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NSU/Wankel Motors

NSU Motor Works / The Wankel Company

Felix Wankel came to NSU Motor Works to develop his idea for a novel engine with no pistons but instead a rotating combustion chamber. NSU eventually produced a pioneering rotary engine that was offered in automotive and marine applications.

One example was the Ski Craft personal ski tow which used the NSU Model 61, rated for 21-hp with 9.15 cu in. of displacement (March 1963, Popular Mechanics). The same magazine issue described a prototype NSU/Wankel powered runabout, equipped with a Starjet jet-drive unit, and produced by the "Swiss Waser dockyard company" and shown at the International Boat Exhibition, Friedrichshafen, Lake of Constance, Germany.

Curtiss-Wright Corporation had the exclusive license for US development and production of the Wankel motor since 1958. An experimental 185 HP rotary marine engine, named the RC2-60, was produced and tested in a 20' Bertram (June 1967, Popular Mechanics).

In 1966, Rotoautomotive Industries of Seattle, Washington exhibited NSU/Wankel engines paired with a sterndrive, the Fairey Hydraulic Marine Drive, at the New York Boat Show (Jan. 16, 1966, New York Times). The company also showed the Hydro Drive lower unit made by Hydro Drive Corporation of Kirkland, Washington.

In the same year, [OMC|Outboard Marine Corporation]], the producers of Evinrude and Johnson outboard motors, announced it had purchased a license for the Wankel engine. OMC was required to pay fees and royalties to the Curtiss-Wright Corporation which had exclusive rights in the US. NSU had shown Wankel marine engines at the New York Boat Show earlier that year, ranging from 18 to 21 HP (March 3, 1966 New York Times). OMC developed some racing outboards using the rotary concept but never a production outboard (for more information, see June 1973 Popular Science). The Wankel was produced however for OMC's snowmobiles.

Later production of Wankel-type engines includes the Sachs-Wankel Mac 10 outboard, a 10 hp, 77-lb rotary engine assembled in Italy that retailed for about $550 in 1974. This motor was imported to the US by Recreational Motor Sports of Minnetonka, Minnesota (February 1974, Popular Mechanics).

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