Who Invented the Wankel Engine


The Wankel Engine, which is better known to many as the rotary engine, was the primary power source in Mazda vehicles. Instead of using timing chains or belts like most other engines, the rotary engine uses rotors to generate timing and power. Developed be Felix Wankel, the first engine was patented in 1929, but wasn’t developed until the 1950’s and the first working prototype of the engine wasn’t ready until 1957.

Wankel is one of the true underdog stories in the world of inventions because he never graduated from school. He didn’t have a degree and the only thing that he had going for him was his experience at a book shop, of all places. What many don’t realize, however, is that Wankel had some very extreme views.

How Often Did Felix Wankel Get Thrown Out of the Nazi Party

The fact that the Nazis wanted a pure race of people in their country is still something that resonates in the world today. Their hatred of Jews in particular created the Holocaust, was one of the central components of Allied involvement in World War II, and their swastika symbol is so synonymous with evil that the core meaning behind the symbol of prosperity has all been but forgotten in the decades since.

For Felix Wankel, being just a good Nazi wasn’t good enough. He held extreme fascist views that were so extreme for the Nazis that they threw him out of the party not once, but twice. There’s a strong gap in Wankel’s history, but by the 1950’s he was working hard on his engine and it seemed like it would be the next innovation that would revolutionized the automobile industry.

It probably would have been as well, except for the fuel crisis of the 1970’s. Only Mazda was willing to stick with the rotary engine and even they gave up in 2012.

Were His Views of Jews Just a “Youthful Mistake?”

During interviews about his engines in the 1980’s, Wankel consistently said that his views during the time between the two world wars were just youthful mistakes. Should someone be judged because of the choices they make in their youth, even if they include wearing a swastika armband in public and distribute anti-Semitic literature while writing hateful messages in their diary? It is true that Wankel was arrested by the Nazis in 1933, but it was Hitler’s economic advisor that got him out of prison.

His focus on technology and his hatred make it difficult to disassociate the Wankel Engine from his Nazi views, even if he was removed permanently in 1942 from the SS. He once met with Himmler and he wanted the Nazi party to be even more militaristic and use technology to win. Could he have been associated with the party to further his career? Was he too radical?

Whatever the case may be, his idea for a rotary engine was profound and it saw some successes, even if it has died out commercially as of today.