Motoring History

The Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Lungo were the queens of Summer 2016

With only 30 cars produced, this is not an ordinary car. The Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 is a prestigious pre-war car that got itself talked about in Pebble Beach and Chantilly.

The Alfa Romeo 8C 2900, Biscione’s must ?

The Alfa 8C before the 2900

At the beginning of the project, there is Vittorio Jano, a great Italian engineer who deserves a complete post. Maybe soon…
In 1931 he creates a straight 8 which gives its name to the car : the 8C.

In fact, he just put together two 4 cylinder engines. To turn together, there is only one crankshaft, and only one cylinder head. In 1931 it’s the best technology available, with hemispheric chambers, alloy cylinder head and overhead camshaft.

First the 8C existed in 2300 cm³. In competition the car is the one to beat. Between 1931 and 1934, they win four times the 24h of Le Mans. The also add two Mille Miglia wins in 1932 and 1933.
The Germans also want their part of glory, they try to beat the Alfa so the Italians make the Alfa Romeo 8C 2600. Its first victory comes at the 1934 Mille Miglia.

In 1935 appears the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900

The third evolution, the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 is launched in 1935. The engine is modified to reach 2900 cm³, and a Roots compressor helps it deliver 220 hp!
The chassis is also improved, the fours wheels are independent, the front wheels are suspended with a wishbone system, the rear wheels with a solid axle.

For its first race, under the colours of the Scuderia Ferrari, Carlo Maria Pintacuda and Allessandro Della Stuffa win the 1935 Mille Miglia.

For 1936 Alfa builds the 2900 A. It’s a new success with the three first places at the Mille Miglia 1936. The career of the car will be filled with victories. None in Le Mans, but the Mille Miglia in 1937, 1938 ans 1947!

The road versions of the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 B

To make profit of these successes, Alfa Romeo launches a road version of the racing cars. The Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Corto with a 2.8m wheelbase and the Lungo with a 3m wheelbase. 20 cars will be produced in Corto, 10 in Lungo.

Different bodies will be made by the finest Italian coach builders. Touring will make a lot of cars. The car comes in different shapes, Spider, Coupé Le Mans, Berlinetta. We can say that these cars are the finest pre-war Alfa Romeo.

The 2016 summer queens

The 1939 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Spider by Touring

  • Chassis n° 412041
  • Engine n° 422042
  • Superleggera body n° 2027

This is the first Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo to get in the spotlights in the summer. This superb car was one of the stars of the RM Sotheby’s sale in Monterey.

The car was the second most expensive on sale, after the Jaguar D Type XKD501 we talked about in this post. The valuation of the Alfa was between 20 and 25 millions of dollars.

Its history involves a few continents and transformations. This car was one of the first Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo sent to the Carrozzeria Touring to receive the famous Superleggera body. As a reminder, this kind of body is made of thin aluminium panels fixed on a steel tubular structure. The name comes from the weight of this technique, very light.

After WWII, the car is bought by a Brazilian man for racing. The owner decides the car is not performant enough. The engine is replaced by a Chevrolet V8 and the body is replaced by a sleeker one.
After 30 years, the chassis is restored, and by chance, a real Touring body was found in Argentina. Maybe the original before it was changed… An original engine is also found and the car becomes a Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo for the second time.

In 1997 the restoration is complete, and in 1999 the car is second of the cabriolet class at Pebble Beach. In the hand of Sam and Emily Mann the car reaches 13,000 miles!

This Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo is the first to be auctioned in the 21st century. The fact that the car is a masterpiece of the automotive production, and a survivor make its price : $18,900,000 under the hammer.
The most expensive Alfa Romeo of all time, and the most expensive Italian car, Ferraris aside!

The 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Berlinetta by Touring

  • Chassis n° 412035

It’s the other star of this summer. This Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Berlinetta was in the Chantilly Art et Elegance show near Paris.

This car is slightly older than the previous one. The Berlinetta had been revealed at Paris cars show in 1937 by Touring. Five Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Berlinetta had been built.

This one, S/N 412035, was delivered on July 18th 1938. The car had been sold in Switzerland then went to the USA. As soon as the car was shipped, Frank Grisworld won the Watkins Glen Grand Prix. The car had several owners in the USA before ending in the hands of David Cohen in 1980. He restored it before participating to several rallyes, events and concours.

In 2006, Cohen sold the Alfa to John Shirley, an American enthusiast who started a new restoration just after racing the Mille Miglia Historic. It’s Butch Dennison who made the restoration. It’s a success, as soon as the car is finished, it wins the Best of show Award at Pebble Beach!
In 2009 the Alfa Romeo 8C 2900B Lungo Berlinetta comes back in Italy for the Villa d’Este Concours, for another Best of show.
In 2012, it gets another Best of show, at Windsor Concours of Elegance.

It’s one of the most awarded car of all times, and all that with a single owner!

In the beginning of September the car was once again at the Chantilly Arts et Elegance Concours. The car won its class, and also the Best of show award!

If you see one of these car once, enjoy it, it’s quite uncommon!

Photos : Bertrand from News d’Anciennes, RM Auctions Sotheby’s, Peter Auto, Alfa Romeo, Revs Standford


Posted by Pierre in Cars in the spotlight, Non classé, 0 comments

The Porsche 935 also ripped asphalt on the roads!

The Porsche 935 was a fabulous racecar. A “GT” Sport Car that won Le Mans. But the car also existed in road legal version, Straßenversion in German. 

The Porsche 935 was a Group 5 car, so one part of its structure came from the road car Porsche 930. Other parts came from the Porsche 934, the “racing” 930. The 935 was a touring car, that means that the car should have been an evolution of a road car. However, the opposite happened.

The real-fake street legal Porsche 935 from Porsche factory

It was an option on the Porsche 930 catalogue. Your neighbour’s Porsche could become a Porsche 935.
In fact, not really. This is mainly a body transformation. It’s simple, take a Porsche 930, double the price and you find a Flat Nose Porsche 930. Performances don’t change at all, is just a 930, not even a 934.

The modification is basic, the lights come from a Porsche 944, the nose is flattened. On the rear, a big air intake is added.
The aerodynamics are better, the car is 5 kph faster and the line is not even like a 911…
Porsche sold 948 flat nose against 20.000 “regular” Porsche 930.

Mansour Ojjeh’s Porsche 935 Straßenversion

Mansour Ojjeh is a Saudi-Swiss businessman  who founded Technique d’Avant Garde, the famous TAG. The company is known in automotive business for being Williams’s sponsor at the end of the 70’s and early 80’s.

In 1982, McLaren is a non-performing team, far away from the podium monopolized by turbo engines, even with the “White and Red” money. McLaren asked Porsche to design a turbocharged V6. However, Porsche refuses to engineer it on its own finances. TAG then covers a part of the costs The engine is then called TAG-Porsche and Ojjeh gets 50 % of McLaren in this deal.

What about the Porsche 935? Mansour Ojjeh has money and a wish: drive a Porsche 935 on the road. Not a 930 flat-nose but a real 935. He asked to Porsche in 1983, and the factory built a special car.

The car is based on a Porsche 930. The engine is the 12 valve 3.3 liter, boosted by a KKK Turbo (found on the Porsche 934) producing 380 hp !
The suspensions and wheels come from the 935, but the body is… quite peculiar. The front cover, the bonnet and the side skirts come from the 935, the front bumper comes from a 930  and the rear spoiler from a 934 ! The interior is the same as a 930, but includes every option !

Walter Wolf’s Porsche 935 K3 Straßenversion


In 1979, four year before the Ojjeh’s 935, Walter Wolf also wanted a special road car. He lived in Canada, a perfect place to be peaceful on the road with a racecar !

Walter Wolf loved racing so much that he launched a F1 Team: Walter Wolf Racing. At the beginning, Williams F1 Team was named Wolf-Williams. But the Austrian-born Canadian businessman bought Frank Williams’ shares. The team became Walter Wolf Racing in 1977. The driver is Scheckter and the team won three races ! The South-African driver is second of the championship and Wolf fourth. The success flies away in 1978 and 1979. Thus, Walter Wolf Racing disappears.

Meanwhile he bought a Porsche 935 K3, the ultimate version of the car, engineered and built by Kremer brothers. It is the same car than the one that won Le Mans in 1979. The only modification is the interior: blue leather seats and electric windows!
The car is easy to recognize: Walter Wolf Racing stickers are still on it, as you can see on those pictures taken at Techno Classica Essen.


Posted by Pierre in Cars in the spotlight, Non classé, 0 comments

The XKD 501 Jaguar D-Type, from Le Mans to Monterey

The Jaguar D-Type is a famous raving car. This one, S/N XKD 501, is quite peculiar and it will be on auction at Monterey, by RM Auctions.

The Jaguar D-Type is the direct descendant of the C-Type. With two winnings at Le Mans in 1951 and 1953 for the C-Type, the newcomer has to be a quite competitive car. The D-Type appears at Le Mans in 1954 and shows potential, even if it does not win.

The XKD 501 D-Type

After building 6 cars for its official team, Jaguar needs to build more cars to have it homologated. 54 more cars are built for private teams. The first one to get out of the factory wears the serial number XKD 501. This car joins one of the most famous private Jaguar racing teams, the Ecurie Ecosse.

Racing debuts in 1955

The car can not be part of its first two races. Jimmy Stewart, Jackie’s elder brother, crashes it during practice sessions at Silverstone and at the Nürburgring. For both accidents, the car has to be sent back to the factory to be repaired.

Ninian Sanderson takes the 6th place of the race opening the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. The following races bring vicotries and second places to Titterington at Chaterhall and Snetterton. He is teamed up with Sanderson for the 9 Hours of Goodwood, where they take the second place!

In August, Sanderson wins both races at Crimond, while Titterington ends in second place at Aintree.


1956, XKD 501 takes the lead

The season starts in April, with a third place for Sanderson & Lawrence at Aintree and Chaterhall. Sanderson retires, while Flockhart and the Ecurie Ecosse get the 2nd and 3rd places, before their first registration to Le Mans.

Jaguar aligns 3 official D-Types, but they are not the ones that prove the performances of the D-Type. They all have troubles during the race and finally, it’s the car from the Ecurie Ecosse, XKD 501, wearing #4 and driven by Flockhart & Sanderson, that ouwits Aston Martin. This car gets into history, winning Le Mans !

The results will be far less exciting, with only a third place at Goodwood.

Since 1957, less races

Jaguar officially retires in 1957. The Ecurie Ecosse manages the official D-Types, but XKD 501 is not used anymore.

It races at the Mille Miglia, driven by Flockhart, but does not finish.

In 1958, the ony race of XKD 501 is a club race at Aintree, where it gets the 7th place. It is used until 1960, before retiring.

The XKD 501 D-Type, outside of the tracks

The Ecurie Ecosse uses XKD 501 for exhibitions until they sell it in 1970. It is then put back to its 1956 Le Mans specifications. It is completely restored, the engine is even sent back to Jaguar for a complete rebuild.

In 1999, the car joins an American collection. It joins the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where it wins in both its categories: Racing Jaguar and Road & Track.

XKD 501 will be on sale at Monterey, with RM Auctions Sotheby’s

It is the main sale of RM Auctions Sotheby’s auction in Monterey. The lots proposed are astonishing, but this is the most expensive car, according to its estimated price : between $20 and $25 billions!

We will present the whole program of that auction soon.

Photos : RM Auctions Sotheby’s

Posted by Pierre in Auctions, Cars in the spotlight, News, Non classé, 0 comments

Car in the spotlight : Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta

While the Tour Auto is coming, and one of them is registered for the race, we offer you to (re)discover the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Tour de France.

Genesis of the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta

Everything starts in 1955, Armando Zampiero wins the italien sports car championship with a Mercedes-Benz 300SL. Ferrari, which is upset about being beaten on its own ground, develops a new car for the GT category and introduces it in the beginning in 1956.

That’s how the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta is created. It has been designed by Pininfarina and is built by Scaglietti, whose workshop was closed to the Ferrari plant. The chassis is based on the Ferrari 250 GT Boano, a long wheel-base (2600 mm). Its main advantage is that the car has been produced to the necessary number to be hoùmologated by the FIA in the GT category.

Technically, the Colombo V12 is kept, with its 3 liter displacement (250 cm³ per cylinder, hence the name).It is fed by 3 Weber double carburetors. It develops 230 to 260 hp, depending on the settings. The chassis shares a lot of elements with the regular 250 GT, including the tubular treillis frame and the rear drum brakes, but the front axle is suspendent thanks to coil springs.

To obtain a Berlinetta (two-seater in Italian) the passenger compartment is reduced, the quipment is minimal and the windows are now in Plexiglas. The car weight is reduced to 1,180 kg, allowing a top speed of 162 mph and 0 to 60 in 10,3 seconds.

Only 14 cars are built by Scaglietti, a few cars being built by Zagato.

1956, the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta debuts

The history of the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Tour de France is linked to the spanish pilot Alfonso de Portago. Born in a spanish noble family, he is noticed in 1954 and 1955 seasons, driving 4-cylinder sport cars and also Lancia D50s, bought by Ferrari and competing in the F2 category.

In 1956, he is one of the core drivers of Ferrari and gets pretty good results, mainly in fall. Driving the blue Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta 0557GT, shown in the post, he wins the Tour de France Automobile. Gendebien driving a “regular” 250 GT takes the third place, confirming Ferrari was on fire.
On top of that victory, De Portago wins the Coupes du Salon, on Montlhéry track, with the same chassis.

The Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta is upgraded at the end of the season, with the addition of air routings and a modified bodywork.
The car will be once again modified in spring, with 3 vents on the rear quarter panel. At the Mille Miglia, De Portago dies, therefore leaving his title…
Ferrari keeps getting outstanding results: Gendebien and Frère win the 12 Hours of Reims, driving a car from the Francorchamps team, ahead of Hill and Seidel, and Gino Munaron, driving Ferrari 250 GT Berlinettas too.

In the end of the year, the Tour de France is once again a perfect playground for Ferrari. Gendebien and Bianchi win for the Francorchamps team, ahead of two other Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta !
Like in 1956, the winner also grabs the first place at the Coupes du Salon.

In 1958, the cars get the first place at the 3 Hours of Pau and honorable places at the 12 Hours of Reims and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Once again, the Tour de France is won by Gendebien et Bianchi gagnent une nouvelle fois la course, and the ohter Ferrari 250 GT Berlinettas get the thrid, fourth and fifth place !


In 1959, the cars are driven on the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Beurly and Eldé for the Ecurie Nationale Belge get the third place ahead of Pilette and Arrens for the North American Racing Team. This second car is actually a 250 GT Interim Berlinetta. It keeps the long wheel-base but the body is the same as the upcoming SWB.
At the Tour de France, Gendebien and Bianchi win again at the wheel of their Berlinetta. Four victories in a row for the Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta definitively make it worth of its alias “Tour de France”.

The new SWBs will get the upper hand over the Berlinettas for the following years. At the end, the car gets its last victory at the Mille Miglia in 1961, driven by Gunnar Anderson.

The Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Tour de France, nowadays

This car is quite rare, and it’s quite hard to come across one. Our colleague Nicolas of Arthomobiles keeps a record (in French) of every 250 GT he met.

Regarding its auction price, the blue car in this post has been sold for $13,200,000 last summer, due to its history. The red one reached  £4,750,000 in fall.

Collin Kolles, former F1 team manager and now manufacturer of endurance prototypes, has registered one in the upcoming Tour Auto. We will provide you some pictures, since we will be there !

Pictures : RM Auctions, Revs Institute, News d’Anciennes.

Posted by Pierre in Cars in the spotlight, Non classé, 0 comments

Engine Stories : Wankel Engine

Automotive history is interspersed with innovations and new technologies. However some of them do not get the success expected or are major failures. will present you with an unusual engine, known by some well-informed technology-lovers. It was originally designed by a German engineer, right after World War II. Let’s talk about the Wankel engine, also called rotary engine, even if it applies to other layouts.

The principle of Wankel engine

How is this engine designed ? As stated by its name, the piston does not follow an up-and-down movement in a cylinder. The piston actually is roughly shaped like a triangle and rotates in an oval-like epitrochoid-shaped chamber, called housing. The corners of the piston ensure the separation of the different “areas” of the combustion cycle (intake, compression/expansion, exhaust). This layout allows to do without a significant amount of mobile parts. No need for connecting rods, the piston [A] rotates directly around the eccentric-shaft [B]. No need for valves either (and therefore no need for camshaft and all the related parts), ports, like in a two-stroke engine, are enough to deal with the gas flow in the engine.

Animation Wankel - Wikimedia

This engine was designed by Felix Wankel, a self-taught engineer, who layd the foundations of his concept since the 1920s. He even opened his own workshop in Heidelberg in 1924 to dedicate himself to the development of his revolutionary engine, patenting his first designs in 1929. These works lead him to join the Reich Ministry of Aviation which wasinterested in his works. After the Nazi capitulation, Felix Wankel was arrested by French authorities, who dismantled his workshop and confiscated all his documents.

The first steps of  the standardisation of the Wankel engine

In 1951, Felix Wankel opens a new Technical Development Center in his private house, in Lindau, thanks to the funding from Goetze AG company. He wis contacted by NSU Motorenwerke AG, in order to develop his rotary engine, foreseeing an industrial production. He has to wait until 1954 to develop an experimental car engine, the DKM54. This engine delivers promising figures : 29 hp at 17,000 rpm, for only 125 cm3 ! However, this engine will never reach serial production because its design, with both the piston and housing rotating, implies stripping the engine to change the spark plugs.

In the meantime, Hans Dieter Paschke, a NSU engineer develops an engine with a fixed housing, the KKM57. This different layout uses less parts than the DKM and is based on a simple movement (the piston rotates around a crankshaft), however, it doesn’t reach the high revolutions of the DKM. Felix Wankel  will even remark “you have turned my race horse into a plow mare”.

In 1960, a 250 cm3 version of this engine is put in a modified NSU Prinz which will be used as a road test car. This engine delivers 30 hp at 5,000 rpm, a far lower output compared to the DKM, but NSU still decides to build a production car, equipped with a rotary engine.

In 1961, the Wankel GmbH company sells licenses to several car/heavy goods vehicle building companies such as Deutz, MAN or Daimler-Benz, who start developing their own engines.

In 1964, NSU unveils the NSU Spider, based on the  NSU Prinz Sport Coupé, equipped with a single-rotor engine with a 497.5 cm3 displacement delivering 50 hp. 2,375 were delivered until the end of its production, in 1967. During this period, NSU founded a research centre, Comobil, in association with Citroën, based in Geneva to develop a Wankel-powered car. The project is dropped and a new joint venture between NSU and Citroën, Comotor is created, in charge of assemble rotary engines for the cars of both manufacturers. A plant is built in Luxemburg, and opens in 1967.

In 1967, NSU launches the Ro80, driven by the brand new two-rotor Comotor 626 engine (995 cm3, 115 hp at 5,500 rpm), coupled to a 3-speed semi-automatic gearbox. This car is the vision of what 80’s cars would be (as the name implies it). This saloon is fitted with ATE disc brakes, the front disc mounted inboard, reducing unsprung weight. The suspension was independent on the four wheels, using McPherson struts at the front and semi-trailing arm suspension at the rear. Today these features look usual, but back in those days, it was reserved for the high performance or luxury cars, in the best case !

Simultaneously, Citroën launches (in 1969) the M35, a customer test car (they had no lack of ideas to cut the expenses off), based on the Ami 8. This coupé was driven by a single-rotor prototype displacing 497.5 cm3. Those cars were lent to hand-picked customers who had to assure beforehand that they would drive over 20,000 miles a year, in exchange for full servicing. The 267 cars produced were reserved for destruction and today,only a few of them are still alive… In 1973, Citroën finally launches its Wankel powered production car, the GS Birotor, a luxury and high performance version of the GS. Powered by the Comotor 624 (two-rotor 995 cm3 engine, 107 hp at 6500 rpm), it is distinguished from the usual GS with wider tyres, a high-end interior, a rev alarm and a custom-designed front axle, which prefigures the front axle of the CX.

1973 is also the end of the negotiations between AMC and Wankel GmbH, allowing the smallest american car manufacturer to build its own Wankel engines for both their passenger cars and Jeeps. However, 1973 is a dark year for the automotive world. In October, car manufactures are caught in the turmoil generated by the energy crisis, and the gas-guzzlers are the most heavily affected. The Wankel engine is one of the perfect targets, its fuel consumption being hardly able to get under 22 mpg.

This iis why the GS Birotor production is stopped in 1975, after only 846 cars sold, and Citroën, lead to bankruptcy, is taken over by Peugeot. The new leadership encouraged the dealerships to swap the GS Birotors for CXs, in order to avoid the huge costs of maintenance.

NSU will keep making Ro80s until 1977, after 37,389 cars were built in the Neckarsulm plant. This year is marked by the closure of Comotor and the disappearance of NSU, taken by Audi. It also sounds the death knell of the Wankel engine, dropped by all manufacturers (even the development programs started by GM, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Ford Germany, Rolls-Royce and Nissan)

Mazda, alone against the world, sticks with the Wankel engine

End of an era ? Nay ! Tsuneji Matsuda, chairman of the Toyo Kogyo group fell in love with this revolutionary engine. As soon as 1961, he starts negotiating with Wankel GmbH, for its automotive division, Mazda, helped by the japanese government. His goal was to take advantage of the taxation in favor of the low displacement engines (under 1,000 cm3), while offering performances worthy of sports cars.

This is how starts the development of the 40A, a single-rotor Wankel engine, technically close to the KKM400 from NSU (90 mm rotor radius, 59 mm rotor thickness) which will never reach serial production. Really quickly, Mazda engineers are confronted with “chatter marks” appearing on the housing inner surface. These marks are due to the early design of the apex seals that reached a resonating vibration.

In 1963, Mazda introduces the Cosmo Sport prototype at Tokyo Motor Show, along with its L8A engine (two rotors, 98 mm radius, 56 mm thickness, that is to say 798 cm3 displacement). This brand new engine is fitted with new apex seals, made of hardened steel, that do not reach resonating vibration (removing the chatter marks issues). New rubber seals are fitted on the side of the rotors to lower oil consumption.

Cosmo 110 S - petroloicousAs soon as 1965, the L8A engine is replaced by the L10A (two-rotor, 982 cm3) in its 0810 version (110 hp at 7,000 rpm). It introduces twin side intake ports (perpendicular to the rotation plane of the rotor), each fed by one of four Stromberg caburetor barrels. The rotor housing was made of sand-cast aluminum plated with chrome, while the aluminum sides were sprayed with molten carbon steel for strength. Cast iron was used for the rotors themselves, and their eccentric shafts were of expensive chrome-molybdenum steel. In particular, this engine was used in the 80 pre-production cars that will wander the japanese roads for over 3 million kilometers in two years in order to improve reliability. The definitive Cosmo Sport 110S is unveiled in May 1967 and 343 cars are built until July 1968.

Actually, the materials chosen for the engine put a strain on the cost-efficiency of the car. Mazda then decides to get back to more conventional materials, The main changes of the 0813 version of the L10A engine are its weight (122 kg, instead of 102 for the 0810) and its power output, gaining 18 hp. This engine is then fitted in the new series of Cosmo 110S, which is now equipped with 15-inch wheels (instead of 14) and a 5-speed gearbox (instead of 4). 1176 cars will get out of the Hiroshima plant, until September 1972. In the meantime, a tuned down version (100hp, one carburettor) was put into the Familia saloon, named Familia Rotary, and in the coupé based on it, known as R100 in the West. The Familia Rotary and R100 production will stop in 1973.

The L10A engine will be upgraded one last time in 1971, giving birth to the 0866 version, specifically designed for the japanese market. It will propel the  Mazda Savanna S102 (exported as Mazda RX-3). This engine has reworked exhaust ports and a modified exhaust system, in order to comply with the new anti pollution regulations set up by the japanese government. It will disappear along with the 0810, in 1973.

Luce R130To extend its range, Mazda decides to put a rotary engine into the Luce coupé, designed by Giugiaro. However, the Luce is a front-wheel drive car, which implies developing a new engine. The Luce R130 is powered by the 13A, a two-rotor 1310 cm3 engine (rotor radius increased to 120mm) developing 126 hp. It will be the only appearance of a front-wheel drive rotary powered Mazda, the new generation of Luce going back to a rear-wheel drive layout in 1972. The R130 is then one of the most desireable off the beaten track rotary-powered Mazdas.

At the same time, Mazda develops the 12A engine, an “elongated” version of the 10A (rotor thickness increased from 60 to 70 mm, for a displacement of 1146 cm3) which will power roughly ten different cars from 1970 to 1985, with different settings. From 1975 to 1980, you can find it under the bonnets of RX-2s, RX-3s, RX-4s, RX-5s, Luce Rotary, Cosmo coupé (LA/HB) and the first RX-7s (SA/FB) developing 130 hp. For environmental issues, a 110hp version will be created for the RX-3s from 1972 to 1974, and 105hp version for the RX-7s sent to the US. It uses the thermal reactor introduced with the 0866 10A engine, and uses new materials to harden the rotor housings. The latest versions of this engine called 12A-6PI featured variable induction ports.

The ultimate 12A engine was the electronically fuel-injected turbocharged engine, increasing its power to 160 hp, then 165 hp for the “Impact Turbo” specs. These engines will be put in the SA/FB RX-7s, Luce and HB series Cosmo.

Quietly introduced in 1974 (and produced until 1978), the 12B was produced for the RX-2 and RX-3. It had increased reliability, compared to the previous versions and it was the first Mazda rotary engine to use a single distributor, instead of two.

Mazda_RX-5_Rotarystock_HollandLast step of the Wankel engine development, Mazda introduces the 13B engine, an “elongated” 12A (rotor thickness is increased from 70 to 80mm), which is not related to the 13A. The 13B displaces 1308 cm3 and will be the most produced Wankel engine in the automotive history. The first version of the engine produces 130 hp, but is more environment-friendly than the 12A. It is fitted since 1973 in the RX-4, then in the Rotary Pickup (the only pickup truck ever produced with a Wankel engine) in 1974. In 1975, the 13B-AP (anti-pollution) is put in the Roadpacer, RX-5 and Cosmo.

Cosmo HBFor the years 1984-85, the 13B engine becomes 13B-RESI (Rotary Engine Super Injection), it features a brand new intake manifold and a so-called Dynamic Effect Intake which generates (thanks to a two-level intake box) a supercharger-like effect due to the resonance of the opening and closing intake ports. Featured with a Boch L-Jetronic fuel-injection, this new engine produces 135 hp, reducing emissions even more. It will be put in the RX-7 GSL-GE, Luce and Cosmo HB.

The 13B-RESI engine is quickly replaced in 1986 by the 13B-DEI, featured with a variable-intake system, and a four-injector fuel-injection. This engine , put in the RX-7 FC, delivers 146 hp and even 160 since 1989.

That same year, the 13B is also boosted by a turbocharger, becoming the 13B-T. This engine keeps the four-injector fuel-injection, but is closer to the 74-78 layout. Its twin scroll turbocharger is fed by a mechanically-actuated valve until 1988, where the valve is replaced by a reworked exhaust manifold. This engine delivers 185 hp and is put into the Luce HC Turbo II and RX-7 Turbo. In 1989, its power is increased to 200 hp for the RX-7 Turbo II.

Between 1990 and 1995, the 13B-T becomes 13B-REn featuring the biggest intake side-ports ever developed for a Wankel engine and two sequential turbochargers (a large Hitachi HT15 as primary and a smaller HT-10, as secondary), the very first appearance of this layout in a mass produced car. This 235hp engine will propel the Eunos Cosmo coupé (JC series).

Since 1992, another twin-turbocharged 13B appears, the 13B-REW, featuring two Hitachi HT-12 sequential turbocharges (the primary offering boost from idle to 4,500 rpm, the secondary coming online afterwards). This engine, developing 250 to 285 hp, will be the heart of the RX-7 FD, from 1992 to 2002.

The 13B-REW will be the basis of the 20B-REW, the only triple-rotor mass-produced Wankel engine ever built. It displaces 1962 cm3 (three 654 cm3 rotors instead of two for the 13B). The sequential HT-12 turbochargers allowed it to deliver 300 hp, unfortunately linked to an automatic gearbox, for the touring flagship that the Eunos Cosmo coupé was.

The last Wankel engine that hit the road appeared under the bonnet of the RX-8, in 2003. It is the naturally aspirated Renesis, or 13B-MSP (Multi Side Port). It was developed to lower emissions and increase its output (which are the main drawbacks of the Wankel engine, due to its geometry). Compared to the other 13B engines, the major difference consists of the side exhaust ports (that are no longer peripheral) erasing  overlap and allowing to redesign the intake ports.

RX-8These upgrades allow a higher compression ratio, therefore higher power output. On the other hand, new side seals and new apex seals allow higher revs. This new engine develops 192 hp and even 231 for the high performance versions that feature a three stage intake and reve limiter set to 9,500 rpm instead of 9,000). This engine dissapears alongside the RX-8 in 2012, without any successor.

Is the Wankel engine dead ?

As you could notice, the Wankel engine never stopped being upgraded, even if a few manufacturers mass-produced it. However, its development cost a lot to those who tried : NSU disappeared, Citroën, nearing a new bankruptcy, was saved by Peugeot and Mazda almost died, because they made the Wankel engine their main engine, before dedicating it to sports cars. At the moment, it is no more mass-produced, it only appears in the Pro Mazda Championship. Regulations are severe against the polluting engines, and it would be pointless to deny the Wankel engine is one of them. However Mazda keeps having faith, developing a rotary-powered range extender, for which the lightness of its components and its compactness can be a major advantage, and, obviously with the RX-Vision Concept, powered by the SkyActiv-R 16X engine still in development. Wait and see…

For the petrolheads, the Wankel engine will always be unique, with an incredible smoothness, an indefinable sound (for those of you who would not know, look for a video of the 787B running Le Mans in 1991, which it won, you will be seduced, like i was). Rotary-powered cars are to be collected from now on. However, be careful with your car service history, because a lot of mechanics are clueless with this technology, and a lot of cars have to be junked, lacking proper maintenance. Save them !

Posted by Pierre in Engine Stories, Motoring History, Non classé, 0 comments