By on September 23, 2019

Rotary engine fans are an odd bunch, but boy, are they patient. Say “maybe in the next decade” to them and they’ll pass their time doing whatever the hell rotary fans do in their off hours until it’s finally time for a resurrection of the pistonless internal combustion engine.

Over at Mazda, it’s been a long wait. Rumors of a successor to the RX-8, which bit the dust in 2012, have circulated for years, but company brass have remained focused on new crossovers, more efficient Skyactiv engines, and, more recently, electrification. And yet the automaker refuses to close the door on a rotary revival, keeping hope alive for those waiting for a new RX- product.

This latest patent from Mazda should tide them over. (Read More…)

By on October 2, 2018

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Arctic White marque badge detail

Mazda, an automaker that lacks even the mildest of hybrid vehicles, has announced a plan to  change its gas-obsessed image. In doing so, the “fun” Japanese brand will return a novel internal combustion engine to the automotive landscape: the rotary engine.

We’ve talked up this possibility ad nauseum in the past, but the plan’s now official. Announced Tuesday, Mazda will add a rotary engine as a range extender for its electrification program, with the first rotary-equipped hybrid production vehicle appearing in 2020. (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2018

Part III of this Rare Rides series explored how NSU readied itself to re-enter the car market and end its longstanding production tie-up with Fiat. Shortly after the painful divorce from the Italians, NSU’s first rotary-powered car was ready.

(Read More…)

By on July 9, 2018

Part II of the NSU story gave some color to the company’s first bout of financial trouble, and how it passed on a Ferdinand Porsche design that would go on to become the Volkswagen Beetle a few years later.

As we left off last time, NSU and Fiat were locked in a longstanding disagreement about who could brand which cars in which way.

(Read More…)

By on July 5, 2018

Back in the 1960s, a little German car company decided to spend a lot of money to create a new-to-them type of engine. The car company in question was NSU, and the engine that cost them so much money was a Wankel.

In a first-ever for the Rare Rides series, this will be a four-part entry. Come along as we explore the NSU brand and the Spider; a tiny roadster which ended up almost entirely responsible for the demise of its parent company.

(Read More…)

By on March 5, 2018

2018 Mazda CX-3 - Image: Mazda

If you’re prone to daydreaming about slinky roadsters and curvaceous coupes powered by a high-revving rotary engine, this news might disappoint.

Mazda, one of a dwindling handful of automakers not in possession of an electric (or even hybrid) vehicle, plans to change that status next year with the introduction of a small battery-powered car. Coming along for the ride — at least in one variant — is a rotary gas engine designed to go unnoticed by the driver. (Read More…)

By on January 10, 2018

e-Palette Concept

With news of Mazda’s rotary engine development surfacing throughout the past year, we’ve been actively following its progress. Of course, die-hard rotary fans have been less enthused, as all information points to the powerplant continuing on as a gas-driven range extender for EVs — rather than the heart and soul of a high-performance coupe. It could still happen, but it’ll be a long wait.

The prognosis recently became more interesting, though enthusiasts aren’t likely to feel any better about it. Toyota is hinting that Mazda’s rotary could be the perfect solution to a concept vehicle it’s currently working on. Unfortunately, that unit is the e-Palette — an autonomous box riding atop the company’s new battery electric platform, with more applications as a mobile store than as a personal conveyance.  (Read More…)

By on October 28, 2017

2015 Mazda RX Vision Concept - Image: Mazda

For five years now, Mazda has hinted, then promised, then reassured us that a rotary-powered sports car will return to the company’s lineup, ready to fill a spot left vacant by the departing RX-8 in 2012.

We’re still waiting and, Mazda now informs us, we’ll be waiting quite a bit longer. While the cylinderless gasoline engine holds promise as a range-extender in electrified vehicles (something powertrain chief Mitsuo Hitomi feels is a definite future use for the powerplant), that’s not something Wankel fans want to hear. They want to spin that engine up to eleventy billion rpm and drop the clutch.

It’ll happen, says Mazda’s senior managing executive officer, Kiyoshi Fujiwara, but something’s cropped up that pushed the rotary’s return to the back burner. That thing is the company’s gasoline compression ignition engine, the Skyactiv-X. (Read More…)

By on October 15, 2017

Mazda RX-7 FD

Mazda never gave up on the rotary engine. Despite putting it on hiatus after the RX-8 ended production in 2012, the automaker has continued developing rotary-based solutions to achieve locomotion. There has even been a longstanding promise that a Wankel motor would eventually return in a future sports car that would trump the MX-5 in outright performance. However, Mazda never mentioned when the world could expect to see another rotary in action.

Then Mitsuo Hitomi, Mazda’s global powertrain head, gave us a timeline to sink our teeth into. The year of the Wankel will be 2019, but it’s not coming back how you imagined. Instead of dropping it into a high-revving performance vehicle, Mazda thinks a rotary would make the perfect gas-powered range extender for its upcoming electric vehicle. (Read More…)

By on April 24, 2015

12 - 1983 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

First-generation RX-7s aren’t as common in self-service wrecking yards as they were five years ago, but it’s not hard to find a couple in a typical large yard in the Los Angeles or San Francisco areas. Most of the time I don’t photograph these cars, but we’ve seen this ’79, this ’79, this ’80, and this ’85 so far in this series, and now we’ve got today’s beat-looking but low-mile ’83 from Northern California. (Read More…)

By on November 10, 2014

mazda-cx5-fl-leak-1-1

What you’re seeing above isn’t the rendered visage of the next Mazda rotary sports car, but the leaked fascia of the new CX-5 crossover. Better get used to it.

(Read More…)

By on November 19, 2013

Wankel-1

Plans for a ressurected rotary engine appear to have hit a snag with Mazda CEO Masa-michi Kogai claiming that the required volumes for commercial viability are unrealistic.

(Read More…)

By on September 18, 2013

06 - 1979 Mazda RX-7 Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFirst-gen Mazda RX-7s aren’t difficult to find in self-service wrecking yards (we just saw this ’80 with Flashdance-grade custom paint and this fairly solid ’85), and so most of them don’t make it into this series. During my recent trip to California for the biggest 24 Hours of LeMons race in history, I stopped at one of my favorite East Bay wrecking yards and found this utterly rust-free example of one of the few bright spots of the Malaise Era. (Read More…)

By on August 29, 2012

The rotary engine and Mazda have had a tumultuus, on-and-off relationship that rivals an Old Hollywood marriage. Market conditions and government regulations have made mass production of the rotary a constant challenge, and the death of the Mazda RX-8 looked like the final nail in the Wankel’s coffin.

(Read More…)

By on June 26, 2012

Mazda is set to build the final RX-8, bringing a temporary end to the rotary engine, which powered its flagship sports cars for 45 years.

(Read More…)

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