Blogs: Hear the one about the Rotary Engined Mustang?

Hey Mustang fans,

Hear the one about the Rotary Engined Mustang?

Well it’s true, strange as it may seem. I was thumbing through the July 1966 issue of Car recently to read an article about the Ferrari 250GTO and its namesake the 1965/66 Pontiac GTO, I turned a page and, suddenly, there it was!

The article reveals that in the early to mid 1960s all the US manufacturers (Ford, GM and Chrysler) were experimenting with rotary engine technology in the expectation that “such engines may replace the gas turbine as the alternative to the piston engine.”

The Mustang was an experimental vehicle built by Curtiss-Wright, the aircraft engine makers, and NSU who still had the patents to the Wankel concept. It was fitted with a Curtiss-Wright RC 2-60 engine which developed about 185 bhp, slightly less than the 200bhp quoted for the standard 289 cu. in. V8.

Journalist Jan Norbye found that with standard transmission and auto-box the Rotary test bed was only slightly slower than the V8, and he commented that if it had gearing to match the rotary’s power band, the RC 2-60 had the potential to beat the V8.

Bear in mind that in 1966 NSU had not yet launched the Ro80, and the RX series were still no twinkle in Mazda’s eye. Also in 1965 NSU had sold over 1,000 Prinz Spyders in Europe, so the rotary concept was still very new.

On reflection it is typical of the late 20th Century that it took a Japanese car maker to develop the concept and turn it into a reliable product which sold in huge numbers worldwide.

And finally, relax Mustang fans, I think the smart red Fastback pictured in the article was only ever a one-off.

Yours in motoring
Charles

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