10 Rotary Engine Mazdas that We Can Appreciate

10 Rotary Engine Mazdas that We Can Appreciate

The Wankel rotary engine was developed in 1929, but without Mazda, this engine might never have made it to the popularity we see in the market.


Of course, Mazda claims that without this engine, there wouldn’t be a Mazda brand. While we don’t want to get into a “chicken and egg” conversation about the rotary engine, we do want to talk about some of the cars that used a Wankel under the hood. The Mazda team embraced this engine to be different from the rest of the automakers, which brings us to these ten models.

1968 Mazda R100 Coupe

The R100 was the first time Mazda worked to expand beyond the limited sports car market with the Wankel engine. The R100 was a two-door coupe offered in Japan to make it one of the most enjoyable cars to drive. The goal for the brand was to prove this engine could be reliable and they did this by entering three R100 Coupes in the Marathon de la Route in 1969. One of these cars did finish the race in fifth place, which was a huge success for this new car and new brand.

1969 Mazda Luce R130 Coupe

The first and only FWD Mazda car with a rotary engine was the Luce R130 Coupe. Unfortunately, this car was only offered in the domestic market of Japan. This was easily one of the best-looking coupes of the era, but because of its limited reach it was mostly an unknown car. The designer of this sports car was Giorgetto Giugiaro while working at Bertone. The engine was a 1.3-liter model that delivered good power for the time which came in a t 126 horsepower and 127 lb.-ft. of torque.

1970 Mazda RX500

The first RX model from Mazda was the RX500 and it showed up at the 1970 Toyota Motor Show. Power for this impressive car came from a twin-rotor 10A rotary engine that gave this car plenty of power. The build features forward swinging butterfly-wing doors. This model was noting more than a concept and its only been seen outside of Japan one time at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2014.

1970 Mazda RX-2

The second time Mazda built a mainstream car with a rotary engine for the global market was the RX-2. This car was a midsize sedan that was also offered as a coupe. The RX-2 body gave this car that look desired. The look of this car gave it plenty of style and elements that many drivers admired. The RX-2 had different lights in the front and rear to give this car the look desired. You might have heard of the RX-2, if so, you know it’s a classic Mazda with the Wankel.

1972 Mazda RX-3

The RX models became even sportier with the RX-3 that came in for the 1972 model year. This car had the impressive Wankel engine under the hood and brought a trio of cars built on the same platform. These three were a sports sedan, a coupe, and a large estate sedan. Power for this car came from the 10A motor that allowed the RX-3 to reach 60 mph in 10.8 seconds. Of all the cars with a rotary engine from this brand, the RX-3 was the most popular and successful model in the market.

1974 Mazda RX-4

That’s right, the parage of Mazda RX models continues into 1974 with the RX-4. This was another Mazda powered by a Wankel rotary engine, giving us a car that brought some European style to the mix. The RX-4 competed in Europe with some of the most popular cars from Saab and BMW while also hitting a niche part o the market. There was a piston-engined 929 model that didn’t do too well in the market.

1974 Mazda Rotary Pickup

Mazda put the Wankel engine into a truck, giving us a vehicle that could haul, carry, push, and pull the way anyone desired. The REPU, as it was called, was offered only in USA and Canada with the 1.3-liter 13B Wankel engine under the hood. There were nearly 15,000 of the REPU models built with most of them offered in 1974. This truck is sought after today as a collector’s item. Since the REPU came to the market, we haven’t seen another truck with a rotary engine under the hood.

1974 Mazda Parkway Rotary 26 Bus

When a pickup truck is in the market you might as well go all the way in and offer a van as well. The same year the REPU was offered, Mazda brought the 26 Bus to the mix as well. This bus was based on the Mazda Titan truck chassis and it could carry 26 passengers. This bus was only sold in Japan and it used the 13B rotary engine. This was the first time Mazda added a turbo option to the engine offered in this bus.

1975 Mazda RX-5 Cosmo AP Coupe

The RX-5 was a prestigious car that was thought of as a luxury GT couple. This car was only sold in Japan and exported in small numbers to the European market. The RX-5 competed with the Triumph Stag and the BMW 6 Series of the mid-1970s. Later, a few of these cars were sold with a fastback coupe body to give this car a sportier feeling. The RX-5 was expensive and it hit the luxury market with a bang.

1975 Mazda Roadpacer AP

The oddball in the Mazda lineup of cars using a rotary engine was the Roadpacer AP. AP stands for Anti-Pollution and it was only made for the domestic Japanese market to give the Toyota Century a run for its money. Unfortunately, taking the body style developed by Holden and replacing the V8 with the Wankel was not a good idea. This car become expensive, had poor performance, and terrible fuel mileage. This mean that only 800 versions were sold by 1977, which then caused this car to end production not long after.

Do you have a favorite Mazda car with a rotary engine? Which one is it and when was it offered in the market?

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