John Webber
John Webber
9/16/20 12:23 p.m.

[Editor's Note: This article originally ran in the July 2007 issue of Classic Motorsports.]

 

What’s so complicated about it? Spin a single wedge-shaped “piston” through its four-stroke combustion cycle instead of firing it up and down. As a result, throw away a boatload of heavy parts, like a long crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons and valve train. Now rev the sucker way up there where reciprocating piston engines fear to go. After all, what can go wrong in an engine with only two moving parts?

As it turns out, it hasn’t been quite that simple. Some 50 years after Felix Wankel designed it, the rotary engine is still trying to rev its way to widespread acceptance and respectable sales in the automotive marketplace. Today, while numerous automakers hold licensing agreements to produce rotary engines, only Mazda uses it to power cars.

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