Steve Cropley Big fun with a bunch of Wankels
SATURDAY AND SUNDAY
Brilliant 250-mile, two-day blast in a selection of classic rotary-engined Mazdas, to Goodwood and back from the company’s Dartford HQ. The plan was to mark the 50th anniversary of this nonconformist company’s dalliance with the Wankel engine: with half a dozen other hacks, I had great fun driving Cosmo, RX-3, several different RX-7S and an RX-8 through Kent and Sussex. It left me with the distinct feeling that the rotary engine, for all its past woes, still has more to give.
A top-spec Wankel still feels terrific. The RX-8 pulled like a turbine from 2000 to 9000rpm, while sounding like a very refined two-stroke. I drove home speculating on a deeper motive for this event: two years ago Mazda launched a rotary-powered concept called RX Vision with strong suggestions it could achieve production. The 2017 Tokyo show starts next week and Mazda isn’t saying anything – which is a healthy sign. Companies always go quiet about concepts when they’re getting serious in the back-rooms.
The Tokyo motor show starts next week. Is another Wankel on the agenda?
Interesting chat with a couple of vocal 20-yearolds I encountered in the British Motor Museum. They paused in their examination of some obscure BL creations to confirm what I’ve often thought – that the perceived lack of enthusiasm for cars among the younger generation is more directly geared to modern-day financial difficulties about car ownership than any lack of interest. By far the biggest passion-killer, they say, is insurance. They just couldn’t afford it. Not only do fully comp premiums run at five times the levels we ancients pay, they’re higher still for the third-party-only cover that used to be our money-saving option. Small wonder so many take a bicycle or bus.
A blog I wrote about car ownership in the fastapproaching world of electrification and clean air has thrown up a surprising result. When I suggested that our country-based 2003 Citroën Berlingo (which meets only Euro 3 clean air standards in this era of a ‘real world’ Euro 6) might be a candidate for scrappage, people came from all points of the compass to back and kibosh the idea with equal certainty. Building the Blinger’s replacement would use more energy and create more pollution than keeping it, many argued. You’re damned if you do and if you don’t.
Remember Envisage Group? It is the clever but low-key Coventry car engineering consultancy which last year helped us design our own future saloon called Share EV, as a way of understanding exactly how today’s cars are created. Over the years, Envisage has had a hand in many great cars but usually can’t talk about it because the client whose badge is on the nose almost always wants to claim the credit.
Now comes official news that Envisage’s artisans are hand-crafting panels and monocoque body shells for the nine ‘continuation’ Jaguar XKSSS presently being built to replace cars lost in the company’s infamous Browns Lane factory fire of 1957. The deal is significant because it’s the same sort of arrangement Jaguar had 60 or 70 years ago with famous expert suppliers like Abbey Panels, which built key parts of the first XK120, C-type, D-type and E-type models.
For us, the deal answers a different question: while we were at Envisage late last year, there was a fearful lot of banging, sawing, filing and buzzing coming from the workshops next door. Now we know why.
Envisage’s engineers are helping to bring nine Jag XKSSS back to life
Mazda event was a celebration of the rotary Wankel engine