When you talk 1970s single seater or prototype sports car racing the one constant is Cosworth. Whereas Ferrari, Renault and Porsche built their own engines, many prototype and single seater manufacturers opted for a customer engine namely something out of the Cosworth range. Cosworth’s true competitors included Hart, Judd and Ilmor, but it is Cosworth that has survived albeit through several owners.
Back in 1958, ex aeronautic engineers, Keith Duckworth and Mike Costin got together to build racing engines. They were both working for Lotus at the time when they branched out to form Cosworth. At that time Coventry Climax was the F1 and F2 customer engine with most manufacturers such as Cooper using their designs.
In the late 1950s, British engineering was thriving and there was a group of engineers like Duckworth and Costin who were pushing the boundaries of technology. Costin’s brother Frank, was getting involved in motorsport and helped found the Marcos sports car company and other engineers like Colin Chapman were part of this unofficial group of young talent.
Chapman, the founder of Lotus, saw the future with Cosworth and they developed a relationship that lasted 25 odd years. The first engines by Cosworth were based on Ford designs, i.e. they retuned Ford engines and they were fitted to early Lotus models by Chapman.
Cosworth’s relationship with Ford was strong for many years as they used the blocks to build Formula 3 and then Formula 2 engines. This lead to Ford commissioning a V8 Formula 1 engine – the DFV (Double Four Valve). Chapman had persuaded Ford to stump up the cash, hence it was named the Ford DFV. This engine won 167 races and even won it’s first race in 1967 with Jim Clark in a Lotus. It became one of the staple customer engines and used by many F1 teams such as Tyrrell, Shadow, March and many more – mostly British constructors.
The DFV was developed further as the DFY for sports car racing and the DFX for the US based single seater championships. Aside from this engine, Cosworth made smaller engines from Ford pieces for other racing series and collaborated with Ford on some road cars, notably the Cosworth series (the Sierra, Escort and RS Cosworths come to mind). I also discovered a few years back that they collaborated with Chevrolet. I was at the Cars ‘n’ Coffee at Blackhawk Museum in northern California and stumbled across a Chevrolet Vega and the owner proudly told me that his car was one of a handful left on the road. They appeared to be a limited run anyway!
In 1980, Duckworth wanted to step down from running the company and it was sold to United Engineering Industries, a group of technology companies, and he retained a technical role. 8 years later, UEI was bought by Carlton Communications who felt that the Cosworth part of the group didn’t fit with their portfolio and they on sold the company to Vickers, the defence and technology group.
After another 8 years of ownership, Vickers sold the company to VW who split the group into Cosworth Racing and Cosworth Technology. The Racing division was still successfully building racing engines based on Ford, so it was logical for Ford to buy this piece. The Technology division was ultimately sold in 2004 to the Mahle Group, a German automotive parts company founded in 1920. Audi drivers will recognise Cosworth as a provider of technology especially if you drive an aluminium A/S8!
The same year that Mahle bought the technology division, Ford sold the Racing division to Gerald Forsythe (of Forsythe Racing) who renamed it back to Cosworth.
Have a look at cosworth.com, they still manufacture a range of engines including tuned Subaru motors. They are still a significant development company for the internal combustion engine with the Ford DFV as their crowning glory!