50 years of the Mazda rotary | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 05, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 10:24 PM, April 05, 2017

50 years of the Mazda rotary

Few collaborations between people of different nationalities has resulted in revolutionary automotive technologies that is as significant as the Mazda rotary engine. Similar to British and French engineers coming together to create the Concorde supersonic jet, the Mazda rotary is the product of German ingenuity and Japanese adaptability, and has stood the test of time as an unlikely candidate shortlisted for the greatest automotive engines ever made.

Mazda Cosmo Sport

Launched in 1967, the Cosmo was the first production car powered by the 110 HP, 1 litre 0810 rotary motor. The Series I was a product of the global space race, and the design reflected similar aspirations through a flying saucer shape and aircraft derived rotary motor. It's highly significant for being one of the best looking cars ever made, and showing the world the rotary engine is powerful and reliable enough to be put into serial production.


Mazda Luce Rotary coupe

Designed by GiorgettoGiugiaro with smooth flowing lines similar to BMW's 3.0 CSL, the Luce was the only FWD rotary in Mazda's history. The 13A wankel motor produced 126 HP and 127 lb-ft torque, while production numbers stood below 1000 units produced, making it one of the rarest Mazda coupes in history.


Mazda RX3/Savanna GT

The first of the legendary Rotary Experimental (RX) series of Mazda's sports cars to carry the name, the RX3 now has a cult following in Australia and New Zealand, where they're tuned to within an inch of their lives as drag spec cars.


Mazda RX7 FB/Savanna

By the time the first generation of the RX7 series went into production in 1971, the rotary engine had become synonymous with Mazda. The FB was sold in huge numbers all over the world, with a significant number making it into Bangladesh. Now, most are dead or disfigured beyond repair.


Mazda RX7 FC

The second generation of the RX7 took 80's wedge styling to new depths, resulting in a car that was incredibly square but also evocatively gorgeous. By now the Japanese were perfecting the secret art of drifting on mountain roads, and the RX7 FC with its balanced chassis and 215 HP 13B turbo rotary was a favourite of these underground street demons. It would later be immortalised as the weapon of choice for Ryosuke Takahashi, the brooding, calculative street racer in the Initial D manga/anime.


Mazda RX7 FD

No other rotary Mazda is as well-known as the RX7 FD, which took 90's tuning culture by storm and introduced an entire generation to Japanese drifting and tuning thanks to Sony's PlayStation and numerous street racing games. It got so out of hand that people started associating Mazda's winged emblem with sportiness, even assuming the 115 HP, FWD,arthritic Mazda Axela is sporty just because of the Mazda badge. The 13B-REW motor in the RX7 was available with 276 HP and had tremendous potential in the hands of tuners.


Mazda RX8

Some say the RX8 was a sacrilege to the RX name, that it was less pure and not really a car for enthusiasts because of the rear hinged half-doors and non-turbo engines. The RX8 was definitely a car for millennials, having loads of style and lesser substance underneath. It had tremendous handling abilities, though, and the RENESIS engine had lots of potential if cared for. The 1.3 litre displacement meant it was a cheap sports car, and markets like Bangladesh got loads of units because the RX8 was practically a hatchback according to its displacement on paper.

Click next for the man who invented the rotary engine and absolved himself, at least in the eyes of petrolheads, of a dark past.




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