Rotary Fanatic’s Dream!

Mazda RX Collection

We each have our own tastes and interest here at BF, some of us love finely tuned European sports cars, others love the big block Americans, and then there is a small group dedicated to the screaming triangle known as the rotary engine. For those who don’t know, I myself have had a long love affair with these unusual little engines and my current daily driver is a Mazda RX-8. Many companies actually experimented with the Wankel designed rotary, including the likes of Ford, GM, AMC and even Rolls-Royce, but only one company has managed to mass produce and continue to sell rotary powered cars. That brand is obviously Mazda and they have been putting out rotary sports cars since 1965. Some rotary nuts just can’t get enough of these cars and manage to amass impressive collections. The owner of this Mazda collection has acquired 10 RXs ranging from the RX-2 to the RX-5, but hey have decided it’s time to let go of the cars and all their parts. Find the entire collection here on eBay or in Reno, Nevada with bidding at $9k.

Mazda RX-5

This collection is primarily composed of RX-3 Coupes, but there are several RX-2s, an RX-4, and a rather desirable RX-5 (also known as the Cosmo). It appears that most of these cars have been dissembled, with several being part way through restorations. Putting them all back together is going to be a tall order, even for a true rotary fanatic. Thankfully a couple of cars are complete and in running condition, so you would at least have something to drive and enjoy while you’re working on the others. And with so many cars and a mountain of parts, you will be busy for quite some time. Just going through all the parts and motors will take considerable time and patience.

Mazda RX-2

Of this collection, my attention is immediately drawn to the RX-2s and the RX-5. You rarely see either on American roads, likely because most have rusted to nothing or have been crushed. Sadly, it will probably take combining both RX-2s to get a complete car, but I’d rather see one car scrapped if it means saving the other. Let’s just hope this isn’t the case and that the next owner is able to save both! The RX-5 is one of the few cars here that is actually running and driving, but it will still need work. It has the typical rust in the spare wheel well and the paint is going to need some attention.

Rotary Collection

I’ve been a fan of the rotary engine since before I could drive and I attribute much of my interest in oddball cars to my experiences with my first RX-7. There is just something fascinating and almost magical about these incredible motors. I’ve studied the design, dissected them, and watched countless videos of them in operation and even still the fact that the design works astonishes me. Maybe the almost mystical operation is what draws some of us to them or maybe it is their oddball nature? One thing is for sure, they go against convention and the norm! And perhaps that is why there will always be a special place in my heart for Mazda and the rotary engine, even with some of the headaches that tend to come with them. So who’s up for going against better judgment and tackling this entire collection? Special thanks to Jim S for this tip!

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Comments

  1. stanleystalvey

    The Wankel engine was nothing more than a curiosity when I went to Tech school back in the early 80’s. Then I went to an import tuner race,a National event, at Moroso Motorsports Park in West Palm Beach, Florida in early 2000 for the first time and was amazed to see that these engines totally dominated the track that day. The RPM potential of these engines is impressive. I’m inclined to think this engine will spin at 20,000 rpm with relative ease. There was a Mexican kid at the race with a rotary powered Datsun 510 street machine. It sounded like a cross between a outboard motor and a mad Bumble Bee. There was a big Holley 4 barrel mounted on top. He could yank the front end off the ground in all of the lower gears and was turning 12 second passes. I was truly impressed. Is there someone out there who would tell me more about the Rotary engine.? thanks..

    • Dolphin Member

      That Datsun 510 would probably have had a built Mada rotary engine transplanted into it. The lighter weight of the rotary would have helped the driver pull the front wheels off the ground.

      The early rotary engines had serious seal wear before Mazda figured out how to make them live. Jay Leno has an early Mazda Cosmo with a very early version rotary engine, and in one of his car shows he talked about how much fun it was to own and drive, except for the very short engine life before it needed rebuilding—something like 10 or 12K miles if I remember correctly. The early Mazda rotary engines got fairly poor gas mileage, altho that might have been due to people having fun (=using lots of revs).

      The one Mazda I haven’t driven but would like to is the twin turbo 3rd generation RX7 from the early ’90s, which was a real strong performer. The 1st generation RX7s were not turbocharged but were lots of fun to drive because of the rotary’s willingness to rev. The 2nd generation offered a turbo model that was even more fun. Both the 1st and 2nd generation RX7s should be available cheap, but will have a lot of years and probably miles on them.

      My preference for an everyday car is for one that generates a lot of torque so I don’t need to wring its neck to go down the road, but if you are willing to drive a car that has limited torque at low revs but can rev when you want it to, a Mazda rotary would be fun. But these are very different from typical piston engines, so you would likely need to have a mechanic who knows his way around rotary engines.

      • stanleystalvey

        Thanks for your interesting reply, Dolphin. The little Datsun 510 was the slowest rotary car at the track that day. It had a beautiful orange paint job and only marked by a triangle with the letters “Lopez Racing.” I watched the owner/driver checking the compression repeatedly with a test gauge. The faster cars were amazingly exotic and had expansion chamber exhaust systems that looked like rocket engine plumbing. Some of the turbochargers on them were huge. I took a bunch of pictures for further study. There must have been a hundred cars there with the triangle emblems on the fenders and doors. Needless to say, I was very impressed by all of this and had no idea they were so popular in pro racing. I watched some rotary rebuild videos on YouTube but what I’d like to see are some cockpit videos of rotary powered drag cars. I’m curious to see the shift-point rpms and listen to the sounds. The sounds have always been my favorite part of drag racing. Door slammers and pro-stock cars are my only interests at the drags. Thanks again for your thoughts..

  2. VIKING

    Before I emigrated to USA in 1962, my dad had a car dealership in northern Sweden, he sold Alfas, Hudson Nash Peugeot Renault Ifa wartburgs and NSU, a German small car. One model of NSU in the mid fifties was called prins, a very small car, that had a very small vankel motor in it. It was a very good looking sports model. So I believe NSU Was the first production car that had the VANKEL in it.

    Like 1
    • MikeH

      Actually, I think NSU owned the Wankel rights and Mazda engines were built under license from NSU. The first Wankel engined car was the still beautiful Ro80. It, too, suffered the same problem as the early Mazdas. I don’t think the Prinz was Wankel engined. I think it was a conventional 2 cyl of 600-800 ccs.

      • DT

        Actually,of course Felix Wankle invented the rotary, NSU bought the rights ,The first rotary car was the 1964 NSU Spider,then NSU got bought up by Volkswagen in 1969,the Ro80 was produced up until 1977. Mazda bought the rights .When I was young a friend of mine had the R-100,Then another friend had the Rx-2,Well built cars.The motors barely outlast an aircooled VW,but you do get there a lot quicker.And one of the first signs that the motor is worn out is hard starting. My town also had a Wankle powered 510,never saw it run,but always thought it was a dream come true

      • Dutch 1960

        Ownership of the Wankel rotary technology is a messy thing. Back in the RX3 days (and perhaps even today), Curtiss-Wright owned the US rights to the rotary. Mazda paid C-W a royalty for each rotary car sold in the US, and a complete rebuilt rotary engine from Mazda had to be sold on an exchange basis. Not only did Mazda need the core parts for rebuild, but C-W did not permit Mazda to sell complete engines outright.

  3. David C

    I used to work at a Volvo – Mazda dealer many years ago. I rebuilt rotary engines, worked on RX-3’s, 4’s and Cosmo’s.
    I had a RX-4 Sport. I loved that car. I almost never see any on the market anymore.

  4. geomechs geomechs Member

    What? No R-100? A friend of mine had one of them and it died going through an intersection. The car had 30K miles on it. It was amazing that it showed no inclination that anything was wrong until something serious WAS wrong.

    I was actually kind of surprised that Mazda kept pushing the rotary because I sure heard a lot of negative feedback. There was a story where a guy bought one as an economical 2nd car to his Buick. It turned out that the Mazda guzzled far more gas. I’ll add that my friend’s R100 got about the same mileage as his ’72 Chev (350/auto) pickup.

    • Dutch 1960

      Sudden failure on one of these is usually a failed electric fuel pump, a standard off-the-shelf part and no fault of the rotary engine. Issues related to the rotary engine are usually first detected when it becomes hard to start.

      Lots of cars without titles here. Perhaps export plans were derailed by the lack of paperwork?

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Hi Dutch. That was first thing the guys at the Mazda shop told my friend. But this particular one WAS the engine. I remember when it went out, the starter whirled it over like there was nothing there; like a piston engine with all the plugs out.

      • Dutch 1960

        Interesting puzzle, geomechs. The carbureted rotary is notoriously hard to start, as it has to be spooled way up to establish compression, and then spark without flooding with gas, or running too lean to spark. But once running, keeping it going is easy, as it just spins sort of like a jet turbine, as long as it has fuel, air, and spark to keep it ticking over. Failure at speed is typically a sudden loss of fuel or spark. Failure of bearings, seals, or housings usually means that it keeps going, until you shut it off and then you either can’t get full compression (housings warped or seals damaged) or you can’t wind it up fully (bearings).

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        You obviously know a lot more about Rotary engines than I do so I won’t begin to question anything more. I just remember the engine stalling, never to start again. My friend eventually swapped out the engine for another one which the donor car had gotten T-boned by full-sized car. He continued driving the car until he and his wife split up, afterwhich she threw her stuff into the R100 and headed for the west coast.

  5. Rev Rory

    Hmmmmmm….

  6. Per Eliasen

    NSU’s first car with a Wankel engine was the NSU Spyder. Then later came the RO80……

  7. Ron Tyrrell

    What about the 1974 pickup, I understand it is the holy grail to some collectors. The pickup was slightly larger than most of the rising sun trucks of the time but the engine just did not have longevity it needed.

  8. geomechs geomechs Member

    Wasn’t it CW McColl who did the ad for Mazda? I think he also had a song about his own jalopy. ‘Boing-boing-boing… Did it ever go mmmm…?’

  9. Cary Dice

    I had two RX4 wagons and a ’79 RX7 GS. Still a classic ad campaign. Here’s a Youtube link: http://youtu.be/ElkuWqhL9V8

  10. jim s

    at $9300 with reserve not met. not sure if parted out you could get your money back and lack of titles is a big issue. still a nice find

    • Dutch 1960

      Parting out could be profitable, but you would need to carefully inventory the taillight assemblies, other body trim pieces, interior parts, bumpers, body parts, and mechanicals. Not only counts, but the condition of each piece. Certain parts in excellent condition are quite valuable. Many of these cars seem to be missing some key parts. The yellow RX3 and the Cosmo RX5 are the two valuable cars of the bunch, worth probably anywhere from $7.5k to $15k between them, depending on the aggressiveness of the buyer and the stubbornness of the seller.

  11. Rotarydave

    How aggressive should I be Dutch… Seriously I think you are near the mark. However if someone was to do their homework on the history of the vehicles paperwork might be available. Assuming that all of the back histories are clear with no problems, the vehicles have no leins against them, they haven’t been branded as salvage or with a scrap/dismantle only certificate legal titles can be had. It takes time, money and patience I am working the issues on 3 rx3s right now one was supposed to be done already and it is sold overseas pending the paperwork. I think that there are some good starting points here but the bare metal needs to get into good primer fast before rust sets in. I on’t know that the set will sell but I am talking with the seller about the cosmo and the Rx4

  12. Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

    This collection sold for $16,000 with 24 bids!

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