Hard as it may be to believe, the word "hummer" didn't always bring up visions of obnoxious, polarizing SUVs. In fact, there was a time not so very long ago that uttering that word evoked something entirely different, namely cars powered by Wankel rotary engines. For the past three decades, the world's sole purveyor of rotary-powered automobiles has been Mazda. The "Zoom-Zoom" brand has always been a little different from its compatriots. Back in 1963, a young Kenichi Yamamoto was heading up the research department at Mazda and latched on to the concept developed a decade earlier by Felix Wankel.
Just as two-stroke engines were all the rage for a time in the early 1990s and fuel cells in the middle of this decade, the Wankel rotary seemed to be the next big thing in the 1960s and early '70s. For a time it seemed every major automaker had licensed the design from Wankel and was trying to commercialize it. Some like NSU did build rotaries while General Motors and Daimler Benz built an assortment of concept cars. By the mid-'70s, all had given up except Yamamoto-san and Mazda. From the original 1967 Cosmo, Mazda has built an unbroken string of hummers culminating with the recently updated 2009 RX-8 R3. The pony-keg sized power plant isn't the only unique element of the RX-8, which you can read all about that after the jump.