the Audi A1 e-tron. A single rotor engine extends the maximum range the 12kWh battery can provide.

The rotary unit only displaces 245cc and will only start up when the battery is low. This comes with a few benefits. Firstly, higher output per every liter of the rotary unit compared to a piston equivalent suggests that a lighter and smaller engine can be used. This improves the car’s power-to-weight ratio, and in turn, there is increased range and a boosted efficiency. Secondly, higher emissions and reduced fuel economy (which are the common issues often associated with rotary engines) are countered.

2. Mazda Eunos Cosmo

The 1990 Eunos Cosmo had a three-rotor engine and twin turbochargers. The 1962cc rotary unit produced up to 295bhp and 297lb ft of torque (even by today’s standards, this is a lot). The car could dispatch to 62mph in only 6.2 seconds. It was most powerful rotary car Mazda ever produce.

Automotive Rotary Cars Sport

Top Five Rotary Cars: Part 2

3.The Mazda RX-7.

This 1.3 liter with a turbo model came out in 1979. Its third generation models had a pair of turbochargers added, and its twin-rotor unit produced 252bhp. With a 1218 curb weight, the power-to-weight rated at 210bhp per ton.
The 3rd generation RX-7 would hit up to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds. The car attained the quarter-mile mark in only 13.9 sec at 99.7 mph

4. Citroen GS BIrotor.

The car featured a twin 995cc rotary unit that produced up to 106bhp. In fact, this was about 40bhp more than the most powerful regular GS’s with piston units. With its smoother power delivery, the GS Birotor was also perhaps the better all-around drive. The car had a more luxurious interior than standard GS.

5. The Mazda 787B

This car has 2.6 liter 4-rotor unit that produces up to 697bhp at 9000rpm, and a 448lb ft of torque at 6500rpm in race trim. However, Mazda has claimed 845bhp can be generated in qualifying spec. As a matter of fact, the Mazda 787B was the only Japanese car to ever win the Le Mans.