Non-Rotary, rotary cars.

by WillCarter 15. February 2010 07:36

The Wankel Rotary engine is a controversial subject. To some it is one of the finest pieces of automotive engineering ever, others say its weak and over complicated while some just laugh at the name Wankel. However, whatever your opinion there is no denying that the lightweight Rotary has become a popular choice when it comes to picking a leftfield option for an engine conversion in the retro community. Thanks to its small physical size and aforementioned low weight coupled with the possibility for big power output the Rotary is perfectly suited to a massive selection of retro cars, and in this article I hope to show you just how wide that selection really is.

Having been made popular by Mazda, Rotary conversions have become most common within the Japanese retro community. One of the most famous is Bryan Feldman’s Datsun 510 which runs turbocharged 13B engine. Taking influences from both the Hot-Rod and Motorsport scenes in its styling, this 510 has become something of an internet icon since it was completed a few years ago. Pushing out roughly 350bhp and weighing it at just under 780kg’s Bryan’s mission was to build the quickest 510 he possibly could while maintaining the cars handling and driveability. With those figures it’s easy to believe that he has achieved just that.

It’s not just the Datsun boys getting in on the action though, Rotaries are a popular choice for Toyota owners especially in Australia and New Zealand where the Toyota tuning scene thrives. This is where this little Corolla comes in, looking every inch the sleeper, this little KE20 packs a punch thanks to its 13B motor running 10psi of boost. Despite looking pretty much standard that package gives the Corolla just over 280bhp at the rear wheels, impressive I think you’ll agree.

Away from the Japanese scene Rotaries are also becoming more prevalent within the Air-Cooled Volkswagen scene. The Drag Racing fraternity have become especially fond of the little motor having realised that even a lightly tinkered Rotary can match, if not beat the majority of Flat-Fours. This one here is known as Black Mamba and manages to wheelie down the strip in an incredible 8.83 secs at 150mph while the Rotary hangs on for dear life out of the boot lid.

However Beetles aren’t the only cars to have had a Rotary stuffed into the rear. A few years ago this unassuming looking Skoda Estelle was one of the most recognisable and respected cars on the UK retro scene. Based on an ultra rare 1985 105 Lux model it was powered by a naturally aspirated 13b Rotary motor mated up to a 4-Speed VW Type 2 gearbox which barked through the massive Honda Fireblade can. This little set up apparently made it ‘loud, noisy and nothing short of dangerous’ which sounds just fine to me. Unfortunately this Skoda is no more, after some problems getting it running properly it was sold on a couple of times and later broken for parts leaving the shell in Belgium of all places.

Nowadays one of the best known Rotary powered cars in the UK and Ireland is this evil looking Toyota Corolla AE86. It belongs to Formula Drift driver Darren ‘D-Mac’ McNamara and built by his tuning shop MCNSport. As you’ve probably guessed the AE86 has been built to be a dedicated drift car, completely stripped of any unnecessary weight or luxury it now weighs in at a featherweight 766Kg. This coupled with the high-spec 13B turbocharged engine pushing out approximately 220bhp makes the little Corolla a very capable machine, especially at the hands of D-Mac who can be seen putting the car through its paces at various Irish trackdays and drift events.

However if you’re looking for the ultimate in Rotary conversions you’re going to have to head further afield than Mondello Park. That place is Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Islands. I know, I wasn’t expecting it either. However when it comes to Rotaries these boys know what they talking about. Packing high-powered, fire-cracking, turbocharged engines into just about any shell they can get their hands on when these cars launch it is a sight to behold. We’re talking about Toyota Starlets doing sub 7-sec ¼ mile runs while spinning up their massively wide rear slicks all the way down the strip. It’s down to these impressive runs that they are now proud to boast the wholly believable claim that are the home to the World’s Fastest Compacts.


Comments (30) -

15/02/2010 09:30:52 #


Great stuff Will, thanks!

rmad United Kingdom

15/02/2010 23:40:58 #


Nice little bit there, food for further thought! Cheers

Mightymork United Kingdom

19/02/2010 19:28:16 #

Private Number Plates

Dunno why rotary engines never caught on, they make more sense than 4 pot bangers.

Private Number Plates United Kingdom

21/02/2010 14:23:15 #


Interestingly, that 510 lives on these shores now.  Apparently quite close to where I live.

kyteler New Zealand

28/02/2010 21:51:34 #


I will build a race car, so the road from toy has to go! The car is in excellent condition.

calico United States

03/03/2010 05:52:47 #


Huh huh, Wankel.... ;)

Rich606 United Kingdom

29/03/2010 09:28:15 #


Some awesome cars, always loved the idea of rotary engines and the noise! Love the idea of throwing away a 4 stroke engine for a completely different internal combustion engine design.

Otto vs. Wankel?

robinxr4i United Kingdom

11/04/2010 01:47:11 #

Randal Nunez

Certainly agree with what you stated. Your explanation was definitely the simplest to understand. I tell you, I usually get irked when folks focus on problems that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail correct about the head and explained out every thing without having complication. Maybe, people can take a signal. Will likely be back again to get more. Many thanks

Randal Nunez United States

12/04/2010 01:46:20 #


RX8 is the successor to the RX7 and it is powered by a rotary engin

AIRPORT TAXI  United States

17/04/2010 13:39:22 #

Merle Berrio

Hey dude, what theme is your site using? It's amazing

Merle Berrio United States

19/04/2010 19:03:42 #

Emily K

Outstanding post! I originally discovered your blog a few days ago, and I subscribed to your RSS feed the exact same day. I have several excellent ideas for some future posts you could write. I'll send you an email later. Keep up the great work. Smile

Emily K United States

20/04/2010 01:28:40 #

Jed is a good uk site i found for anything old school and rotary. there is a cool wee rotary vauxhall chevette in their gallery. i'm sure they were at a past retrogathering, you couldn't miss them lol brap braaap

Jed United Kingdom

30/04/2010 06:32:02 #

Curtis Macnair

It might be a bit out of context perhaps, but I really need to know - which theme are you using? I especially adore the sidebar style.

Curtis Macnair United States

30/04/2010 10:34:04 #

Linh Stonebraker

Good to be stumbling up to your websiteblog again, it has been almost a year for me. Well this is the article that i've been waiting for so long. I need this article to end my assignment in the college, and it has same topic as your post. Thank you, fantastic share.

Linh Stonebraker United States

30/04/2010 23:23:28 #

Karlene Lonero

Hmm, there are some difficulties with the first link, as it returns a 404 error.

Karlene Lonero United States

10/05/2010 17:14:20 #


What is the best airport to fly into if I am going to Gottingen, Germany?

AIRPORT TAXI United States

23/05/2010 06:32:53 #

Restaurant Recipes

Nice cars!  I wish i own one of them

Restaurant Recipes United States

30/05/2010 23:20:39 #


I agree, for the most part, but don't you feel you're oversimplifying?

lab0rat United States

31/05/2010 02:30:08 #

higher search engine ranking

Gute Idee und außerdem auch schoene Homepage.

higher search engine ranking United States

05/06/2010 11:36:50 #


A few days ago I discussed that topic with another guy just with a different result. It s a topic challenging for discussions again and again. Interesting issues you used for argumentation

Tagesgeldvergleich United States

09/06/2010 18:19:09 #

Tom @ Web Design Surrey

Ha, I think I know what you're getting at. Nice laylout on your blog by the way. Very cool.

Tom @ Web Design Surrey United States

11/06/2010 14:21:16 #


The Cup should be very close!   I give it a flip of a coin in my opinion but best of luck to both soccer teams! I will be watching the entire match!

Monica United States

13/06/2010 10:37:41 #


This year the World Cup could be very close!   I give it a 50/50 chance with my opinion but good luck to both teams! I should be watching for sure!

Kathy United States

14/06/2010 08:35:45 #

Caleb Feisthamel

Hi everybody. This weblog was fantastic! Plenty of awesome data and inspiration. Keep 'em coming... u all perform such a necessary job at writing... can't let you know how much I, for one be thankful for all you dO!

Caleb Feisthamel United States

28/06/2010 04:50:23 #

Duramax Sheds

Thanks for posting this article... I missed this session.

Duramax Sheds United States

29/06/2010 00:42:17 #

If you take pride in your car, you always want the best appearance possible. For maintenance of foreign cars, few tools are as effective as the rotary buffer. United States

06/07/2010 06:30:13 #


Some awesome cars, always loved the idea of rotary engines and the noise! Love the idea of throwing away a 4 stroke engine for a completely different internal combustion engine design.

Mazda United States

07/07/2010 23:18:55 #

Tanner Hoshaw

What an excellent web page!

Tanner Hoshaw Czech Republic

20/07/2010 19:59:57 #

Used Autos

Instant used auto loan has been specially for the people who yearn to purchase a vehicle but are not able to afford a new one.

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27/07/2010 16:12:15 #

Phylicia Nabritt

Hmm weird this post reg rotary is totaly irrelevant to the search question  I entered in yahoo but it was listed on the first page.

Phylicia Nabritt Lithuania

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