"That’s it, go on, snigger. The Wankel rotary engine may have a crass-sounding name, but the cars it powered were anything but. With fewer moving parts than a traditional piston engine, the rotary was smoother, quieter, and – hurrah! – more "
Rotary Engined Classics
Pimped by an Astronaut and styled by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Suzuki RE5 was powerful but fatally complex. It looked like the mid seventies super-bike it might have been – but with that ugly radiator thing up front and the ‘tin-can’ cluster of instruments sitting on the lamp, this was ultimately one step too far for a market composed largely of unreconstructed grease-monkeys.
The first real sports car to come with a rotary engine was hand-built and beautifully stylish in its conception. Toyota’s 2000GT comes close but for us this is one of the prettiest Japanese sports cars ever produced. And it featured in Return of Ultraman. Nuff said.
The debut of the Wankel engine in production at Frankfurt 1964 was a cute if ill-conceived topless runabout. With the motor stuck in the back and with a light frame – the thing must have been fun to drive. Back happiness, though, did not amount to success and the radiator and other components were put in the front to counteract the weirdness. The lack of storage space meant that the car fell between two stools and only sold around 3000 units.
The mature rotary sports car from Mazda looks better every year. Possessed of that uniquely Japanese brand of accessible sportiness, 36 years on from launch you can see how revolutionary it must have looked on release. Hi-revving and light with the engine just behind the front axles, the RX7 is top of our list of future classics.
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