Mazda Cosmo Sport 1

The undisputed highlight of the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show was Mazda’s stated intention to return to building a rotary sports car, with the unveiling of the gorgeous Mazda RX-Vision concept. This was clearly a big deal for Hiroshima, as it also brought along a mint white Mazda Cosmo Sport – its first car powered by the iconic Wankel engine – to celebrate the occasion.

Launched at the 1967 edition of the show, the Cosmo Sport cuts a strikingly lithe figure, with a long bonnet, simple lines, wraparound rear windscreen and a distinctively lengthy tail. Though it certainly borrows a fair few styling cues from other sports cars from more established manufacturers (Mazda really only started building cars seven years prior), the interpretation of these cues is very unique.

As is what’s under the bonnet – power comes from a tiny 982 cc twin-rotor carbureted Wankel engine producing 110 hp (hence its export name, the Mazda 110S) and 130 Nm. That may seem anaemic compared to the 276 hp twin-turbo monsters that powered the most powerful FD RX-7s, but it still means an impressive 112 hp per litre – at a time when most American muscle cars were struggling to crack 40 hp per litre. Drive is sent to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual transmission.

This particular unit is the Series II model introduced in 1968, distinguished by a larger front air intake and a longer wheelbase. The engine was uprated to deliver 128 hp and 139 Nm; in addition, the car was also fitted with a five-speed manual, 15-inch wheels and servo-assisted brakes.

The Cosmo Sport was on display in front of a wall bearing the words “Spirit of Mazda,” emblematic of the fact that as much as the company is on the leading edge of piston engine development, the rotary engine is still at its heart – despite shuttering production of the RX-8 in 2012, Mazda still maintains a separate 50-strong R&D division for Wankel engine development.

Aside from the Cosmo Sport, Mazda also showed a rotating Wankel engine, as well as the overall winner’s trophy from the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans, the first and so far only race won by Mazda and the rotary engine in the Mazda 787B. How cool is that?

GALLERY: Mazda RX-Vision