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.