Remembering The Rotaries
Slow & Silent

Forgive me father for I have sinned; I’d almost completely forgotten how obnoxiously loud and powerful Mazda rotary engines can be.

I’m not saying I’d forgotten they existed altogether, even if it has been over 15 years since Mazda produced a rotary-powered vehicle the world cared about. Now, before you light up the comments section to remind me of the lacklustre RX-8 which I’ve almost completely omitted from my memory, take a deep breathe and ask yourself if the model was a truly worthy successor to the amazing RX-7 dynasty? Or even to the wider family of potent machines before that? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

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Long gone are the days of being temporarily deafened when the traffic lights turn green, or being woken from a deep slumber at 3:00am by a turbo bridge-port 13B pulling sixteen trillion RPM. Jokes about changing apex seals and oil more often than filling up with petrol have almost been swallowed up by the sands of time.

The death of the rotary street scene in Australia was ironically slow and silent. It wasn’t until years after the Capellas, Savannas and majority of RX-7s had completely disappeared from our streets that I can remember really taking note of their absence.

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Once I’d had the epiphany, I was sad. What happened to Australia’s rotary scene? Perhaps all those rotary jokes were closer to home than I’d imagined.

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When I heard that Rotary Revival #4 was taking place a mere half hour from home at Sydney Motorsport Park, the home of WTAC, I was quick to block out the entire day and investigate the state of the scene.

Rotary Revival
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Seconds after arriving at SMSP’s familiar entrance, and even before I make it through the gates, it became ear-burstingly clear that the Australian rotary scene is far from dead. Parking up and closing the driver’s door of my Evolution IX, a familiar and obnoxious BRAP BRAP BRAP consumed the ambient noise around me as a ported 13B fired into life and settled into an aggressive idle.

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One thing I instantly noticed as I made my way through pit lane was an almost complete absence of RX-8s, confirming that my personal views aren’t to dissimilar to the broader community. I’ve never known how to feel about the car; one half of me applauds Mazda for building something unique and quirky with undercurrents of sportiness, while the other half is left feeling apathetic and confused by the mixed messages the conservative freestyle-doored coupe sent to consumers. Here’s to hoping that one day we’ll have a focused and worthy RX-7 replacement.

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The other main point to take in from a quick walk around was just how many outstanding pieces of Wankel history were on display and ready to carve up the Northern Circuit. Over 250 cars entered the event and more than 1000 spectators made their way through the gates.

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The Rotary Revival crowd spent most of their time lining track fences admiring the spectacle. Wave after wave of what sounded like angry hornets ensured there was always something to look at and listen to.

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Those fortunate enough to know an owner were able to enjoy the action from on-board during the many cruise sessions. The Revival is one of the few events that open the track up to passengers; of course the laps are slower and more controlled than an actual racing, but most sessions seemed to peppered with the occasional, small ‘accidental skid’.

I was fortunate enough to score a passenger ride with Mark in his mildly modified, Australian-delivered Series 7 FD3S RX-7. Sydney Motosport Park’s straight was buzzing with excitement as the entire field of entrants lined up for one giant cruise session.

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While the top speed was governed by a safety car it didn’t seem to bother anyone; drivers were too busy enjoying the freedom of a closed road and no threat of defect notices from the police. Wherever you looked, cars were packed full of massive smiles. It was easy to get lost in the enthusiasm of the parade laps from Mark’s passenger seat.

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For those that weren’t satisfied with casual happy laps the day was punctuated with a few timed race sessions for the more competitive entrants. Those addicted to straight lines had the opportunity to drag race up Sydney Motorsport Park’s main straight.

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In typical Australian fashion, the event closed out with a burnout session against a low setting sun. Is there really any better way to bring an end to a day at the track?

The Brothers Of Brap
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While we may never relive those glorious days of industrial deafness on every street corner, the devoted community of Australian rotary enthusiasts will ensure their loud legacy is never forgotten completely. Traditions, interests and knowledge will be passed down the line and a younger generation will inherit their family heirlooms by the way of car keys.

The pit garages were filled with groups of mates and young families. Cars were surrounded by mixed generations working hard and keeping the rotary dream alive.

And for all those who are keen on keeping tradition, there are the enthusiasts that thrive on finding new ways to inject life and variety into the scene.

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The level of enthusiasm on display by the Mazda rotary fans exceeds most other automotive circles. These guys and girls are rotor-mad and love nothing more (except their cars) than to share that passion.

Sydney’s Rotary Revival renewed my faith in Australia’s rotary scene; it’s still very much alive and kicking, even if it isn’t trying to race me at every set of traffic lights anymore.

Matthew Everingham
Instagram: matthew_everingham
matt@mattheweveringham.com

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34 comments

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1

I too miss the days of hearing the brap of a rotary before seeing it.

Great write up and pics!

Author2
Matthew Everingham

Thanks EH!

3

Great read! Hopefully this article will show the world that most of Australia's rotaries are in fact presented in a clean street style, with the older girls mostly rolling on fat tyres and 15s, rather than the huge 20"+ Simmons wheels that have earnt us a questionable reputation overseas on sites like Speedhunters and other online media platforms. There looks to be only a handful of that 'questionable' style of car in this line-up. Having said that, I still think it's important that people realise that Simmons wheels were a great high quality, locally made 2 or 3 piece wheel that was used in our early motorsport days, and the connection between early Mazdas and Simmons wheels stems from that era. Think the Peter Styvesant livery Group C cars of the '80s and so on. I'm definitely not a fan of seeing an RX3 sitting on 22 inch wheels, but at least all of those high dollar cars built in that style are usually tubbed and therefore fat drag type wheels tyres can be fitted easily.

4
David Sciberras

There werent many tubbed big simmon rolling cars there because there wasnt many PAC cars there lol

Author5
Matthew Everingham

Thanks man!

6

is that a bmw e30 with a rotary engine swap?
i saw once a vw golf with a rotary swap, for bmw many friends made the plan on papers then ended up using a toyota jz since its too much cheaper here.

Author7
Matthew Everingham

Both the E30 and E46 are now RX powered. Expect a spotlight on that E46 M3.

8

funny story about that e30 it up until recently was running a pretty potent ls1 making 297rwkw & 700nm, but the man who owns it is a rotor head at heart & saw it more fitting for the ls1 to come out a freshly built peripheral port 13b makes its way in. Sounds absolutely amazing! I just need to pester him to enjoy a passenger seat ride in it

9

seems like its worthy a feature

10

this blue one with retractable lights on the first pic looks so gorgeous

11
Justin "Mayjor" Clift

Yes there were only 5 rx8's on the track for RR4 and yes my blue 8 is in the photo behind Jays s4 rx2 it's funny that so many people hate the 8 yes the reni motor is ok but not the best but the fd rx7 motor wouldn't pass euro emissions so Mazda had to do what they did to the reni motor to get it through euro emissions testing anyway ive owned some nice old school rotors in the past and still have a rx2 tucked away (future project) but I love the handling of the 8 yes it's not the most powerful wankel out there I just love driving the wheels of it I've put a few dollars into my 8 like aftermarket air box, exhaust headers, high flow cat mid pipe and a stainless exhaust and muffler and aftermarket side mirrors motor is stock standard and when the reni gets old n sad I'll be joining the club of fd swaps the motor the 8 should of had if we didn't have emissions testing
Love live the wankel rotary motor

Author12
Matthew Everingham

Nice one!

13

The RX8, not quite a full on sports car like the 7 and those before. But it's what was needed to keep the rotary engine alive. Emissions as you've said, and it needed to appeal to the general population to make the sales to justify the engine development.

Here in the UK they are dirt cheap, I paid £1100 for an 05 with 54k miles on (I've just paid £3000 for an R53 mini with 62k miles for comparison), ran daily for 30k miles and had a great time both on road and track. It was an achievable way to live the rotary dream, which I don't regret one bit!

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Author14
Matthew Everingham

They're a great way into the rotary scene and I'd rather drive an RX-8 over a Corolla any day. It's still a long fall from the RX-7 though, which was more my point. :)

15

is that E36 the 20B "BAR-B"?

16

Why would you start an article about rotaries by taking a big shit on the RX8? Would it have been better for Mazda to just not produce a rotary car for those years? No, I think not. Watch Jeremy Clarkson's review of the RX8, it was a great car for the time, and got plenty of people into a rotary that would have never been able to afford one.

Author17
Matthew Everingham

I don't need to watch someone elses review on a vehicle I have my own feelings about. I've seen a couple well modified RX-8's, but I've seen a metric tonne of well modified RX-7's. From factory though it's a confused car. It doesn't know who it's buyer is and tries to be to many different things.
Would it have been better not to produce a rotary for the life span of the the RX-8? Maybe, I wouldn't say the RX-8 kept rotaries alive, more than it kept them on life support in a coma.
Hopefully the industry rumours are true and we'll see Mazda release a new turbo powered RX- soon!

18
David Sciberras

The Rx8 kept rotary workshops in business with engine rebuilds

19

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpzF4n9db78&
I'll just leave this here. Enjoy!

20
Tom Westmacott

To my mind, rotaries now fall into 'classic' territory, and in many ways they make more sense considered this way - if you're not doing so many miles, the thirst and rebuilds are less of an issue, and their unique character is appealing.

I'm not sure I share the idea that the RX-8 is the 'black sheep' of the rotary family; a lot of the older rotaries were regular family cars with live rear axles and weren't _that_ powerful; the RX-8 combines the most powerful naturally-aspirated factory rotary with a stretched MX-5 platform, and was considered the driver's choice in the coupe market when new, winning high sales volumes.

To me the RX-8 suffers mainly because what a lot of us wanted was a new RX-7, and the preceding FD version was such a high watermark. If any one rotary stands out, to me it's the FD, because that is the one time that Mazda created an all-out no holds barred Porsche rival. It's just such a focused sports car, and the power, balance and looks put everything else vaguely affordable in the shade.

Author21
Matthew Everingham

Well said :)

22

Any info on the yellow twin-charged car in the bonus photos?

23
David Sciberras

The car is built and possibly owned by Bill Nabhan. Owner and operator of MazSport.

Author24
Matthew Everingham

Sadly no. I made sure to walk through his garage a few times the car was always unattended.

25

Man, that's a LOT of LS swaps to do!

-Alex

Author26
Matthew Everingham

This guy! :D

27

I'm really diggin the sunroof on the red rx7 for some reason.

28

The only car I bought new off the showroom floor, a little yellow RX-2... I loved that car and miss it now.

29

HAHAH first time i've ever seen mazda xr-7 in initial d :)

30

Do you know the hp number of the car with the blower and turbo on it?

Author31
Matthew Everingham

Sadly no. I made sure to walk through his garage a few times the car was always unattended.

32
Richard Browm

So awesome!!!! Thank you for sharing this!

33
FunctionFirst

I enjoy daily driving my RX-8 every day. No other rotary-based car is as comfortable, modern and daily user friendly as the 8, fuckyouverymuch. It was never meant as a successor to the 7, if it was they would have called it the RX-7.

34

I'm noticing a distinct lack of the FC3S. It hurts.

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