NAGOYA—After inquiring with Mazda about a possible new rotary powered sports car, they invited us to their factory to give us the details. Needless to say we were very excited, and we hopped on a plane to Japan.
We arrived at their headquarters and were corralled with what seemed like many other automotive journalists into a large lecture space. As we were being seated a huge projection screen unraveled from the ceiling. The tension and excitement in the room was palpable.
Carlos Lago could be seen looking back from the front row. He waved at Johnny Lieberman who was seated next to Jethro Bovington. Johnny didn’t notice he was waving, and Carlos faced forward again, looking disappointed.
A Japanese man took to the stage to rapturous applause. He waved, smiling as he approached the podium. The screen flickered to life as he interacted with a laptop.
A slideshow was presented which was titled, “WANKEL ENGINE BASICS”.
He began to click through the slideshow, explaining in a Japanese accent how Wankel engines work, and Mazda’s recent advancements with the technology.
Jeremy Clarkson suddenly arrived, soaked in rain. He sat down at the back with James May, who nobody had noticed.
When the lecture was done, there was more applause from the audience, who expected him to present a concept of the new car. Instead, another slideshow was put on the screen. It was titled, “TRANSMISSION AND DRIVELINE”.
An older journalist at Car & Driver cackled to himself in front of us. He gathered his things and left. We all looked around nervously. The man on stage smirked as he left.
The slideshows and lectures continued for several hours. We learned the basics of brakes, suspension, steering, interior design, pretty much everything about designing a new car.
When we returned from lunch, our host gathered us all together and led us into a large studio space. There were computers, drafting tables, everything that would be needed to design a car.
He turned around once we had all entered and began to speak
“You think it is so fucking easy to make a rotary sports car? Here is what you need. We have been doing it for a decade. Maybe you people know something we don’t?”
The man loosened the tie from around his neck and left.
Jeremy Clarkson piped up, “Oh this is easy.”
He immediately sat down and began to sketch. Other journalists sat down at other tables and began to ideate.
After a few hours, most people had gotten frustrated and left. Carlos Lago tried to sit with the Motortrend people, but Johnny Lieberman put his feet up on the extra chair as he was about to sit.
Jeremy then announced he was finished, and scrambled all of James’ papers as he got up to show our Mazda handlers.
The Japanese man who had since returned looked quite tired and frustrated. He recited the information on the page.
“900 horsepower from a 3 liter rotary engine. Five turbochargers. Rear wheel drive, 6 speed manual, no carpets or mufflers.”
“You are wasting my time, Jeremy.”
Clarkson threw a fit as he was removed from the space by a small army of Japanese security guards.
Everyone else submitted their proposals except James, who we were observing from across the room after everyone else had left.
As it began to get dark, James submitted his proposal.
“700cc twin rotor engine, one single twin scroll turbocharger, and a smaller electric one powered with a hybrid system. Four wheel drive, 5 speed manual, small wheels and tires.”
The man flipped through the drawings James had provided.
“These could do, James. But this car only has 60 horsepower.”
He looked up from the drawings as James looked back at him.
“Is that a problem?”