Mazda Cosmo a

revolution on wheels

Mazda Cosmo Sport

BOLDLY going where none have gone before is not a step to be taken lightly by any car manufacturer.

Such a move can lead to financial misery and failure or can rocket a car maker to the podium of fame.

The latter certainly applies to Mazda which is celebrating the half century of a truly revolutionary car.

It was a pivotal moment in automobile history when, 50 years ago, Mazda launched its rotary-powered Mazda Cosmo Sport.

The sleek, stylish two-seater marked the beginning of a legacy of innovation that endures to this day - a legacy of fun-to-drive cars and motor sport success powered by unique technology.

Back in 1967, the Cosmo Sport was the world's first car powered by a twin-rotor engine. Known outside Japan as the 110S, it was also Mazda's first sports car, supplying the DNA that has gone into legendary models like the Mazda RX-7.

Although only 1,176 were built, the Cosmo Sport was monumental for Mazda, marking its transformation from a maker of predominantly trucks and small cars to an exciting, unique brand characterised by its convention-defying approach to engineering as well as design.

Development of the powerplant under the Cosmo Sport's bonnet exemplifies the company's challenger spirit and a never-give-up tradition still evident 50 years later.

Mazda's engineers surmounted numerous hurdles to making the rotary engine commercially viable, testing Cosmo Sport prototypes over vast distances prior to the market launch. Although dozens of companies including most major car makers signed licensing agreements with NSU to develop the German car and motorcycle maker's new technology, only one was successful.

Having harnessed the rotary's potential to deliver performance levels equivalent to much larger and heavier reciprocating piston engines, Mazda would go on to build almost two million rotary-powered vehicles, also achieving considerable racing success.

The RX-7, for example, dominated its class at IMSA (International Motor Sport Association) events throughout the 1980s.

But Mazda's biggest single triumph on the track came in 1991, when a Mazda 787B powered by a 2.6-litre four-rotor powerplant producing 710ps won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was the only non-reciprocating engine ever to win the illustrious endurance race, and the first victory by an Asian brand.


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