Mazda Celebrates 40 Rotary-Powered Years... In Japan

Illustration for article titled Mazda Celebrates 40 Rotary-Powered Years... In Japan

Hard to believe, but it's been forty years since Mazda started selling vehicles with rotary engines. Their marketers aren't trumpeting their pride over that milestone in the US of A, probably because the '67 models weren't sold here, but it's a different story in Japan. You can get a special 40th Anniversary Edition RX-8 over there; the rest of us will have to settle for the cool Wankelated graphics on Mazda's Japanese site, which has a nice slideshow of rotary Mazdas over the decades. [mazda.co.jp]

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DISCUSSION

@Dolo54 -

Wankel pros:

a) no strictly reciprocating masses, no inertial imbalance, hence very smooth operation

b) easy to rev very high (9000 RPM+), therefore high power density of ~200hp/liter

c) light weight and small package

d) no valve train, therefore cheap to build once you get the kinks worked out (which is hard)

Wankel cons:

d) wear and tear on the rotor seals

e) oil-in fuel lubrication means oil consumption and greater difficulty in meeting emissions

f) inherently elongated combustion chamber requires two spark plugs

g) high specific fuel consumption

h) exotic technology, therefore more expensive maintenance

i) seals limit compression ration to ~10:1, therefore not suitable for diesel fuel