WANKEL EN­GINES

Motorcycle News (UK) - - This Week -

The Wankel, or rotary, engine was made fa­mous in the twowheeled world by the JPSbacked Nor­tons raced by Steve Spray and Trevor Na­tion. How­ever, the Wankel engine con­cept was noth­ing new and Nor­ton had been build­ing one for nearly 20 years at this point. Orig­i­nally de­signed by German en­gi­neer Felix Wankel in 1929, his style of mo­tor is very dif­fer­ent to a con­ven­tional engine. De­spite us­ing the same four-cy­cles (in­take, com­pres­sion, ig­ni­tion, ex­haust), where on a nor­mal mo­tor th­ese hap­pen above a mov­ing pis­ton in a bar­rel, in a Wankel they hap­pen in the space be­tween a three­sided sym­met­ri­cal ro­tor. A shaft passes through the cen­tre of the engine and the ro­tor ro­tates around this, cre­at­ing the four dis­tinct cy­cles against the in­side of the mo­tor as it or­bits around. In one 360-de­gree turn of the ro­tor the four-cy­cles hap­pen, mak­ing it more ef­fi­cient than a con­ven­tional engine, which needs two crank ro­ta­tions to achieve the same cy­cles. Why didn’t they catch on? The Wankel isn’t a very clean mo­tor, is tricky and ex­pen­sive to man­u­fac­ture and can be un­re­li­able, so it quickly went out of fash­ion de­spite its abil­ity to rev and pro­duce high power out­puts.

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