In Memoriam – Jim Mederer

Jim4It’s with great sadness that Racing Beat announces the passing of co-founder Jim Mederer. After a lengthy battle with cancer, Jim passed away peacefully at home with his business co-partner Takayuki Oku at his side.

A true pioneer in the early development of the rotary engine for use in a variety of industrial, aviation, and automotive performance applications, Jim’s relentless and insatiable desire to create new advances in rotary engine performance led to numerous racing endeavors, with major accomplishments including an IMSA championship, victories at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 6-Hour Mosport endurance events, and three (3) Bonneville Land Speed Records.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Jim turned his attention to almost single-handedly building a mountain home for his mother, Mary Lou, and later, a home for himself in nearby Anaheim. An accomplished pilot, Jim hand-built and flew his Glassair plane often to visit his mother at her mountain home.

Jim will be remembered as quiet man with a big presence, a kind and generous heart, a voice of reason during difficult times, a firm resolve in his beliefs, a competitor’s spirit, a passion for all things mechanical, and a life driven and guided by his deep faith.

Although the Racing Beat organization is saddened by our loss, we all cherish the years spent learning, growing, and working alongside Jim. He will be missed.

We invite you to share your thoughts and comments below.

33 comments. Leave a Reply


    Rest in peace Jim Mederer! You will be miss from Wankel rotary community… “Racing Beat” keep innovating… Keep that legacy alive!

  2. We were all saddened to hear of the passing of Mr Mederer and of course it made me reflect on how much his lifelong work meant to us. We are forever grateful to have benefited from from everything that he did and will miss him but keep him in our memory.

    May he rest in peace

  3. Guy Ankeny

    Jim was a real professional and as a customer loved dealing with him

  4. Simon Wagner

    When I was young, I spent hours reading Jim’s narrative in the 1985 Technical Manual & Catalog. I cherished it and found a hero in the man behind it all. The wealth of knowledge Jim and the Racing Beat crew gave to the Rotary community with this sound resource was cherished by all. I still have my catalog to this day, and thumb through it’s worn edges tonight with fond memories of cars and projects long ago completed and regrettably sold off. However, my fondest memories are those in which I earned Jim’s respect and friendship. Working along side of him was a privilege not extended to very many, and I am deeply honored to have earned such a place in his rich history. In the days that have rushed past since his death, I have heard so many heartfelt stories of Jim filling others lives with unselfish acts of kindness. He’s created and piloted some of the fastest Rotary Rockets on earth, and yet he’s also mended his neighbor’s leaking roof and repaired doors and windows for his Church. He’s built planes, boats, and countless cars. He also built a home for his Mother. Jim was a tall upstanding man, but humble and never sought praise or recognition for any of his incredible and countless contributions to our world. In my book, Jim was, and always will be, a Giant. I am grateful for your time in this world Jim, Godspeed in your next adventure.

  5. Santos E. Vazquez II

    Racing Beat has been my go to Rotary shop if it isn’t Racing Beat I don’t trust it we have others who deal with Rotaries who have Racing Beat ties but I hope Jim’s belief and heart will live on for the rotary community god rest his soul R.I.P. Jim Mederer

  6. Al Herrmann

    Jim was one of my best friends through high school and college. We had many adventures together which our graduation trip on Lake Erie was a highlite. Jim and his mother always had fast cars and we cruised Manners on the weekends. Jim, his mother and I commuted to school from Cleveland to Detroit for collage. The three of us would travel in their AC Shelby Cobra. I rode under the roll bar. Many a time we were flying on the turnpike. I visited Jim out in Anaheim a few years back and we flew up to Big Bear to see his mom’s house. It was a great adventure. I will miss Jim, but he sure left me with a lot of great memories. Thank you, Jim.

  7. Thank you for your tireless effort in rotary car performance. And for keeping Racing Beat THE place for rotary performance. Much peace and respect to the family and friends of Jim. And best of luck to Takayuki for the what the future holds for Racing Beat and rotary performance. Thank you for all you guys have done
    Zeros Car Club

  8. Roger Dowe

    Sad News!! I only met Jim Mederer on one occasion, when we called around to Racing Beat to buy some parts for a project we were working on at home in New Zealand. This was in 2003 and when I asked if Jim still came into the shop to my amazement the staff said “Sure he is in the back”
    We were taken out to meet Jim who was working on a new project.
    What a privilege to have met and chatted with this Great No BS Guy. Having raced Rotary’s in the 70’s and later working on them in NZ Jim and Racing Beat were Legendary even back at that time
    An Honest guy in motor racing is hard to find and will be sadly missed. RIP

  9. Kenny Nevarez

    He met me when I was really young. I remember watching his creation the GTO car flying down the straightaways in Puerto Rico spitting massive flames. I spoke to him several times over the phone asking advice about the race cars I was building. It was with his technical knowledge that I was able to finish my first project and win in its debut. I grew up hearing stories about how my cousin Omar moved in with Jim for an entire month while he completed his skip barber racing schools. Jim would fly him in his plane to the race tracks. Jim would often come stay in my families house in Puerto Rico for weeks. He really was a part of our family. To call him a legend is an understatement. He is a super hero to a world of people who’s intake stroke lasts 120 degrees and who’s exhaust temperatures reach over 1600 F. However, this super hero doesn’t wear a cape but a hat and a belt with the word “JIM” on it.

  10. Billy Bunn Sr.

    My rotary hero since the 70`s

  11. Patrick Bedard

    Jim Mederer was a straight-talking, no-BS kind of guy, I think the most honest man I worked with in all of my years in racing. Racing Beat was a tender green shoot of a company when I called late in 1972; Car and Driver magazine was hatching a project Mazda RX2 for the IMSA sedan racing series (I was executive editor at the time). We knew the Wankel engine had promise, but we needed someone who could turn promise into race-winning horsepower. I told Jim and his partner Takayuki Oku that we needed 200 hp. Mederer said he’d never built an engine to that set of rules so he couldn’t promise. But he would try. A few months later, in the first few hours of dyno testing, the output hit 212 hp. Our RX2 qualified on the pole the first time out and raised so many bitches from the competitors that IMSA made us carry an extra 300 pounds starting the next race. Was Jim’s engine discouraged? Hell, no. We won two races that first season and a sort-of backhanded compliment for Jim—IMSA added a couple hundred more slow-down pounds for the following season.

  12. Juan-Pierre Van Zyl

    Although never meeting Mr. Mederer myself i have the utmost respect for him as well as the way he operated. I’ve always likes rotary engines and when i was looking for parts and advise, i stumbling upon there website and started chatting to Jim Tanner, it become very clear to me that i was at the right place and after concluding my deal successful, i can see that the legacy he leaves behind will be around for a very long time. I received the best advise and parts from a man i never met. Living in South Africa he could have easily brushed me off, but he took the time to send me his advise. I will treasure that forever and will recommend Racing Beat where very i go. I would like to meet the Racing Beat team one day but would have loved to have met Mr. Mederer in person. RIP, he is home with God

  13. Ron Reuss

    I became friends with Jim many years ago while working as the customer’s representative on the development of a gasoline fuel 900 hp 3-rotor. Jim loved to push the limits and I admired his “Yankee Ingenuity” with the hardware. After he told me he was battling pancreatic cancer I had a dream of his skeleton sitting in the Racing Beat shop dyno operator’s chair wearing his red Bonneville Speed Record baseball hat with his right hand on the throttle control cable handle and inside the test cell the 3-rotor was screaming and the Inconel exhaust pipes and turbo turbine housing glowing bright yellow. Good times. I will sure miss Jim.

  14. Chris Ott

    Jim was a personal inspiration. Being an original pioneer for rotary engine performance, he paved the road for us all. With much sadness and a heavy heart we say goodbye.

    Rotary Performance
    Garland, Texas

  15. Michele A. Allard

    There wasn’t anything he couldn’t & didn’t do. Thank you to everyone around the world who are remembering him. I’m lucky he is my cousin. Love now & always, Mickey!

  16. Aggie

    I worked in production at Racing Beat for a number of years with Jim & Mr. Oku I’ve always looked up to the both of them 1 thing that I’ll alway remember about Mederer besides his lengendary car career was his love for Motown music. I’ll miss his awesome dance moves he’d bust out randomly in the shop. Me & Bossman “Gerry” would just look at each other & laugh. Good times at the Beat its a part of my life Ill never forget & I’m glad to have worked & learned from the best.
    Love ya Mederer RIP buddy

  17. Upon meeting Jim it was great to see a true engineer with nothing to prove, who was happy that he had his own space to do as he pleased, needing nothing more than his bench and his beloved Dyno, which he went on to explain that he modified many things to get it just how he wanted it which was his forte through his whole career. After all how could he have ever won Daytona or set the records he did without that “perfectionist touch”!.

    Many things will quite rightly be written of his tremendous personal achievements in the coming weeks months and years to come, but after working with the company for many years now, I feel his enormous legacy is that the company he founded has brought thousands and thousands of Mazda enthusiasts all around the world not only success to the worlds race tracks, but also enhanced Mazda ownership for normal road uses like no other Mazda performance company can and will continue to do so for many years to come, due to the excellent team he surrounded himself with at Racing Beat inc.

    Clive Haynsford/ Racing Beat Europe/ Proud to be associated with the company Jim founded.

  18. Dan Atkins

    Now he can build a Rotary Engine for God Himself. He will be missed for sure but not forgotten as he (Same for Mr. Oku) has given & done a lot for the Mazda line.
    I met Jim once and he was a quiet man, as I get older I can tell he was a busy man in his head and that’s a good thing to have as not very many have this drive that Jim had.
    My Dad (David) met Jim in 1974 at his shop he was buffing an intake manifold and Jim & my Dad got to chat a few times over the years and he was very helpful.

    Thank-you for your knowledge that you have passed on to others over the years as you have blessed quite a few Generations of Drivers..

    May he Rest & Race in Peace..

    From the Crew At AtkinsRotary
    Dan Atkins

  19. MIKE


  20. Jim was the original,and the one that inspired so many of us in the industry to study,research,and race rotaries…He will never be forgotten.

  21. Jose Franco

    A gentleman and a wonderful soul. We met at Daytona 1983 when Racing Beat’s IMSA GTO RX7 won their category and finished ever so close to winning it all with a 13B PP. What a celebration !! Thank you Jim for all you’ve taught us. Godspeed.

  22. Loretta L Michael

    My cousin Jim was such a wonderful person, giving so much. Inspirational, Sucsessful, his mother was so proud in all the achievements over many years of hard work. So proud he was my cousin and see all of the wonderful things hyou all have said about him. Thank you, he will be truly missed.

  23. Peter Jun

    Your spirit lives on on, all you have done and the people you have touched.



  25. Marcelo m

    You helped alot of the rotary mechanics, with so much valuable information through your years of research and innovations.When the word ” rotary engine” is said your name will forever be together.. JIM MEDERER,, my heart is with your your family. Thank you. Rip!!!!! my brother

  26. Jim and his employees helped me find some oddball electrical components for my second gen TII when I was stationed in Germany back in 04/06. He only charged my card for shipping to APO/AE. When I came back stateside and bought my RX-8 I purchased the parts I needed from Racing Beat due to this small kindness. He seemed like a really good man and its a damn shame to see him pass away. Godspeed Mr. Mederer.

  27. Nate Rist

    Racing beat, their racing history, the R&D and relentless work that Jim has put into rotary engines over the years is astounding. He definitely left his mark in this world and 100s of thousands of us are very grateful for everything he’s done for the rotary community and mazda community in general. The world will never see another like Jim Mederer that has the same ambition and passion for the work he did and the accomplishments he’s made throughout his life and career and for that he has my endless respect and extreme gratitude. So thank you Jim for all of your hard work, you were a true rotard and your legacy is something I will always look up to.

  28. Megan

    Jim is my God father. Thank you for the kind statement about him. He was a quiet man but had such a big heart.

  29. David Johnson

    What a wonderful man, brilliant and kind. Always made time to help the racing community and enthusiast. Godspeed Jim

  30. Miguel Gonzalez

    My condolences
    He was the Man that put the Mazda rotary on the map.

  31. Francisco Pito Nevarez/Eggie and Omar Palacioss

    He was really a great friend for me, Eggie and Omar Palacios. We will never forget you. We also have wonderful and unvaliable memories of the time we spent in Puerto Rico. He was and he will be part of our family forever. Miss you my friend RIP.

  32. A terribly sad way to end 2016… Mederer was a true living legend. He showed true dedication to our industry. He was responsible for so many things that we take for granted every single day when we modify and talk about rotaries… We will always remember him.

  33. Adam Heyman

    So sad, a true inspiration and legend in our community. He will be missed. Rest in Peace Jim

    RX7 Specialties