Steve Cropley Big fun with a bunch of Wankels

Autocar - - CONTENTS -


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

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