The one manufacturer to make a real go of the rotary engine originally designed by Felix Wankel was Mazda, and the Japanese company’s first rotary-engined car was the Cosmo 110S, a GT car intended to headline the company’s drive into mass-market car production.
The Cosmo 110S was first seen at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1964 and pre-production models were extensively tested before the Series I L/10A Cosmo 110S was released — thus avoiding the trap that NSU fell into by hastily launching its Wankel-engined Ro80, which acquired a destructive reputation for engine failure. Mazda even went to the length of running a couple of 110S cars in an 84-hour endurance race in Germany.
This rather angular coupe had a twin-chamber rotary engine with two spark plugs per chamber, each with a distributor. A four-speed manual gearbox was standard. Suspension was independent at the front with a live rear axle and leaf springs at the back. The braking system consisted of front discs and rear drums. Considering that this was effectively a cross between a test bed and a marketing device, Series I sales of around 350 in two years can’t have been too disappointing.
Serious business began in 1968 when the Series II L/10B was introduced. This offered increased power output from an enhanced engine, servo-assisted brakes all round, larger wheels and a longer wheelbase. There were also cosmetic styling changes that differentiated between the two versions, including a new grille with two additional air vents. The later Cosmo 110Ss were seen as an altogether better buy and Mazda sold nearly 1,200 before production was ended in 1972. Driving one today is nearly impossible — with the exception of a few that went to America, hardly any escaped from Japan.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1967 (until 1972)
982 cc Twin-chamber Rotary
Series II – top speed of 120 mph (193 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 9.3 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Cosmo name reappeared several times for Mazda – the Cosmo AP (from 1975) was known as the RX-5 for export purposes, the HB Cosmo ran through the 1980s and the Eunos Cosmo, with the distinction of a triple-rotor engine, was Mazda’s top-of-the-range 2+2 coupe from the early 1990s.