I love covering barn-finds. It is the automotive equivalent of buried pirate treasure; you know you’ll likely never find one yourself, but you know they are out there. Of course, like buried treasure, not all barn-finds were created equal. Just because it’s a barn-find doesn’t mean it’s a vintage, lost, uber-rare, racing legend or prototype or something. Sometimes it’s a barn in Lousiana with 70 cars and trucks, all with rotary engines.
70 rotary engines in one place will make your head spin
The trend in the vintage car market these days seems to be choosing obscurity over quality. This is a massive generalization, of course, but we see cars that have been overlooked for decades because they weren’t that special or cool go for big money. Take the vintage Broncos, for example. They weren’t anything special, but people are losing their minds and paying stupid money for them.
On the surface, this may be a barn full of silly old Mazdas with that funny Wankle engine, but there is more going on here than you might notice at first glance.
What is a rotary engine?
Rather than try to stumble through my layman’s understanding of the Wankle Rotary Engine, I’ll let the folks at The Drive give it to you in a more succinct way. “A rotary is a type of internal combustion engine that, instead of using pistons to produce combustion, uses a rotating triangular-shaped rotor that produces three combustion pulses per revolution inside an oval-shaped block. Because of the rotation of the rotor and the block’s design, the output shaft in a rotary engine spins three times faster than a traditional piston-driven engine.”
What is all in this strange barn-find?
The Drive reports that only a few images have surfaced so far of this owner’s massive rotary collection. The collection varies more than you might expect. Yes, there are Mazdas, lots and lots of Mazdas. Dusty ones, broken ones, nice ones, and custom ones all can be found in this funhouse of obscure engines. According to The Drive, there is a sales listing that mentions “Rotary Toyotas and Datsuns,” which suggests there is some funky stuff going on here.
Neither Toyota nor Datsun ever made rotary-powered cars, which would suggest this fella loved rotary cars so much he started swapping the Wankles into other Japanese cars that he was into. If you notice in the main image, there is even an original Mini Cooper and what looks like a vintage VW Beetle that we can now assume also got the Wankle-Rotary treatment. As the Drive also pointed out, and I agree, there even seems to be a Suzuki Samurai or Jimny hiding in the back there. Can we assume it also has a rotary engine?
The Mazda RX-7 is the King of the rotary club
Most of what is stuffed into this strange barn-find are the legendary Mazda RX-7. Most of the RX-7s here appear to be of the FB and FC variety. With this many RX-7s around, I’m sure any Mazda fans are scouring the photos for a trace of the recently inflated FD RX-7 that folks are so turned up about. (I don’t get it.)
The ones we can see here do seem to be mostly that first- and second-generation model, but the fun part of barn-finds are you never really know until you get in there and start looking around and asking questions.
For instance, there are a few rotary pickup trucks stashed in there, which certainly fall into the rare and obscure category. These were only made during a three-year period in the mid-1970s, making them mighty rare, indeed.
There is so much to dig through here. Whether you require a whole new car or parts for your old project, as long as it’s rotary-powered, this magical and strange barn-find has probably got you covered.