Project X: Forty-seven Rotary Engineers



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The next May, a new car with the rotary engine ran on the proving ground at full speed. Yamamoto was fascinated with the new car.
(Yamamoto)

I cried with relief. What I had experienced so far came across my mind, and I felt how lucky I was as an engineer.


(Narrator)

The rotary-engined car was shown in Europe six months later. The top-rank automakers including Mercedes and Porsche admired the technology as "a miracle of Hiroshima." In the U.S. it won great admiration as "a car that changes the future," and received "the exported car of the year" award.
In 1970 President Tsuneji Matsuda passed away at the age of 74 after witnessing the success of the engine. The noted President who loved Hiroshima and supported the project was buried on a hill overlooking the city of Hiroshima.
Armed with the rotary engine, Toyo Kogyo increased production volume dramatically, and held an established position as the 3rd largest automaker, after Toyota and Nissan.
Young people admired the company that had the best engine in the world. The recovery of Hiroshima was what they pledged in the ruins of the atomic bomb. Yamamoto and the 47 engineers the thought over what they had succeeded in achieving.
(Female)

How did you feel when you succeeded in the project?


(Takada)

I felt I finally achieved my goal. I was quite satisfied. And I was happy to have my efforts contribute to the people of Hiroshima.


(Male)

What impressed you most, Mr. Ozeki?


(Ozeki)

I was happy to have successfully completed my first job. Because I was engaged in the development of the First mass-produced rotary engine, my classmates praised me for the success. My friends said, "You made that engine, didn’t you?" or “You did a great job!" I was more relieved than excited.


(Male)

Mr. Yamamoto, the project leader, must have warned about various things.


(Takada)

He might have been quite lonely.


(Male)

What do you think of him?


(Takada)

His favourite phrase was "Man should cry secretly at night." He smiled in front of his subordinates and cried only in his mind. He controlled his feelings.


(Ozeki)

He told me that a man should be proud of the scars on his forehead. It means that you should not escape from difficulties but cope with them directly. Even if you fail, you can be proud of your efforts. I think Mr. Yamamoto emphasised this, because he himself confronted every problem openly.


(Male)

Well, now why don't you lake a look at the rotary-engined car after a long time? Mr. Ozeki, I’m sure what you want to see most is...


(Ozeki)

I want to see the engine. Cosmo is like my child, and the engine in Cosmo is like my Grandchild for me.


(Female)

A Grandchild?


(Ozeki)

It is said that a grandchild is sweeter than a child, you know. I’m happy to find that the engine is still in excellent condition. I devoted my youth to its development. It's neat.


(Male)

Mr. Takada, what does it mean to you that you were involved in the development of the rotary engine?


(Takada)

Now I'm 76 years old. Looking back, I realise that I was happy to work on the project. Though I had difficulties, I could train myself in my work. I am grateful that I could help develop the technology.


(Female)

After the development, the rotary engine had to overcome unimaginable difficulties. We'll report what happened to the engine next week.



In 1973 the whole world was troubled by a nightmare. It was the oil crisis, which gave an immeasurable blow to the rotary engine. High-powered rotary engines consumed more gasoline than ordinary engines. The international acclaim suddenly changed to blame, calling the engine a ''gas guzzler.” The car received the lowest ranking in the US fuel efficiency test, and lost its reputation entirely.
Cars were left unsold all over the world. The company faced a serious business crisis and the main bank intervened in management. The restructuring of the organisation resulted in most of the engineers going to Mazda dealers throughout Japan.

There was Kenichi Yamamoto and 47 engineers on the proving ground in Hiroshima. They grew a little older. A project to recover the reputation of the rotary engine was named the "Phoenix Plan." They were about to take their last chance. France was their stage. They were going to make a challenge at the Le Mans 24-hour endurance race. Those who win at Le Mans are the winners of the world. The challenge was going to be a heroic Fight under adverse circumstances.

(To be continued – Project X: Part 2)



Project X: Winning at Le Mans 24
Miraculous Triumph of the Rotary Engine

Project X: Part 2






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