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Click image for a gallery of the Mazda Cosmo Sport

The good old internal combustion engine has been in service since the 17th century when Sir Samuel Morland rather impractically used gunpowder to drive water pumps. It was not until 1876 when Nikolaus Otto invented the modern four stroke engine that the internal combustion engine became practical for automobiles, however. Those same four cycles, intake, compression, combustion and exhaust are used in the Wankel rotary engine, although instead of the strokes of a piston the rotary creates it's cycles as a roughly triangular shaped rotor spins inside its housing. Doesn't make sense? Click here.

2007 marks Mazda's 40th in using the rotary engine. Our favorite application of it would have to be the Cosmo Sport, of course. Many of you will choose the RX-7 as a personal favorite. It's also alive in the current RX-8, which even sports a hydrogen-powered version for the alternative fuel crowd. And we'd be remiss if we forgot to mention the jaw-dropping four-rotor 787B racer that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Those of us who own, or have owned, a rotary engined vehicle and loved it can take this moment to say "thanks" to Felix Wankel and to Mazda for its commitment to the rotary. Forty years and going strong!

We've assembled four galleries of famous Mazda rotaries, including the Cosmo Sport gallery below, as well as galleries of the RX-7, RX-8 and 787B Le Mans racer.

[Source: Mazda]


Mazda Celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the Rotary Engine Vehicle
Today marks the 40th anniversary of Mazda's first rotary engine powered vehicle. As of the end of April 2007, Mazda has manufactured approximately 1,970,000 rotary vehicles since production first began.

Mazda's Representative Director, Chairman of the Board, President and CEO, Hisakazu Imaki, said, "The rotary engine symbolizes Mazda. It was born from the tireless efforts of our past leaders and a corporate culture which embraces tough challenges. Keeping this proud tradition going forward, we will continue our research and development of the rotary engine in accordance with the Sustainable Zoom-Zoom plan that we announced in March 2007. As Mazda's next generation eco-engine, the hydrogen rotary engine holds great promise and, in fact, is already running on public roads. Mazda will aspire to adding new value to our rotary technologies by investing further in hydrogen rotary engine Research & Development."

Near the end of the 1950s, many automakers around the world dedicated considerable Research & Development resources for the development of the rotary engine (RE), but most discontinued their efforts because they were unable to surmount the formidable technical challenges inherent to the technology. Mazda alone persevered, eventually overcoming these obstacles and successfully achieved RE mass production. On May 30, 1967, Mazda commenced sales of the world's first dual-rotor RE car, the Cosmo Sport. Following this, Mazda introduced other RE vehicles to the market, including the Familia Rotary Coupe, Savanna, RX-7 and Eunos Cosmo. With a number of improvements in fuel economy and environmental performance over the years, sales of Mazda vehicles equipped with RE engines continue to be produced.

Mazda began its involvement in motor sports in 1968, following the release of the Cosmo Sport, when RE cars started participating in car races. In 1991, the Mazda 787B made rotary engine history when it became the only Japanese car ever to claim victory at the Le Mans 24 hour endurance race. Additionally, with over 100 wins in both the touring car series in Japan and in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) series in the United States, RE-equipped racecars have enjoyed a glittering record of success.

The RX-8 sports car was launched in April 2003. It is powered by the new generation, naturally-aspirated RENESIS rotary engine, which is more compact, powerful and environmentally friendly than its predecessors. Britain's specialist technology magazine, Engine Technology International, awarded the RENESIS its coveted International Engine of the Year award in 2003 as well as successive awards for its engine class in 2003 and 2004, to show its high regard for this engine.

Currently, Mazda is advancing with its development of the hydrogen RE, which emits no carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the gases responsible for global warming. Development of the hydrogen RE started in 1991 and has thus far resulted in the RX-8 Hydrogen RE, which in February 2006 became the world's first hydrogen RE vehicle to be commercially leased. Currently, seven hydrogen RE vehicles are on the road in Japan under commercial lease.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Long live the Rx-7.

      And the RX-8 too I guess.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I owned a '74 RX-4 back in the '80s. I very nice sport sedan that stole some styling queues from BMW. If I remember right, the model line in the 1970s also included the RX-2 (a little 2 seater) and RX-3 (2+2 sports car).
      • 7 Years Ago
      I thought this was an old Jag at first glimpse!
      • 7 Years Ago
      I love rotaries, which is exactly why i had to go buy myself a 87 RX7 this year to go along w/ my other mazdas lol. Yay for 40 years!

      And Joe K, I dont think Matt W was being an "a-hole" a specific question was asked "Has anyone ever tried putting a Renesis in a Miata?"

      Plenty of people have put 13b rotary engines (from 2nd and 3rd gen RX7s) into miatas and i have seen several of them, they are monsters. The Renesis is a completely different engine and to my understanding it is a bit more difficult. So in this case, yes, specifics were necessary.

      And wow...way to F up my comment autoblog...
      • 7 Years Ago
      The Cosmo is dated but has a look that I still like. Seems like Mazda did a knock-out beautiful concept retro on this one.

      In 1968 at the auto show in Tripoli, Libya, I viewed the Wankel NSU RO80, sort of a grand-daddy of them all.

      I test drove a Mazda R100 once and almost bought it.

      Did they forget the RX4?

      Did they forget the rotary pickup?

      I did buy a used 85 RX7 GSL-SE from the second owner who bought it in early 1986. It had little problems but I never drove it without saying, "Man, I love this car."

      I suspect that I have not owned my last rotary-engined car just yet.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Has anyone ever tried putting a Renesis in a Miata?
        • 7 Years Ago
        yes, i know a guy in Jersey to do it. had all sorts of difficulty with the motor mounts and it eventually suffered catastrophic failure in early 'test runs' he had gotten the engine and such from a buddy's completely destroyed early 90s rx-7... he was a master tech and had his own shop so he was working on it... This was all a few years ago... Haven't spoken to him in awhile... he always had weird projects going, Ford turbocoupes, v8 rangers, etc. etc.
          • 7 Years Ago
          The renesis was introduced with the RX-8. The engine your "buddy" from Jersey used was not a renesis.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Over the years I've almost always bought European and so far, I've never owned a Japanese car, but I've long sworn that if and when I ever do buy Asian, it would be Mazda, because of their dedication to building technically imaginative, stylish, fun-to-drive cars that are reliable and value for money. (At 6'4' and 275 lbs, my head is too tall, my arms and legs are too long and my ass too fat for any of the Japanese cars I've liked well enough to consider buying.)

      As for rotary engines though, there are still a couple of things about them that bother me. One, they are still very fuel inefficient for the power they produce. A recent issue of Car and Driver said that the RX-8 goes through fuel "like a private jet." OUCH! Hyperbole aside, in this age of spiraling fuel prices, this is a problem - especially when one can buy engines capable of equal or better performance but with far better fuel efficiency.

      My other complaint is its lack of torque. The current RX-8 model is good for 212 hp but only a pitiful 159 lb/ft of torque. The fuel consumption says V-8, the horsepower says V-6, but the torque says inline 4, and only a modest four at that. One can go very fast in an RX-8 if you're willing to keep the loud pedal nailed to the floor and the revs near redline all day. This is OK on the track perhaps, but this lack of flexibility is intolerable in a daily driver in my opinion. I just don't like hearing an engine screaming at me all the time. This is probably why it gulps so much fuel; you always have to be flogging the poor dear to get any work done.

      Just for grins, compare VW GTI with the RX-8.

      VW GTI: 200 hp at 5,100 rpm, 207 lb/ft at only (get this!) 1,800 rpm.

      Mazda RX-8: 232 hp (or 212 hp with the automatic) at a buzzing 7,500 rpm and a pissant 159 lb/ft of torque.

      And for all the sound and fury, RX-8 fuel economy is 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway (24 mpg with the manual). You can do that well in a Corvette! By comparison, the VW with DSG automatic gets 25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway. In real world driving (as opposed to the EPA cycle) I can tell you that it is practically impossible to get worse than 22 mpg in the VW, no matter how hard you drive it. But in the RX-8, Car and Driver got real-world fuel economy on its 600-mile cycle of mixed driving, of 15 mpg!! That is acceptable in an SUV or maybe a 4,000 lb anvil like the V-8 Mustang GT, but a 3,000 lb sports car? Not at today's prices!

      Back to the torque issue:

      With all of its torque available barely off idle and with a torque band as wide and flat as Kansas, the GTI pulls with "Hand of God" authority in just about any gear, from any speed. But according to Car and Driver, the RX-8, while offering competitive 0-60 time of 6.5 seconds, at a 50-70 mph passing time of over 10 seconds, puts on pretty damned poor showing. With comparable torque and 300 pounds lighter weight, a stove-stock Ford Focus can do better, and deliver 30 mpg besides!

      The curb weights, handling limits and ultimate speed potentials of the Mazda RX-8 and VW GTI are really quite close, but in the RX-8 you have to keep the revs up - WAY up - and choose your gears with care. The bottom line is that the VW is just so much LESS WORK to drive fast, so much less fatiguing. And the fuel bill is much much less painful. I may yet someday buy a Mazda, but I doubt very much that I will look seriously at an RX-anything.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Thanks Felix, my RX-7's and I are looking forward to the next 40 years...
      • 7 Years Ago
      i want a another rx7

      • 7 Years Ago
      My 3 doesn't have a rotary in it, but I do know that this company definitely knows how to make fun-to-drive cars :-)

      Thank you, Mazda!!!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Salute those engineers in Mazda!
      Admire their determination on rotary engine.
        • 7 Years Ago
        You are so right! Mazda was given up for dead not many years ago!
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'll never forgive myself for selling my '87 Rx7. Most fun car I've ever owned!

      Thank you, Herr Wankel!
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