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Mazda Celebrates 40th Rotary Engine Anniversary

Topics:  Mazda

Mazda Celebrates 40th Rotary Engine Anniversary

Anthony Fontanelle
August 9, 2007

Japanese automaker Mazda is known in the auto industry as the maker of vehicles equipped with rotary engines. The company has started the use of the Wankel engine 40 years ago in the Cosmo Sport, known in Japan as the Mazda Savanna. The company used the engine in 1967 - ten years after Felix Wankel built the first running prototype of the two-stroke engine.

In the past, many automakers have started improving the Wankel engine. The poor fuel economy of the engine and heavy emission are some of the characteristics of the engine in the past and automakers have poured in money and effort in the development of better Wankel engines. Years later, most automakers have dropped the development of the Wankel engine in favor of the four-stroke engines. While automakers like General Motors and Ford has decided to no longer pursue the development of Wankel engines, Mazda continued their improvements on the engine designed by Felix Wankel.

In the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the rotary engine as used by Mazda, the automaker announced that they will be marketing special edition variants of the RX-8. The vehicles though will be sold only in Japan.

According to the automaker, the special edition RX-8 will be available in two variants. The first one is the RX-8 Type S which will be equipped with a six-speed manual transmission. The second variant is the RX-8 Type E, and it will come with a six-speed automatic gearbox.

As a special edition vehicle, the RX-8s will have a 40TH ANNIVERSARY ROTARY ENGINE badge. Other exterior features of the special edition RX-8 are the semi-gloss chrome light bezels. It will also sport 18-inch Dark Silver chrome aluminum ally wheels. For extra safety during night driving, the special edition RX-8 is fitted with front fog lights.

The Wankel engine has some distinct advantages over engines with reciprocating piston. In a Wankel engine, instead of the reciprocating pistons, the power released by the combustion of the fuel is transferred to a rotor. The advantage of using a rotor is that it has a higher power output compared to a similarly sized engine with reciprocating pistons. This means that it can be used on cars designed to have a small engine compartment.

Due to its design, Wankel engines also have fewer moving parts than conventional four-stroke engines. For example, a 1.2-liter Wankel engine in a Mazda has fewer Mazda parts compared to a similarly sized engine. This means that wear and tear on the parts is not a major problem when it comes to replacement. For example, a Wankel engine has no complicated valve trains while conventional four-stroke engines have complex parts for the intake and exhaust valves.

The disadvantage of the Wankel engine is also the result of the absence of the intake valves. Since these engines have no intake valves, automakers have to devise a way to inject the fuel inside the combustion chamber in a very short span of time while the combustion chamber is open. The result is more fuel consumption. But just like diesel engines, Wankel engines are also being improved to have a better fuel economy. In fact, Mazda is reportedly working on the development of a Wankel engine that will run on hydrogen.

The special edition RX-8 will be a rare breed since Mazda is only planning to manufacture 200 units of the vehicle. The RX-8 special edition will have a starting price of $26,500 according to the automaker.

Source:  Amazines.com

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