Wayne and Garth must be the most intense German car lovers.
What do all of these cars have in Common?
Citroen GS Birotor
Can’t figure it out what these things share?
Here’s a clue:
As talked about in the “you musta Benz Crazy” post. The rotary, or Wankel engine was never just limited to Mazda cars. Mazda was just one company to hop on the sudden crazy trend of the all new Wankel Motor! IT’S NEW, IT’S FRESH, IT’S FAST!
It’s a shame. It’s a shame rotaries have developed such a poor reputation for reliability. Those who know their secrets, their simplicity and true reliability use them for crazy things, like long distance planes……That’s right, is it common to see home built planes with Rotaries in them.
All produced versions of the Wankel engine for vehicles, many making them into production cars. Obviously Mazda was the biggest believer of the ‘Rotary’, but why don’t we see more today?
I’ve ALWAYS wondered that myself. In the sea of urban utility rolling hotels, Interior space has always been of high demand, as well as ‘safety’. Often the shape of a cars design is dictated by the location of the massive motor. This affects the structure and generally weakens the overall design (from the stand point of a collision).
The Entire way a car is designed could be changed if Rotaries were more popular.
A single Rotor engine is fairly tiny and able to be hidden basically anywhere in a car, much like the electric concepts of new, the wheels themselves are large enough to house a single Rotor. This means, the entire drive train of the car could be contained with in the wheel structure and allow a complete design of the body without interference from mechanical objects. Not only can the safety improve, but the weight of the vehicle can be dramatically reduced to allow for simplistic, roomy interior design with high amounts of rigidity, and low center of gravity. Better Handling, Better Braking, Better Aerodynamics, Better Comfort.
Reliability has always been the issue of ‘Rotaries’. Let’s challenge that theory for a second, let’s say, long before Felix Wankel built his prototype at NSU, that someone figured out that piston engines had too many moving parts, and that Rotaries not only had less rotational parts, but also had less parts all together. Someone came across the idea that “wow, these would be cheaper to produce in the long run”. What would’ve happened then, if the Wankel became more common than the piston engine? Would development been so slow?
It all comes down to Brain Power and home mechanics. The shear number of people fiddling, playing, and having the opportunity to get hands on with piston engines allowed it’s progress much faster over it’s flaws. People understood it much easier and just accepted it as the superiority. Had Wankel motors received this kind of lust and attention for speed early on, would we be living in a world of stop and go pistons?
I can only predict the future so much. My guess is as good as anyone else, but I can imagine that the displacements would’ve become smaller, the engine designs much more compact and cool running. Fuel economy would be improved and so would reliability. That leaves us with the question above? What would cars look like today, had the engines been smaller in overall size, would front engined cars be as common as they are now? What would we see most often on the roads?
The turning point for me, must’ve been General Motors bailing on AMC. You see, Wayne and Garth are very great connoisseurs of the German car love. NSU made the Wankel, then AMC started designing the AMC Pacer to be a car dedicated to the Wankel engine for the American population! But, alas GM failed, unable to deliver the Rotaries on time, so what does AMC do? use their acquired Jeep ownership to jam some inline 6’s in.
Party Pooper? Party Pooped
UPDATE: Remember the Measurables post? Who knew that VAZ/Lada actually sold MANY Wankel engined cars! Including those based on the fiat 124! There’s a great site dedicated to the all of the VAZ’s Rotary efforts!