The Wankel Rotary Engine

A History


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SKU: 9780786429059 Categories: ,

About the Book

Conceived in the 1930s, simplified and successfully tested in the 1950s, the darling of the automotive industry in the early 1970s, then all but abandoned before resurging for a brilliant run as a high-performance powerplant for Mazda, the Wankel rotary engine has long been an object of fascination and more than a little mystery. A remarkably simple design (yet understood by few), it boasts compact size, light weight and nearly vibration-free operation.
In the 1960s, German engineer Felix Wankel’s invention was beginning to look like a revolution in the making. Though still in need of refinement, it held much promise as a smooth and powerful engine that could fit in smaller spaces than piston engines of similar output. Auto makers lined up for licensing rights to build their own Wankels, and for a time analysts predicted that much of the industry would convert to rotary power.
This complete and well-illustrated account traces the full history of the engine and its use in various cars, motorcycles, snowmobiles and other applications. It clearly explains the working of the engine and the technical challenges it presented—the difficulty of designing effective and durable seals, early emissions troubles, high fuel consumption, and others. The work done by several companies to overcome these problems is described in detail, as are the economic and political troubles that nearly killed the rotary in the 1970s, and the prospects for future rotary-powered vehicles.

About the Author(s)

John B. Hege is an automotive technician in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who has followed the Wankel rotary since his and its early days.

Bibliographic Details

John B. Hege
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 182
Bibliographic Info: 78 photos & diagrams, notes, index
Copyright Date: 2006 [2002]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2905-9
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8658-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Introduction      1

1. Why a Rotary?      5

2. Early Experiments      15

3. Wankel at NSU      25

4. Curtiss-Wright      42

5. Toyo Kogyo      60

6. Work Continues at NSU      72

7. Fichtel and Sachs Air-Cooled Wankel      80

8. Citroën      84

9. The Wankel at Daimler-Benz      90

10. Rolls-Royce and the Diesel Wankel      100

11. Emissions Regulations and the Wankel      104

12. American Manufacturers and the Wankel      112

13. Mazda Comes to America      121

14. Who Owned the Wankel?      127

15. The Rotary Turnaround      133

16. Rotary Motorcycles      137

17. The RX-7      141

18. Rotaries in Racing      152

19. Current and Future Production      158

Notes      165

Index      169

Book Reviews & Awards

“it stands apart from the crowd as the only history of the Wankel rotary engine that brings the story into the 21st Century”—SAH Journal; “this book continues to excel…terrific…technophiles will love this”—Hemmings Motor News; “excellent”—Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car; “definitive…readable, technically accurate, and very comprehensive…a must-read…all levels”—Choice; “Hege has thoughtfully penned a complete history…guaranteed to delight”—Old Cars Weekly; “informative”—SciTech Book News; “goes a long way to explaining everything”—The Automobile.