Felix Heinrich Wankel (August 13, 1902 – October 9, 1988) was a German mechanical engineer and the inventor of the Wankel engine.

Wankel was born in Lahr, Germany, in the upper Rhine Valley. Since his mother was widowed in World War I, Wankel received no university education or even an apprenticeship. However, he was able to teach himself technical subjects and conceived the idea of the Wankel engine in 1924.


During World War II, he developed seals and rotary valves for German air force aircraft and navy torpedoes. After the war, he was imprisoned by the Allies for some months, his laboratory was closed, his work confiscated, and he was prohibited from doing more work. In 1951, he began development of the engine at NSU (NSU Motorenwerke AG), leading to the first running prototype on February 1, 1957. [1] His engine design was first licensed by Curtiss-Wright in New Jersey. Mazda in Japan solved the chatter marks problem. The engine has been successfully used by Mazda in several generations of their RX-series of coupés and sedans including the R100 and especially the RX-7.

In later years, Wankel was granted an honorary Doctorate of Engineering. He was known for his championing of animal rights and opposition to the use of animals in testing.

Wankel died in Heidelberg, aged 86.


21.10.1958 Curtiss-Wright Corp. USA without restriction, no series
29.12.1960 Fichtel & Sachs AG BRD industrial engine and boat, 0.5-30 PS
25.02.1961 Yanmar Diesel Co. Ltd JP gasoline and diesel engine, 1-100 PS, 1-300 PS
27.02.1961 Toyo Kogyo, Co. Ltd. JP gasoline 1-200 PS land vehicles
04.10.1961 Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz AG BRD diesel engine without restriction
26.10.1961 Daimler-Benz AG BRD gasoline 50 PS upwards
30.10.1961 MAN AG BRD diesel engine without restriction
02.11.1961 Friedrich Krupp AG BRD diesel engine without restriction
12.03.1964 Daimler-Benz AG BRD diesel engine without restriction
15.04.1964 S.p.A Alfa Romeo IT gasoline engine 50-300 PS or Passenger car
17.02.1965 Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd. GB diesel and hybrid engines 100-850 Ps
18.02.1965 IFA VEB DDR gasoline engine 0.5-25 PS and 50-150 PS
02.03.1965 Dr.Ing. h.c. Porsche KG BRD gasoline engine 50-1000 Ps
01.03.1966 Outboard Marine Corp. USA gasoline engine 50-400 Ps
11.05.1967 Comotor S.A. L gasoline and diesel engine 40-200 PS
12.09.1967 Graupner BRD 0,1-3 PS model engines
28.08.1969 Savkel Ltd. IS gasoline 0.5-30 PS industrial engines
01.10.1970 Nissan JP gasoline engines 80-120 Ps
10.11.1970 General Motors USA everything, except aircraft engines
24.11.1970 Suzuki JP gasoline engines 20-60 PS for motorcycle
25.05.1971 Toyota JP gasoline engines 75-150 PS
29.11.1971 Ford-Werke AG, Köln BRD gasoline engines 80-200 PS (1974 quit)
25.07.1972 BSA Ltd. GB gasoline engines 35-60 PS for motorcycle
29.09.1972 Yamaha JP gasoline engines 20-80 PS for motorcycle
04.10.1971 Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd. JP gasoline engines 20-80 PS for motorcycle
03.02.1973 American Motors (AMC) [1] USA gasoline engines 20-200 PS

Honors and awards[]

  • Honorary doctorate degree from Technische Universität München, December 5, 1969.
  • The Federation of German Engineers (VDI) Gold Medal, 1969.
  • The Grand Federal Service Cross, Germany's highest civilian honor, 1970
  • The Franklin Medal, Philadelphia, 1971.
  • The Bavarian Service Medal, 1973.
  • The "Honour Citizen" of Lahr,1981, and the title of Professor in 1987.
  • The Soichiro Honda Medal, 1987.
  • Honorary citizenship of Lindau (declined)

See also[]


External links[]

  • Template:US patent
  • Animated Engines, Wankel - Animations of Wankel and other engines, ie. steam, stirling, internal combustion.