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Mazda RX-8 meets Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S (L10A): Generation comparison of Japanese rotary athletes

Frank Herzog
Mazda RX-8 meets Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S (L10A)
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S esam, open you! The monumental hall gate swings open with a clatter. During the first contact with Walter Frey's car collection, sensory overload prevails like in Tokyo at rush hour. Whether small cars, mid-range vehicles or athletes, precious objects are densely packed and populate almost every corner of the concrete floor. The Mazda dealer from Gersthofen near Augsburg collects cars like other people collect stamps or beer glasses. 150 or 160? The 65-year-old ponders the exact number of his favorite cars. A special technology delicacy from his large collection: 50 units are powered by a rotary engine.

An exotic rotary piston representative from Mazda asks to meet his fickle great-grandson: The current Mazda RX-8 is visiting the Mazda Cosmo Sport 110S. The Japanese car manufacturer presented a prototype of the coupé for the first time in 1964 at the Tokyo Motor Show. Series production started in May 1967, and the Cosmo grabbed the unofficial title of the first series vehicle with a twin-disk rotary engine three and a half months before the much better known NSU Ro 80. Until September 1972, the sports car, which was largely handcrafted in Hiroshima, rolled out of the factory around 30 times a month in two different generations (110 hp and later with 128 hp). The low production number (1,519 units) and its former territory make the Cosmo an almost unknown exotic today.

'The car was only produced for the Japanese market. Today there are four copies in Europe,' says Walter Frey proudly. The Cosmo fan found his white Wankel athlete from 1968 on a trip to the USA in New Jersey in the 80s. Under the elongated bonnet of the first-generation model, which was only built 343 times, a four-pipe carburetor with two throttle valves ventilates the twin-disc Wankel heart with a chamber volume of 491 cubic centimeters each. 110 hp maximum power sound narrow-chested, but the sprightly oldie weighs only 940 kilograms. One of the few measurements for the sprint from zero to country road speed dates from August 1967. At that time, the Japanese car magazine Motor Fan gave the Cosmo its spurs. They are even without a measuring device on boardTimed 8.8 seconds is still credible today.

The only production vehicle with a rotary engine in Germany


Typical Wankel vibration-free and light-footed, the Japanese rear-wheel drive car rushes along the Bavarian roads with a fabulous smoothness. 'You can turn up to 8,000 rpm without any problems,' car collector Frey had revealed before leaving. Said and done. Below 4,000 rpm, the sports historian still looks a bit sleepy. Also in the intellectual Cosmo successor, the RX-8, which has been built since 2003 and optically slightly retouched in 2009, high speeds are part of the rotary piston spectacle. The currently only production vehicle on the German market with a Wankel engine only reaches its maximum output of 231 hp at 8,200 rpm. A gently tinkling alarm bell heralds the end of the speed orgy at 9,200 tours. Below 6,000 rpm there are dead pants.

Even if the curved silhouette and the hoarse circular saw noise suggest sports car genes, it takes 7.3 seconds for the RX-8 to pass the 100 km /h mark. This means that it misses the factory specification by just under a second. The 2 + 2-seater coupé only exudes more sporty character as soon as it senses the first serpentines, hairpin bends and other curves. While the RX-8 tends to slide over the front axle when turning slowly, its pert spoiler rear comes with jagged steering maneuvers. But whether understeer or oversteer, the Nippon athlete remains easily controllable at all times. In addition to the slightly front-heavy distribution of the total weight of 1,400 kilograms (52.6 to 47.4 percent), the harmonious coordination of the Bilstein sports suspension ensures largely neutral driving behavior.

Potency under the bonnet is missing

But the best suspension setup is of no use if the potency under the bonnet is missing. Especially on the racetrack, the RX-8 craves a helping of horsepower. Without them, he won't have an outstanding time at Hockenheim. There are no laurels on the short course for 1.19.6 minutes. His Wankel ancestor recorded more success on the race track. Even if the Cosmo Sport was not designed as a competition vehicle, Mazda tested the durability of the rotary piston drive in August 1968 in the 84-hour 'Marathon de la Route' race on the old Nürburgring (combination of north and south loop). The Cosmo finished its only sporting event in fourth place overall.

Exploring the limit area with the Japanese right-hand drive on the Nordschleife is hard to imagine today. In addition to the Wankel unit, Mazda engineers used a leaf-sprung De-Dion axle and drum brakes at the rear, as well as wishbones, coil springs and disc brakes on the front axle. The manual, fully synchronized four-speed gearbox has barely been noticed over the past few decades. Change gears succeedsmooth and precise. The rack and pinion steering reveals the age of the historic Mazda suddenly. With a steering play of several centimeters, precise turning is unthinkable.

The Cosmo cockpit is also typical of the sports car era. The thin three-spoke wooden valance is reminiscent of classic Nardi steering wheels. Seven analog round instruments take a look back into time without bits and bytes. Sat nav? Of course not. A reading lamp makes it easier to read maps in the dark. The seats with synthetic leather fabric cover are comfortable, but do not offer any lateral support. Today, four decades later, the RX-8 swings open its four doors and provides a B-pillar-free view of the interior. Perfectly contoured bucket seats from Recaro, a sports steering wheel with red decorative stitching, aluminum pedals and lots of piano lacquer determine the interior.

Extraordinary technology that fascinates

Slowly the meeting of generations is drawing to a close - the two Wankel heroes from Mazda take a breather on the white pebbles in Walter's courtyard Frey. 'The Cosmo and the RX-8 fascinate on the one hand with their beauty and on the other hand with their extraordinary technology', summarizes the car collector. The closing words could not have been more worthy.

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