Wankel Engine – Rotary Powered Motorcycles

Norton Interpol 2 Rotary Engine Motorcycle

Up ‘N’ Down Vs Round ‘N’ Round

A V-Twin Alternative

Most have a basic understanding of how a combustion engine works. Pistons move up and down inside a cylinder after a spark plug causes fuel to explode.

Well forget all that if you want to understand the Wankel Engine.

The engine is named after Felix Wankel who in 1929 invented his unique rotary engine. NSU Motorenwerke AG in Germany began development of the engine in 1951.

Felix Wankel Rotary Engine
Felix Wankel 1957


There are many advantages when compared to a piston/cylinder combustion engine. With only three moving parts, the engine is more compact, revs smoother, has a higher rpm and achieves an impressive power-to-weight ratio.

The following video provides a visual demonstration to better understand how the rotary engine works.

Visit the Wankel Website: https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Wankel_engine


What is not commonly known, a number of production motorcycles were powered by the Wankel Rotary Engine.

Production bikes were made by Norton, Suzuki, Hercules and Van Veen while Kawasaki and Yamaha made prototypes.


DKW Hercules W-2000 | 1974 – 1977

The Hercules W-2000 was the first production rotary motorcycle in the world, made by Hercules in Germany, producing 1,800 motorcycles in total.

Hercules W 2000 Wankel Rotary Engine Motorcycle

This air-cooled, single-rotor 294cc Wankel Engine powered motorcycle is almost entirely vibration free and weighs far less than a standard internal combustion engine motorcycle.



Suzuki RE5 | 1974 – 1976

This bike has quite a prominent radiator as the rotary engine is both oil and liquid cooled due to a great amount of heat produced by the 500 cc Wankel engine.

Suzuki RE5 Rotary Engine Motorcycle

The cylindrical gauge mounted on the headlight makes this bike stand out with many other unique features in it’s design.



Norton Classic | 1987

Only 100 Norton Classic Air Cooled Twin Rotary 588 cc Wankel Engine motorcycles were produced in 1987.

Norton Classic Wankel Rotary Twin Motorcycle

The extra large cooling fins, used instead of a radiator to force feed air into the motor, give this motorcycle a unique look.



Norton Interpol 2 (P41) | 1984-1989

The 588 cc air cooled twin rotary Wankel engine powered motorcycle was used by the Police Force and not available for the public to purchase.

Norton Interpol 2 Rotary Engine Motorcycle

Wankel engines take a long time to warm up, but when they are warm, they are very smooth and quiet.



Norton Commander | 1988-1992

Improving on it’s design after the Classic and Interpol 2, Norton added a radiator and released the Norton Commander.

Norton Commander Rotary Engine Motorcycle

Norton produced two types of Commander. The P52 was designed for the police, and the P53 was sold to the public.



Norton F1 | 1990-1994

Following the previous bikes, Norton decided to build this very attractive 588 cc F1, which is a sports model powered by the Wankel rotary engine.

Norton F1 Sports Rotary Engine Wankel Motorcycle

What this bike lacks at low speed certainly is made up for at high speed, and when compared to a regular motorcycle engine, no vibrations and a smooth ride.





Van Veen OCR-1000 | 1974 – 1981

Dutch built double rotary 1,000 cc Wankel powered motorcycle, the Van Veen OCR-1000 was nice looking, well built, and quite powerful. The Van Veen produced 38 rotary powered motorcycles, finalising production in 1981.

Van Veen OCR 1000 Wankel Rotary Engine Motorcycle

At 700 lbs, the Van Veen OCR-1000 was considered heavy for a bike built for racing


Kawasaki X99 Rotary Prototype | 1972 – 1975

Kawasaki built 7 twin rotary engines and left surplus parts to build a further 10 motorcycles when the project ended.

Kawasaki X99 Wankel Rotary Engine Motorcycle

A decision was made to not bring the X99 to production due to mechanical noise at low rpm, weak engine braking, heat issues and high fuel consumption.



Yamaha RZ201 Rotary Prototype | 1972

The Yamaha 660 cc (twin rotary 330 cc) RZ201 was never intended as a production model, and contributed greatly to future Yamaha motorcycle design.

Yamaha RZ201 Rotary Engine Motorcycle


Homemade Rotary Motorcycles




The Future of Rotary Motorcycle Engines


Furion Hybrid M1

A 654 cc Wankel rotary engine is about to become an electric motor hybrid as the French Furion Hybrid M1 is under development.

Furion M1, a motorcycle that uses the best of a powerful thermal engine as well as an electric one began with a simple idea in May 2015 in the city of Racing, Le Mans. The first drafts of the M1 Furion come through and a revolutionary idea was born. http://www.furion-motorcycles.com/


It is comforting to know that Felix Wankel’s efforts will not be forgotten. I look forward to seeing these beautiful engines return to the mainstream production.

Haul N Ride website was created to explore Innovation and Human Creativity with a focus on Interesting, Rare and Unusual Motorcycles and Accessories. Haul N Ride welcomes the sharing of projects and ideas, creating an enjoyable and educational online resource. We like to hear from readers so please leave a comment below and let us know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.

Thank you for visiting Haul N Ride. Dave

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!