Two Wankel engines

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The unique, and unscorable, Mazda RX-3

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The “okay so how am I meant to deal with this?” situation. Named after the Rotary Mazda RX-3 in Top Trumps — a hair-dresser supercar, I am told — that doesn’t seem to be comparable in any meaningful way in the engine category, with any other card in the pack. So who wins? Search me.

Dealer: (Triumphantly slapping down a Rover 3500 Van den Plas) Cylinders: V-EIGHT! BEAT THAT, SUCKER!!!
Second player (Patiently lays the Mazda with a cryptic smile): AHA!! TWO WANKEL ENGINES!
Everyone (after a prolonged bout of sniggering): Umm...

So now what are you supposed to do?

This dilemma comes from a time before the Internet, when boredom was a priced-in feature of every adolescent life, and not just those of office workers.

The Wankel engine: a brief primer

Designed in 1951 by Felix Wankel, the Wankel engine is a type of internal combustion engine that converts pressure into rotating motion through an eccentric rotary design. Compared to a normal piston engine of similar power, it is lighter, smaller, generates more torque and vibrates less.

But its odd-shaped combustion chamber made it less efficient, and sometimes unburnt fuel would escape, creating a satisfying (for the driver) and annoying and somewhat alarming (for passers-by) tendency to backfire.

Alas, exploding petrol emitting from exhaust pipes isn’t really the EU’s bag, which basically banned Wankel engines in Europe in 2010.

Finbarr Saunders

“Wankel” is also a super near-double entendre. The design was conceived by German engineer Felix Wankel who, being German, almost certainly, sadly, pronounced his name “Vankel”, but that has not stopped generations of British schoolboys tittering well into their fifties, if I’m honest.

See also