Nearly two million made since 1967
On May 30, 1967, Mazda launched the world’s first twin-rotor rotary engined car, the Mazda Cosmo Sport.
Today, 40 years later, the company celebrates the anniversary of its first rotary engine. In the years between, Mazda has produced nearly two million vehicles powered by the unique powerplant.
“Only Mazda — a company with a laser-like focus on vehicle development and engineering success — would have had the perseverance and unwavering spirit to pursue the rotary engine,” said Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations. “From humble beginnings in the 1950s to a very bright hydrogen-fueled future, the rotary engine represents Mazda as a company that follows the road less traveled, and makes its own successes where others have failed.”
Through the years, automakers from GM to Daimler-Benz, Rolls-Royce and Citroen have experimented with the Wankel rotary engine concept, but only Mazda overcame the engineering challenges necessary to bring the engine to market in a mass-production vehicle.
The first vehicle Mazda sold in North America was the 1970 R100, powered by the rotary engine. It was followed by the RX-2, RX-3, RX-4 and RX-5 Cosmo. The ‘70s even saw Mazda install the rotary engine in its Rotary Pickup truck.
When Mazda launched the now-legendary RX-7 in 1979, it really shook up the sports-car establishment and set sales records never before seen with sports cars. Subsequent RX-7 generations were launched in 1986 and 1993, including the first production applications of turbocharging the rotary engine in the North American market. And when the company launched the innovative four-door sports car RX-8 in 2003, the rotary engine saw a dramatic update with the introduction of side porting, resulting in greatly reduced exhaust emissions and improved performance.
Mazda’s rotary engine has been overwhelmingly successful in motorsports, too, spearheaded by an overall win for its 787B sports car at the famed Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race. Mazda was the first — and is still the only — Japanese car company to ever win this grueling event. So successful was Mazda’s entry in the 1991 race that the rules for subsequent races were changed to ban the rotary engine.