NSU Wankel Spider motor car, 1965.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
German motor car company NSU first road tested the rotary engine designed by Dr Felix Wankel (1902-1988) in 1960. This NSU sports car, is powered by a 498cc single rotor Wankel engine and was capable of a top speed of 95 mph. Wankel himself had been developing the engine since the 1950s, and in fact had applied for his first patent relating to the rotary engine in 1933. The main advantages of rotary engines are the small number of moving parts and the lack of vibration, as well as compactnes and light weight. However, problems including sealing at the tips of the rotor lobes, higher fuel consumption, and pollutants in the exhaust have limited their practical use.