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What happened to this engine?

Quite awhile back, it may have been Mazda, I’m not sure, made a big deal about the WANKEL engine. I haven’t heard about it since. For some reason it just went thru my mind, I don’t know why but…I am just wondering if anyone has heard anything about it? Is it still around, is it in production any where and/ or is any manufacturer considering using it ? HEY, if anybody knows anything about it, please give an oldman peace of mind and share that info. radionutz (Donnie)

High power/cubic foot, but poor mpgs and low on torque. Neat idea, though…

Great idea on paper; the Wankel would be a good racing engine. But sealing the combustion chamber was a nightmare; oil consumption was a major problem. I almost bought one in the 70s. Outboard Marine Corporation, makers of Johnson and Evinrude motors tried a Wankel; awesome performance but short life. They gave up as well. Mazda had a Rotary (Wankel ) engine in the RX9, RX10, which is no longer made.

Meeting emissions was a major problem as well because of the poor combustion control.

A Wenkle actuallyy did race in the 24 hours at Lemans…and won. The following year, rules changes eliminated it.

Other Wenkle engines have raced as well, and their power to weight ratio gives them a serious advantage.

Mazda has been king of the rotary for a long time - so much so that the exhaust tips on some cars are shaped like a rotor, not that most people notice it. The entire RX series was rotary powered, and they were produced through the 2012 model year. With the demise of the RX-8, they no longer have one in production, but they say there will be a hydrogen-powered rotary in 2013.

"but they say there will be a hydrogen-powered rotary in 2013. "

Sounds like a pretty small market for that!

There was a pretty small market for the RX series.
Mercedes used a 4-rotor Wenkle in the C-111 prototype many years ago. Others have mess with it, but the doggoned apex seals were to hard to seal and keep sealed.

" High power/cubic foot, but poor mpgs and low on torque. "
Let Me Add To That.

I worked for a Mazda dealer around 1983 - 1984. I had several RX-7s for company cars. They were fun to drive. I enjoyed them.

However (You knew that was coming, right ?), being far north in the U.S., whenever we got cold snaps when temperatures dipped too much below 0*F, say -10F and colder, many RX-7s (compared with piston engine Mazdas) would be towed to the dealer with a no start condition. It was a cold temperature starting problem. Warm them up in the shop for a while and they’d start.

You can just imagine that not all mechanics just let them warm up without selling some necessary[?] maintenace/repairs and running the cost of the experience up a little for good measure.

I always felt the salespeople should have warned buyers in colder climates that the cars were not that dependable in severe winter use.

By the same token, I did have Volkswagen FI piston engine Rabbit company cars that also played dead in very cold weather. With the only means at my disposal I discovered that I could pull the sprk plugs, heat them in the oven, and they’d fire right up, if that makes sense.


You heated the sparkplugs in the oven?
Thanks for the chuckle.

Yeah, it makes sense. Heat energy is what begins the combustion process. The ceramic around the center electrode would retain the heat from the oven, and it must have added just enough heat around the electrodes when reinstalled to support the beginning of the combustion process in the cold chamber. Like a glow plug in a diesel.

I must have been lucky with my '83 Rabbit GTI in Anchorage. 12 years, never a problem. Unlike my friend with the '80 Rabbit that left him stranded a number of times…

I Had A Black (With Black/Red Upholstery - Nice Buckets) 4-Speed 84 GTI. Talk About A Car That Was Fun To Drive !

I think that had an 1800 engine and it was quite peppy. I had trouble doing the speed limit with it and had to explain that to the officers, once in a while.

That wasn’t a car I had starting problems with.


CSA - I had the exact same car, except an '83:

That Is The Car!

Know Another Fun VW ?

I worked at a different Volkswagen dealer when the Rabbits came out (1975 model-year). I think they were only 1500s and had a carb. We had a really plain Jane, stripped down model (too stripped for what Americans’ tastes would approve - “cardboard” interior door trim panels, “buttoned” on to the door).

However, those thing would get up and go, almost hard to steer ! The back-fires between shifts when you wound it out added to the sensation. I don’t know what made them so peppy. Maybe it was because I drove around in type 1s, 2s, and 3s all the time, but I don’t think so.


I also think the emissions aren’t great so the EPA doesn’t really like them. I understand that the very nature of the way they work requires that oil be mixed with the fuel or injected into the engine where some of it is burned, much like the 2 cycle oil in weed eaters, chainsaws, and such. Although 2 strokes have gotten much better as far as smokiness in recent years due to improved oils and engines, they still aren’t as good as the traditional 4 stroke. I am sure the Wankel is better yet but with the strict standards, they don’t have the ability to make as many. One of my leaf blowers has a catalytic converter yet burns the mixed gas. You get a little smoke at the first start but not much after a few seconds. My main complaint is that I can’t enrichen the mixture at all due to limiters and I can barely get the thing to run in cold weather.

Another source of the poor mpgs/high emissions is the shape of the combustion chamber: lots of area for the volume, harder to make it efficient/low emissions.

GM was working on a rotary engine back in the 1970s. It must have been close to being ready for production as American Motors designed its Pacer for this engine. AMC was going to buy this engine from GM. However, GM dropped the plans and AMC used its in-house 7 bearing 6 cylinder engine instead.

I was a big fan of the Wankel when gas prices were a buck something a gallon and came very close to buying one…now, I say good riddance. It has had it’s three minutes of fame, has failed to keep up with the rest of the designs economy wise and will be a forgot ton powerplant. It’s best use potential was outboard and snowmobile use, and it couldn’t keep up longevity wise.
Wankel…RIP Felix

I imagine teenagers now-a-days sometimes turn these old Mazda rotaries into racing cars for the local track. I expect they’d make good racing cars.

At the twice yearly SCCA club races that I work at Brainerd Raceway, (F & C) there’s usually one or two people running RX-8s in road race trim. Fairly fast, and VERY LOUD! We’re always showing them the sound board.