Jay Leno drives a rotary-powered Volkswagen Beetle


You never know what's going to turn up at Jay Leno's Garage.

Leno is a fan of Wankel rotary engines and has featured a couple on the show in vehicles like a Mazda Cosmo 110S and a modified 1973 RX-3. This time, though, he featured a rotary engine in something a bit more unorthodox.

This 1966 Volkswagen Beetle is unlike any other and, no, we're not talking about the racing stripe and bright blue paint. It's powered by a turbocharged rotary engine out of a 1990 Mazda RX-7. Coupled to a modified version of the Beetle's original transmission. It was built by Mario Markakis who claims the rotary produces 250 horsepower and boasts of 10.5 quarter mile ETs.

Markakis also rebuilt the suspension, adding air ride so he could slam the Beetle to the ground at car shows. That's how the car first caught Leno's attention: he saw a crowd gathered around it a local car show and wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. The Beetle boasts a beefed up differential and axles as well.

All of the work was done by Markakis in his garage. The project started when he decided that the stock VW engine wasn't providing enough power for sustained highway cruising. The rotary engine offered the most bang for the buck, Markakis said, plus it fit in the Beetle's cramped engine compartment.

Markakis has owned many cars over the years but says he always ends up coming back to Beetles because they're "fun." Especially when you get to blow the doors off unsuspecting muscle cars.

 
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