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End of an Era: Mazda Building Last Rotary Engine

Gone (for now)...but not forgotten.

by on Jun.28, 2012

Mazda briefly stretched out the rotary engine's final run with production of the special-edition RX-8 Spirit.

It has been a mainstay of the brand’s powertrain line-up for more than four decades but in the coming days Mazda will produce the last of its one-popular rotary engines as it halts production of the RX-8 sports car.

The rotary, also known as a Wankel, for its inventor, helped make the Hiroshima-based automaker – but also nearly destroyed it, as well, when a series of major design flaws were discovered leading to endemic early engine failures. But while improvements in the design allowed Mazda to maintain the rotary for quite some time the engine just couldn’t keep up with today’s fast-rising fuel economy standards.

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“Production of the RX-8 will end, but the rotary engine will live on as an important part of Mazda’s spirit,” said Mazda President Takashi Yamanouchi, in a prepared statement.

The rotary engine was developed by German engineer Felix Wankel just after World War II, but it took until the 1960s before automakers began taking a serious look at the technology.

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