West Germany: The Wankel Wager

The German carmaker NSU Motorenwerke last week displayed an ultra-utilitarian sedan that will, it hopes, sire a new generation of automobiles. Called RO 80, the new car has a strange engine under the hood, one that increasingly intrigues the automotive industry.

A mechanical wizard named Felix Wankel invented it in 1954, but it took NSU 13 years of tinkering to bring the "Wankel engine" to its present stage. It is a non-piston gas engine consisting of a three-cornered rotor that swirls in a combustion chamber shaped like a fat-waisted figure eight. Doing...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!