Remembering Kenichi Yamamoto, patron saint of the rotary engine


Every enthusiast should pause and pay respect to Kenichi Yamamoto, a true friend of sporting automobiles, who died on December 20 at the age of 95. Born in 1922 in southern Japan’s Kumamoto Prefecture, Yamamoto overcame daunting hardships to help Mazda emerge from World War II as an automotive powerhouse (literally).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2018/01/16/kenichi-yamamoto


I’m one of those guys who’s thankful for Yamamoto’s dedication on every nice weekend day with a clear twisty road.
I live smack-dab in fly-over country and bought my first RX7 in 1981. It’s hard to describe the wrinkled brows and muffled snickers that I got from friends and family while trying to explain that my new “Japanese car” didn’t have pistons, a cam or any valves. Those crazy Asians. And the skepticism (until their first ride) when I told them the wacky engine made a 100 hp from only 1200 cc…about 70 cubic inches. That HP to displacement ratio was more than anything else seen in my town…or my state for that matter. Even the sound it made was different.
Nearly 40 years later I’m still rockin’ a RX7, the 3rd and last generation, with no regrets.