Happy 50th Birthday to the Mazda Rotary Engine – The Drive
The Wankel rotary wasn’t a new concept when Mazda first adopted the engine to be used as a power plant in its vehicles. In fact, the concept was first conceived by a German who went by Felix Wankel nearly 38 years prior to the launch of Mazda’s first rotary-powered car. After the patent was issued in 1929, Wankel didn’t begin development of the rotary until 1950 while employed at NSU Motorenwerke AG, which was later acquired by Volkswagen and rebranded as Audi as part of a merger. In 1957, the first working concept of the rotary was born, and subsequently licensed to Mazda for use in 1961.
It was a Tuesday morning on May 30th, 1967 when Mazda put its first rotary-powered sports car on sale in Japan. Not only was the Mazda Cosmos Sport the first twin-rotor, rotary-powered car, but it was also Mazda’s first true sports car. To this point, Mazda had only been pumping out beigemobiles, so stepping into a new market was an exciting change, especially with an entirely new power platform. Over the next five years, a collective 1,176 Cosmo Sports would be built and sold.