chapter  4
13 Pages

Vehicle Engines: David and Goliath

WithChristopher Layton

In 1951, Herr Wankel, who had been a design engineer and innovator up to the war, was taken on as 'free collaborator' by the company. James Watt was one of the earliest inventors to devise a rotary engine and since him there have been innumerable patents and inventions of varying complexity. In 1954 Wankel devised a triangular-shaped rotary piston within a figure-of-eight shaped cylinder: a conception much simpler than most previous rotary engines. Development of the Wankel engine, however, required larger resources. The crucial period for the Wankel engine, however, coincided with the collapse of NSU's motorcycle business. Steady progress is being made with better materials for the Wankel engine; larger-scale production is bringing economies of scale and more efficient production methods. In the summer of 1970, General Motors announced its interest in buying shares of the Wankel GmbH. Innovation is mainly concerned with constant minor developments of traditional designs and with fashion changes.