In 1929 German Engineer Fenix Wankel received the first patent for the Wankel engine which is now more commonly known as the Rotary. The rotary is a ground breaking piece of engineering designed to be smaller, lighter and more energy efficient than a conventional piston engine as it has much fewer moving parts.
The rotary has been used in many applications over the years from chainsaws to motorcycles, however they are mostly recognised for being the source of power for a lot of Mazda’s production cars.
We all think of the modern day Mazda RX8, the Mazda RX7s from the 1980s and 1990s or maybe the 787B LeMans car when we hear the term rotary but Mazda have been putting the engine in things for years! in the 1960s Mazda had a range of rotary powered cars from the Cosmo sports car to the Familia saloon car which were selling with some success!
As per usual, when any automotive company appears to be making a break through the others have to try to get a cut of the action too. Notorious engineering powerhouse Mercedes Benz were certainly not going to be cut out of the action! The prototype car to house the rotary they produced was the C111.
The C111 was a fibreglass bodied prototype sports car which was first unveiled in 1969 at the Frankfurt International Motor Show. It sported a 3 rotor engine producing 280hp at 7000rpm which was replaced with a 4 rotor unit in 1970 which produced 350hp at 7000rpm. Both engines were internally coded M950F.
Aside from the engine the car had a fair few other features which were advanced for it’s time including multi-link rear suspension and pop up head lights, which in the late 1960s were seemingly a feature only on Adams Brother’s Probe 16, a weird little sports car and the Alfa-Romeo Montreal. The car also carried over the iconic ‘gull-wing’ doors from the Mercedes 300SL from the 1950s.
Sadly Mercedes Benz scrapped the M950F rotary in the early 1970s as they were not getting the required fuel economy out of the engine and so the future of the C111 was to be powered by prototype diesels… Which are rubbish in comparison!
Thanks for reading!