Rotary engine: The icon of Mazda- (1) The Birth

rotary engine2

Development by Felix Wankel and practical use by Mazda

In 1954, the novel structure type engine was developed by Felix Wankel who was an engineer in Germany. This engine that is named ‘Wankel engine’ or ‘Rotary engine’ is operated by a rotary motion unlike existing internal combustion engine, which have more simple structure, higher revolution per minute and stronger power. Although many automobile companies included such as GM and Citroen wanted to buy the copyright of rotary, Mazda scraped up huge amount of money and could own it. Mazda could success commercialisation after hard endeavour and the rotary engine became an icon of Mazda.
In this post, it will be looked at the rotary engine.

Wankel◀ Felix Wankel. He was born on 13th Aug, 1902, in Lahr, Germany





(1) The Birth

An eccentric dream

A young boy called Felix Wankel had a dream in the summer of 1919. In his dream, he drove the car of his own making to a concert and its engine has half-turbine and half-reciprocated engine. He boasted it to his friend and decided to invent such as fascinated engine. After that, he graduated from his high school in 1921 and worked in printing and binding at a publishing company dealing with science books mainly in Heidelberg. However, he lost his job in 1924 because of an economic depression of Germany, and then he established a small laboratory and experienced diverse engineering tasks. Thanks to his effort and passion, his dream came true relatively early. He finally received his first patent related to the theory of rotary engine in 1929. He was going on his work after the Second World War, which could even get supporting from the German Aviation Ministry and large civil companies.

로터리 엔진 - 피스톤 운동이 아닌 원 운동을 통해 동력을 전달한다                                         4StrokeEngine_Ortho_3D_Small

▲ Rotary engine’s working process                                           ▲ four-stroke engine’s working process

(1-Intake, 2-Compression, 3-Power, 4-Exhaust)


The first Prototype

In 1951, the promising motorcycle company called NSU had a strong interest in the research of rotary engine so Wankel could begin to develop rotary engine focused on motor cycle in partnership with NSU.

Wankel started investigating suitable shape for the rotor and engine’s housing. He could discover over 800 probable shapes and then he filtered about 150 practical shapes. At that time, because there was no computer simulation, this process demanded considerable effort. After this hard working, Felix Wankel and NSU could finally complete a prototype engine of 50cc called the DKM in 1957. This engine’s top speed marked 192.5 km/h and it had a shape combined with cocoon-shaped housing and a triangular rotor. Above all, the notable feature was that it was considerably smooth in operation and great speeds of about 20,000rpm.

730px-DrehkolbenmotorDKM54  ◀ Prototype Wankel engine (DKM)





Mazda (n.d.). History of Rotary [online] available from < > [19 Dec 2013]

The Auto Channel (2004). The Wankel Engine History [online] available from < > [19 Dec 2013]

Autocar (2013). History of the Mazda rotary engine – picture special [online] < > [12 Dec 2013]




If you found misinformation in this article, please write a comment.


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