Local lives passion for rotary cars

Published 3:49 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kevin Henderson, owner of Rotarycarclub.com, with his Japanese 1992 Mazda RX-7. Henderson has been operating the site for nearly three years. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When Alabaster resident Kevin Henderson, owner of the Pelham-based PC Remedy company, drove his first rotary engine-powered car, he knew he was experiencing something unique.

“There is just nothing like a rotary motor. It’s really smooth in its power delivery, and a lot of people don’t even know what they are,” Henderson said. “People who don’t know will ask ‘Is that a four-cylinder or a six-cylinder engine?’ I’ll say ‘No, it’s a zero-cylinder engine.'”

Henderson currently owns an example of one of the most popular rotary engine-powered cars ever produced: the Mazda RX-7.

His 1992 model is jet black with a black interior, is twin-turbocharged and was originally built to travel the streets of Japan. As such, the steering wheel is on the right side of the car – an eye catching feature Henderson has gotten used to talking about at gas stations and car shows.

Unlike most cars, the engines in rotary-powered vehicles do not have pistons. Instead, the motor contains spinning triangle-shaped rotors.

As the rotors spin, they perform the same actions as cylinders in traditional motors, but have the ability to perform them much faster.

Because of their unique design, rotary motors provide a driving experience unlike anything else, Henderson said.

Rotary-powered vehicles have been around for decades, but the Mazda RX-8 is the only mass-produced version currently available.

After Henderson bought his RX-7, he joined an online rotary enthusiast community to connect with others who shared his passion. The site was a hub for the rotary community, and vendors specializing in the cars filled the ad space and offered their services to those who posted on the site’s message boards.

But when a national company purchased the site a few years ago, it became harder for some of the smaller vendors to offer their services to the site’s members.

“They were more concerned with making money than anything else. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it made it hard for the smaller vendors,” Henderson said. “They went up dramatically on their rates for vendors,” he added.

After the old site was purchased by the national company, Henderson said he and his friend, Phil Sohn, saw an opportunity to help the vendors out.

“We decided to start our own site and allow the smaller rotary vendors to advertise for free,” Henderson said.

Today Henderson’s Rotarycarclub.com website, where he posts under the screen name “ZGN,” has more than 7,700 members, hundreds of whom are active on the site every day.

“The majority of our traffic comes from California, Texas and the Southeast,” Henderson said. “But it’s from all over the world. We have a lot of members from the U.K., Puerto Rico and Australia.”