It’s only fitting that 60 years after the very first production car powered by a Wankel rotary engine was launched – the cute Bertone-bodied and surprisingly spritely 497cc NSU Spider – Mazda is now reintroducing this revolutionary rotary motor as a range-extender as part of the sophisticated mechanical specification of its new hybrid MX-30 crossover SUV; the Japanese marque’s first use of a Wankel engine since Mazda dropped its excellent but thirsty rotary RX-8 coupe a decade ago.
The Wankel engine had an almost triangular (trochoidal) rotor that turned within a housing, shaped like two partly merged circles. It was a very simple and elegant engineering solution with much promise, and many major vehicle producers soon signed licences to develop and build their own Wankel rotary engines, including General Motors, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Nissan and AMC. Over 60 years however, only four car manufacturers have actually built and sold Wankel engined cars, these being NSU, Mazda (the rotary masters), Citroen, and (wait for it…) the unlikely AutoVAZ, better known outside of Russia as Lada. Here are six Rotary-engined cars that aren't Mazdas