Friday Videos: Sayonara, Rotary Engine

This week Mazda announced the death of the RX-8. That means that for the first time since the Cosmo 110S debuted in 1967, there will be no rotary powered car sold anywhere in the world. Currently about 300 unsold RX-8s remain in the US and when that supply runs out, it’s the end of the road.

For every source claiming a two-seater RX-7Β or uber-freaky RX-9Β is on the way, there’s another saying this is the final nail in a trochoid-shaped coffin. Mazda itself pointed to increasing difficulty keeping up with emissions and fuel economy standards, as well as lagging sales (only 1,134 sold last year). Sadly, these factors are likely to put even more strain on Hiroshima from here on out. Officially, Mazda says the rotary is taking a leave of absence, albeit an indefinite one.

It’s a sad week for Mazdafarians but let’s reminisce over old Mazda commercials from the rotary engine’s heyday, starting with the one above announcing the arrival of the car that started it all, the Mazda Cosmo Sports.

In this ad from the mid-70s, Mazda had no less than three rotary powered cars in its lineup β€” the Cosmo RX-5, Luce RX-4 and Savanna RX-3.

The “Beautiful Rotary,” Savanna RX-7.

An oldie-but-goodie, featuring one of my all-time favorite jams, Rise by Herb Alpert.

The American SA22C debut, in an ad that features a Datsun 240Z.

A Japanese RX-2 Capella ad shot in the US.

Japanese ad for the 1972 Savanna RX-3.

The classic American ad for an RX-3 Wagon in which a piston engine goes boing, boing boing.

The Mazda Familia Rotary Coupe atop a dramatic cliff.

And yes, we know it’s not nostalgic, but the Mazda Furai is heart-stoppingly awesome in every respect.

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21 Responses to Friday Videos: Sayonara, Rotary Engine

  1. banpei says:

    Awesome rotary video lineup! πŸ™‚
    Sounds to me like some people will hoard that 300 unsold RX-8s for prices to soar in a couple of decades. πŸ˜‰

  2. Tyler says:

    KAH peh lah. Didn’t know that’s how you say it. Anyway, great lineup of videos! Sad to see the rotary go to the wayside.

  3. Jim says:

    Mazda seemed to ignore the rotary and did not market it. I never saw any ads describing the benefits of the rotary, at least not in the last 25 years. Also, the RX-8 was cool, but not a good idea. A four seat sports car? A sportscar should be designed with no comprimises, with a pure intent. A rotary version of the Miata would have been a nice option.

    • Troy says:

      That vehicle to which you speak of would be the 3rd gen RX7. That is with out a doubt a no compromise sports car.

    • john machado says:

      The emissions problems are the reason. The rotary engine’s design just cannot be improved to meet the new emissions standard.
      The design calls for oil to lube the apex seals and this causes excessive oil consumption which is similar to the problem that 2-stroke engines have and they are pretty much dead now. Mazda is also in hot water with the EPA for too many RX8’s failing the emissions test when they start to get some mileage on them.

  4. kelly says:

    This is a very sad day as I have been into Rotary’s for a while now πŸ™

  5. Nigel says:

    That is not the kind of news I wan’t to hear.
    Hopefully I am young enough to drive the next rotary when it comes out…

  6. j_c says:

    Being rotard, I’m quite depressed as well. Strongest rumor so far is they will continue development if their new SkyActiv engines do well.

    ^Jim nailed it on the head. There’s been very little marketing for the rotary. Mazda has been terrible at marketing in general. The Speed 6 was barely touted.

    The RX-8 didn’t do well because it did everything just okay. Since the RX-7 Mazda has been saying a sports coupe takes advantage of the rotary’s power to weight ratio, so why put a non-turbo two rotor in a 4 seater?

  7. jh says:

    its only b/c there not enough rotor specialists average people thinks its hard/expensive to work on and maintain well at least in nyc

  8. cardude142 says:

    The rotary was an awesome engine. It will be missed.

  9. Rotordogg says:

    Yeah, this is not the end of the rotary car, just the end of a poorly thought out sports car. The RX8 was doomed from the start, regardless of the type of engine it had in it. Hopefully Mazda wakes up and puts the rotary where it belongs, in a true sports car.

  10. Bonouf says:

    Mazda should ve brought the RX7 Back…….I don’t know when these car companies in Japan will get it?

    You should never kill your icon…..never

    • Doc says:

      I think the japanese car manufacturer orientate oneself at the european market. You can see it not only by mazda. Really cool cars were only sold in japan … if they have one. This is very sad. They should remember the old days!

      I will get an RX7 FC TII on saturday! (accident car, but engine runs fine)
      -> see Datsun Garage @ forum

  11. Mr.choppers says:

    Bring back the Mazda Roadpacer, please.

  12. madis says:

    noooooooooo! this is not happening πŸ™ my dream is to get a rotary mazda. i hate those new euro emission gas rules :@

  13. Fists says:

    Bring out a natural triple rota, two-seater and give the GTR R35 some competition and they’ll have sales

  14. shaun says:

    My biggest gripe with rotary engines has always been the rebuild cost. I may play with an fb one of tnese days though

  15. ewokracing says:

    Mazda marketing seems to have trucked in a load of fail when it came to the RX-8. Totally fugly, this engine should have gone into the MX-5 or at least a sport coupe, not a saloon/sedan.
    How do car companies get things so wrong?

  16. mozrox says:

    Dear RX-8,

    I loved your sporty fuggliness
    and fun, zippy ride.
    It’s weird you’re a 4-seater
    in a cabin 2-seater sized.

    Your mileage and emissions
    Truly, truly blow.
    With your demise the rotary
    has hit an all-time low.

    Your styling was unmistakable
    but I can’t get in you with ease.
    How do you say “I’ll miss you”
    In Japanese?

  17. Rxboy says:

    It’s a shame that the last of the true Mazda soul is going to be killed off. But we did see it coming, with out continual development and marketing you have just a nitch car. Mazda made so many leaps and bounds with the Rotary N/A motor but they stuck it in a wonderful machine that was just to heavy. The same motor in a MX5 would have made a “True” sports car. I love my RX8 and for one major reason it has passion, fun to drive and the car is not going to blow up when you rev to 8+k RPM.

    I for one hope that Mazda does build the 1.6L rotary with the “laser” ignition they spoke about in 07-2010. They could offer a MX5 with a rotary turbo motor as an option (so it wouldn’t be a direct sale car) allowing for min production. The emission can be reduced if they direct inject the rotary as there are concepts on the Net how to do that, along with a turbo that is an ECO boost.

    However don’t worry we could see the rotary being used again soon enough, as Audi is testing a small rotary to power their electric motor in the A1-ETron. Hopefully Mazda will follow suit with that or bring the Hydrogen Rotary to the USA allow for Zero emission Rotary and a slight drop in HP, with that turbo’d Mazda would really have something “Worth Building” and for me it would be “Worth Driving”. Hopefully the Activ tech will do well allowing for a redevelopment and return of the rotary~!

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