Commemorating Felix Wankel

Written by Kurt | Tuesday, 14 August 2012 18:11

felixwankelYesterday, 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.