AUTOMOBILE

Never Forget That General Motors Almost Used a Rotary Engine

Enthusiasts generally associate the Wankel rotary engine with Mazda and its eminent RX-7. However, General Motors had it too and had it in production cars as early as 1974 – at least on paper. Unfortunately, the Wankel had a tumultuous tenure under General Motors, and it ultimately didn’t enjoy the same success as it had in the Mazda RX-7. Forever lost to the sands of time, GM’s Wankel-titled chapter ended abruptly in retirement and disinterest. Here’s what happened and why the Wankel didn’t find favor with GM executives.

The Wankel rotary was an attractive idea

For the same reasons it appealed to Mazda, General Motors took to the Wankel rotary engine well. It was lighter than an internal combustion engine and had fewer moving parts. Gung-ho for developing the engine in passenger cars, GM paid $50 million for licensing, and development went underway. The 1974 Chevrolet Vega got the spotlight for the project. Its 1974 model was to host the Wankel rotary engine.


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