Remember this? I bet it’s been a while since you’ve seen a Wankel Rotary motor, unless of course you still own a car that is powered by one, and if you do then it’s likely because you really love the design, or that godly exhaust note!
The Wankel rotary engine was designed in 1951 by a Mr. Felix Wankel, who was working for NSU Motorenwerke in Germany. A second design was made by a gentleman named Hanns Dieter Paschke, and that design was adopted as the modern Wankel engine. It’s funny because the current design of the engine isn’t all based on Felix Wankel’s original design and the Paschke engine would be more apt. Then again, I bet most people can’t pronounce or spell that so that makes it a bit easier doesn’t it?
The engine started being used by Mazda in 1961 for their cars, after previously being used in motorcycles. In 1967, they released the Cosmo 110S, and continued to develop Wankel engines for their cars for several years after, even including the engine in a pickup truck and a bus.
Mazda later stopped production of the Wankel rotary in most of their production cars moving forward, choosing to instead use the motor in their sports cars up until 2002, the last year of production for the RX-7.
Originally produced in 1978, the first generation, or FB, was powered by a 1.5 litre 2-rotor engine known as the DA, which replaced mazda’s older 10A motor. The car made just about 100hp which back in 1978 wasn’t exactly something to scoff at. Near the end of the FB’s production in 1983, a turbocharged, non-intercooled version of the 12A was introduced and sold in Japan for the top of the line models of the RX-7. This was short-lived however because the next generation was just around the corner.
In 1985, the next generation of RX-7 debuted. This time around it still featured a 2-rotor Wankel motor, only it was an improvement once again in terms of power. The standard motor you could buy was called a 13b and in 1985 it produced about 146 horsepower, however the top line models could get an optional turbocharged motor, which was also a 13b although now intercooled unlike the 12A motor before it, which made 182hp.
In 1988, the vehicle got a slight restyle and was given the option to be either a hardtop coupe or a soft top convertible. The convertible was only available with the naturally-aspirated motor, but did fairly well in US markets. Production ceased in 1991 except for a 500 model limited run for the 1992 year, up until the next and final adaptation of the RX-7.
The most iconic iteration of the RX-7 is definitely the 1993-2002 models known as the FD. It was powered by an engine called the 13B-REW which was the first-ever mass-produced sequencial twin-turbocharger system to export from Japan. It was a small 1.3 litre motor that produced 252hp for the first few years which was increased to 276hp for the remainder until production ended in 2002. The FD is still one of the most popular tuner cars to date, and when you see one at a show it is usually well-maintained and all done up.
In 2003, Mazda had redesigned the motor once more, calling it the 13B Renesis. This motor was used in the successor to the RX-7 (most hardcore fans try to not acknowledge it’s existence but still) which was aptly named the RX-8.
The new motor, which was naturally-aspirated, was also a 1.3 litre motor, and relocated the ports for exhaust from the periphery of the rotary housing to the sides, allowing for larger overall ports, better airflow, and further power gains which let the car produce 237hp in the domestic market. Now, you can imagine if this baby was turbocharged from the factory which would’ve been awesome, but Mazda missed the boat on that one.
The RX-8 sold from 2003-2012 when its production was finally ended, and with it, our dreams of another rotary-powered car from Mazda to be produced for mass sale.