Goodwood 2014:- Retrofuturism with the 1971 Mazda RX500

DSC_6017 When we think of the Wankel engine, the first thing we do is snigger about the funny name, because we’re all so infantile. The second thing we do is think about Mazda, who have carried the torch for Rotary engine usage and development higher than NSU, Norton, Citroen and all the others combined. Some of the Mazdas to use Felix’s wonder-engine have been more successful than others, the JDM only Roadpacer, for example, was an hilarious disaster. Nevertheless, Mazda’s faith in the concept was self-evident, and in 1971 Mazda unveiled a show-stopping concept car to spin up a bit more rotary interest. 43 years later, I damn near tripped over the thing during the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Edit: Antti wrote about this back last year and now, by sheer stroke of luck, I appear to have written almost exactly the same as he did…. DSC_6018 It was on display at the Cartier Style Et Luxe arena, apparently the first time the car had ever been displayed in the UK. I wasn’t joking about tripping over the RX500, it really is incredibly low. A goodly chunk of the car dedicated to the engine, a single rotor mill (of just 491cc measured capacity and apparently good for 247hp) , with a rearmost situated trunk area. The layout is a little reminiscent of a Lotus Europa, albeit one which had been given the full Buck Rogers treatment. DSC_6012 The doors swung forwards like on a Countach, and the covers for the engine compartment opened in a gullwing arrangement, to allow for what must have been fairly limited access to the Wankel lurking within, caged by the kind of plumbing you see on the outside of the Pompidou Centre. DSC_6015 Note that the rear light clusters incorporate green segments. The idea was that they would shine bright green when the car was accelerating; an additional taillight colour that I’m glad we never adopted, though I would like to see the introduction of brown warning lights to illuminate on an Audi whenever it’s being driven by a shithead. DSC_6014 Stylistically the front section reminds me a lot of the Mercedes C111 (which was also Wankel powered…), pretty much completely timeless. It could have been from any period of the seventies or eighties. But from the door and back the whole thing is utterly barking mad in that wonderful of-its-time Japanese concept car way we all love. There are big cooling slats all over the place, presumably great for letting rainwater in, and a complex looking exhaust system with a big lump of heatsink built into it. DSC_6016 Heartbreakingly; I only got to see this as a static exhibit. However, rummaging around the hopeless digital landfill that is Youtube uncovered this little gem, with bonus Cosmo content. [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZfdjk8SBsU[/youtube] It proves to be every bit as deliciously flatulent as I want it to be. What a noise. Ridiculous but brilliant. (Video credit to EZ30tRutH6. Thanks!) (Images copyright Chris Haining and Hooniverse 2014)

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