Commemorating Felix Wankel
Yesterday, on what would have been his birthday, 13 August, Felix Wankel would have been 110 years old, if he were still alive of course. This post is a little tribute to the man that gave us the Wankel engine. The what? Well, there is of course the 'normal' piston engine, the 'Otto engine' that can be found in just about any car these days. Felix Wankel though, thought he had a better idea and in 1954 introduced his Wankel engine which featured a very simple tri-angular rotor encapsulated within an oval-shaped housing. Not surprisingly Felix Wankel was German, and from the Baden-Württemberg area at that, where most brilliant inventions towards the motor car were thought up (think Karl Benz, Wilhelm Maybach, some of the Porsche boys etcetera, they were all Swabians). The result of his design was a brilliantly simple, yet highly effective engine. It had some teething problems though, high fuel consumption and unreliability mostly. But that didn't deter many manufacturers picking up his engine design and introducing and developing it in their cars, perhaps best known is the use of this type of engine in a variety of Mazdas (to this year) and the advanced NSU Ro 80. Sadly, it never became 'mainstream', but nowadays much-loved by enthusiasts for its power potential and tuneability (think boy-racers) and great soundtrack. An example of which can be seen in the video below, showing a mental Mazda RX-3 powered by one of the Wankel-inspired Mazda rotary engines. Felix Wankel then, he sadly never saw much of his legacy, like the 24 Hours of Le Mans win in 1991 of the Mazda 878B featuring a rotary engine. The only win of a pistonless engine at Le Mans to be precise. That, despite his shady past during World War Two (to put it mildly) makes him one of the greats, one of those few people, that made us move better, faster and, in his case, differently.Add a comment
Datsuns, Datsuns, Datsuns..
With recent news that Nissan would reintroduce its Datsun brand name I can't refrain from mentioning just a little bit about here. It is after all a brand with a history going back a very long time. In fact it was only dropped about 30 years ago by the then management as they felt putting the corporate name 'Nissan' on all their cars would help support their global business strategy better and of course achieve those important 'economies of scale' (with the result that advertising campaigns and the like could be used worldwide with little tweaking). Still, Datsun goes back to 1931, and has been known throughout the world as a household name since the sixties (after having produced and improved british Austin cars on a licensing agreement in the 50s). Producing many interesting cars in the process, who could forget the 240Z, the Skyline and all those grannies in Sunnys? Anyhow, now the Datsun name will be brought back for entry-level vehicles on emerging markets like India, Indonesia and Russia. Apparently taking inspiration from those legendary models of the past. And to that purpose Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn paid the company's heritage collection a visit. This event was recorded by Nissan in the promotional clip you can see above. Isn't it good to see the company has taken care of their heritage so well? Just look at the huge array of cars present in the Zama Heritage Garage, all immaculately presented and apparently in working order. Time they build it into a proper museum, that would be another good reason to go to Japan (and risk being radio-actively contaminated)..Add a comment
Fiat on Italianness v some Americans
Just today I noticed this new image ad film by Fiat for their new Fiat Panda on Youtube entitled 'New Fiat Panda - This is the Italy we like'. When I first saw it I thought that it was properly inspiring stuff as it was not so much about the new Panda, which, whatever way you put it, is a dreary Eurobox. The ad is more about Italy, the mentality and which way the country should go in the future. What we see is Italy as you probably know it. We see charming villages, beautiful lakes, craftsman making beautiful things, beautiful brown-haired girls smiling, beatiful brown-haired girls drinking cappuccino on a balcony and smiling waiters serving plates of pasta with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and bespectacled men designing and building Fiats. It's all about the passion and creativity and what the country has to offer. It seems Fiat is genuinely concerned with the country and its people and, given the economic and political situation, wants to make sure Italy stays a proud Italy. As the Italian narrator mentions 'Now is the time to decide. Whether to be ourselves or to accept the views imposed on us'.Add a comment