Having grown up in the 80s and 90s, I always believed that the only car with a rotary, or Wankel engine was the Mazda RX7. Little did I know that back in the glorious 70s, Mazda was enthusiastically putting that engine in everything that rolled, probably in the hopes that it would somehow catch on. As a perfect example of that, check out this 1971 Mazda RX3: an ordinary sedan or coupe, depending on the option, with disc/drum brakes and a live read axle. A real 70s Japanese car, except for one thing: the twin-rotor Wankel.
The Wankel engine had a displacement of 1964cc, and delivered an impressive 100 to 120 horsepower to the rear wheels, depending on the markets. Overall, it was good for just over 100 miles an hour top speed, and accelerated to 60 mph in 10 seconds flat. The engine provided silky-smooth acceleration through a standard 4-speed manual gearbox.
What most contributed to this little car’s eventual demise, in 1978, was its gas consumption. Rotary engines are notoriously heavy drinkers, and the 70s were a time of crisis, as far as oil goes. This left Mazda with only the RX7 to carry on the torch, followed by the RX-8 until 2011.