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Mazda Celebrates 50 Years of the Rotary Engine

Mazda and its rotary engine enthusiasts are locked in a will-they-won’t-they resurrect the legendary Wankel rotary engine. Mazda confirmed that no such engine is coming yet.

In the meantime, Mazda is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the rotary engine, which first went on sale in Japan on May 30 in the 1967 Cosmo Sport. The Cosmo was the first production car to ever feature a twin-rotor motor and only 1,176 were built.

Mazda licensed the technology from NSU Motorenwerke AG and Wankel GmbH in 1961 and began developing a motor for their production vehicles in hopes of standing out from other manufacturers internationally.

Highlights from the rotary engine’s history include the quad-rotor-powered Mazda 787B’s 24 Hours of Le Mans victory and the RX-series of sports cars. Mazda built 1.99 million rotary engines that powered sedans, sports cars, and even a 26-passenger bus.

The company’s last rotary-engined car, an RX-8 was built in 2012. The high-revving motor was discontinued because it produced poorer fuel economy and more emissions than modern gasoline or diesel engines.

Mazda acknowledges enthusiasts’ yearning for the engine’s return and says there is a small group of engineers dedicated to rotary development in Japan.

Mazda’s RX-Vision concept is concrete proof the brand hasn’t stopped dreaming of a rotor-powered future. For now, Mazda pays tribute to the cars that cemented the automaker’s legacy.

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