If you had an engine swap on your brain and were able to acquire a crashed example of the hottest car in recent memory, what would you put behind the seats of your C8 rebuild? For Rob Dahm, there is only one answer and it likely isn’t one that came to many people’s minds when they imagined the situation he found himself in. Rob is a Wankel fanatic who was fortunate enough to get his hands on what he is calling the first wrecked mid-engine Corvette and his obsession lies in creating a modern interpretation of the General Motors concept XP-882, known as the Aerovette.
We covered this story in Quick Shifts a few weeks back when the idea was still in the concept stages but now, Rob has his car and the project is underway!
If you are wondering why anyone would swap out a glorious, American V8 for a wacky rotary engine, you aren’t alone. We here at CorvetteBlogger took it upon ourselves to hit the proverbial books and find out exactly why Dahm is so in love with this fascinating, yet nearly extinct engine technology.
We thought that we would start with the simple question that may be plaguing many readers right about now; what exactly is a rotary engine? A Wankel or rotary engine forgoes the traditional piston motor’s individual cylinder compression and ignition phases for an all-in-one rotating triangle shaped rotor (lovingly referred to by aficionados as the “Spinning Dorito”).
That “Dorito” brings with it several advantages over a traditional piston set-up. First, it uses far fewer moving parts which, like the simplicity of electric motors, is music to the ears of insurance agencies and the accountants at car manufacturers. Fewer parts usually equate to lower cost and, in this case, also means near immunity to catastrophic failure.
That is nice and all, but what is the draw from an enthusiast point of view, you may ask. To answer this one we will start with the fact that rotary engines are extremely power dense. The last production car to utilize one under its hood was the Mazda RX-8 which went out of production in 2012 after nearly a decade on the market. Its “Renesis” rotary motor displaced a mere 1.3 liters but made an impressive 232 horsepower. That is a whopping 178 ponies per liter or the equivalent of a 1,104 HP LS3… without any assistance from the use of turbos or a supercharger!
They also give engineers the ability to place the redline in the stratosphere. The RX-8 could rev all the way to 9,000 RPM. They also build power continually throughout the rev range; the previously mentioned 232 HP of that RX-8? It was achieved at the 9k redline!
The typical reaction to all of this information is wonderment that such an incredible powerplant hasn’t been used on a production car in nearly a decade. It sounds amazing, why aren’t companies implementing Wankels in their cars anymore? Well, there does seem to be some glaring issues inherent to the rotary design. Chief of these, especially according to those of us in Corvette circles, is power. While milking 232 HP out of 1.3L is impressive, that number and its corresponding 159 lb-ft of torque were anemic by the time Mazda pulled the plug on their final rotary engine. This was compounded by the linear fashion in which it doled out that power; at low engine speeds, they feel like there is nobody home. This feeling would be compounded by people who are used to the low-end torque provided by a small block Chevy. Dahm seems to be addressing this problem by applying turbos.
Wankels are also notorious for burning through oil and returning less than stellar fuel consumption numbers. Parts availability, price, and a limited number of mechanics with rotary experience form another three-headed monster that owners have to deal with. Flooding and seals have also been named as weak spots for the motor.
All of this research has only deepened our curiosity about Dahm’s project and we are anxiously waiting to see how it turns out. See how the first steps of his Sebring Orange rebuild are going by watching the video below, it should be a heck of a ride!
Rob Dahm / YouTube
[PICS] Owner Gives His 2020 Corvette’s Engine Cover a Patriotic Makeover
Corvettes for Sale: 1999 Vette Kart for Sale on Bring A Trailer
[PICS] Wrapped Acid Green 2020 Corvette is the Exterior Color the C8 Needs