Video: How the Wankel Rotary Engine Works

We love good, simple technical videos. Here’s a clear, solid, and fun explanation of the Mazda rotary engine straight from the source: Toyo Kogyo Ltd. circa 1970. Even if you’re a Wankel expert, we know you’ll enjoy it. 



REVISED AND UPDATED — In the hallways and cubicles around the Motor City, there’s an old saying among auto engineers: If you can’t explain it in terms even your boss can understand, maybe you don’t get it yourself. There’s great wisdom in that adage. The clearest, most straightforward explanations are the best ones. Here at Mac’s Motor City Garage, when we discover a good, solid technical video free of technobabble, we can’t wait to share it with you.

This film was produced by Toyo Kogyo, the car company we know today as Mazda, in the early years of the Japanese automaker’s development and production of the Wankel rotary engine. That’s good for us, because the film makes no assumptions about viewer knowledge and starts us right at the very beginning.

Simplified, entertaining animations are used to explain basic engine operation until around the halfway point in the film, when real, physical components are substituted. Meanwhile, frequent comparisons with conventional piston engines are offered, providing a useful and familiar baseline.

This is an excellent teaching method, explaining the rotary engine in terms that anyone can follow, and it’s a lot of fun, too. We couldn’t help noticing that the early horseless carriage that opens the film is a dead ringer for Henry Ford’s 1896 Quadricycle. And as the film winds down, we get to see the Mazda Cosmo coupe and the 1970 RX500 concept vehicle in action. Gearheads, here’s the most entertaining and informative 13 minutes you’ll spend today. Please enjoy.


One thought on “Video: How the Wankel Rotary Engine Works

  1. And 50 years later sealing is still an issue, as is fuel economy and emissions. And noise and exhaust temperature. And to a lesser extent low down torque as well.
    Mazda have persevered but even rotorheads admit there is a better way. An interesting concept but like rotary valve engines a thing of the past.

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