COTD: Mr. Wankel's Opus edition

To Mazda's rotary enthusiasts, the sound of Johnny Herbert tossing the 787B around Le Mans for the first time since it won 20 years ago is pure music. Our post on the death of Mr. Wankel's creation and the rising tide of beige spawned several epic comments. Picking the one by F1_nothing_else_matters doesn't mean you should skip the rest:

Having owned SEVERAL rotaries over the years I can tell you that there is nothing more fun than wrapping the hell out of those engines over and over again.

My first experience with the rotary engine was in an RX-3 my parents bought. I couldn't understand how it worked. Obviously at the time there weren't very many resources out there to learn from (and I was 6 years old) but I asked a ton of questions about the car. From there they purchased a Mazda station wagon with a rotary. Again sitting in the driveway on cold mornings with the choke on waiting for the yellow light to go out when the car was warm enough I was fascinated by this engine.

Fast forward to the Mid '90's and I'm in high school and I finally have my driver's license. Sitting on a little used car lot a mile or so from my house is an '81 RXL GXL - Maroon with Burgundy interior. I stopped in and took it for a test drive and was again in love... My parents were not. I begged and pleaded, but I ended up with an '87 Escort GT.

Then I dated Ashley... whose father was a police officer... with a Japanese sports car addiction. My first date was interesting. I picked her up and introduced myself to her father. In the driveway was a white 300Z Turbo. Amazing car. We talked about it for a bit. He told me that his favorite car was in the garage. A 1979 RX7... first gen first year. The second love of my life. Black on Black. Mint condition.

After several dates and several conversations... he actually offered to let me drive the car on our next date. Being 17 and in love with Ashley and the car I couldn't decide which was more exciting... driving the RX7 or Ashley... Now I would have to say... the car. I'll never forget trying to drive that car home before 11pm in a rainstorm. Every stop light babying it off the line, trying to keep it from breaking the tires loose.

A couple of weeks later I get a call... John had wrecked the RX7. He hit a deer on a back road on the way home. The good news... it was fixable. The GREAT news... he was going to let me choose how to restore it. I told him that a really dark teal color over black leather would look awesome on the car. At the time TEAL was THE color to have. A couple of months later... it was out of the shop. New paint, new interior... The car was awesome. I drove it several times and couldn't stop bouncing it off the buzzer. I loved that car and promised myself that at some point I would own one.

Several years and several cars later I finally had the chance. My last new rotary was a 2004 RX8 GT. I spared no expense on the car from the ground up actually contacting the Mazda tuning shop Auto-Exe. After having someone translate and also after finding someone who could import the parts I bought their entire parts catalog for the car. Nothing sounded like that car and nothing performed like that car on track. It wasn't the most powerful car on the road or the most exclusive but I was very proud of it. People always stopped me and asked me about it... even when it was stock. I miss that car.

Then there was Mr. Kruger.
I work in the automobile industry and I have met very interesting people along the way. Don was a Mustang fan. Don was in buying his last car I would sell him. He was diagnosed with cancer. He had just lost his son a year prior in the same way. Like some of my customers Don invited me out to his farm to visit. A week after the invite I was just a few miles from his house. I called and stopped by. We chatted for several hours about cars and also about his son. What Don had never told me was that he and his son LOVED to race cars. Specifically 1st gen RX7's. How this never came up over the years I will never know. He took me out to his detached garage and opened the door... Inside the building was an '81 RX7, roll cage with stock interior. On the ground was an extra engine and trans. Outside... another car... an '82. Both cars had been sitting for several years and actually the car outside had a small tree growing out from underneath it. We looked both cars over and talked for a bit and went back inside... I told Don about Ashley's dad's RX7. That's when Don decided to give me both cars. He told me that in the right hands that someone might have as much fun with them as he and his son did. From both cars there were enough parts to make one good car. So that's what I did.

I loved that car. I didn't care that I had to warm it up. I didn't care that it burned oil. I didn't care that it wasn't as fast as a Mustang GT or a TA. It represented something different to me. Not just the engine and how it worked. I tried the boing boing vroom vroom approach, but people would still ask how many cylinders it had. There was just too much fun surrounding that car.

To me the rotary will always been something that reminds me of good times.

Hopefully one day they'll bring her back.


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