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The world’s smallest automotive rotary was built to save lives

If someone asked you about the smallest rotary ever used in a car, what machine comes to mind? An NSU Prinz? Maybe one of those CERV Corvette prototypes that played with a mid-engine Dorito-spinner? Surely a litany of Mazdas is on the tip of your tongue.


Of course, I’m leading you on. It’s none of those—in fact, it barely qualifies as an engine, though it does operate using internal combustion. Hidden in the back seat of many 1994–2005 Volkswagens and Audis sits a tiny Wankel rotary engine whose sole duty is not to turn fuel into horsepower and braps but to save the life of a person.


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Replies (6)

Replies (6)

Technically it’s an external combustion engine since the force from the explosive charges is generated outside the “combustion” chamber. 

Intermediate Driver

Does that mean Audi built the world's first road-going four-rotor car?

Hagerty Employee

had no idea. Thanks !  Found one on ebay for $20.00     PN 3B5857806


First off, that is very cool. Secondly, it is what I would expect from the Germans. Don't do anything the simple way if there is a more complicated way to accomplish the same thing. 

Pit Crew

Absolutely brilliant engineering. 


Wow now I want to get a few and make a miniature 20b.

New Driver