• Calum Dunbar


Updated: May 13, 2021

The GMA- Cosworth V12, built for use in the Gordon Murray Automotive T.50 It just happens to rev to 12 100 rpm (which is a lot). (Cosworth)

When you think of successful F1 engines today, it is hard not to look past the current Mercedes Power units. However, these engines will never be as successful on an overall level as the Cosworth produced DFV (internal combustion engine) that set the benchmark from the 60’s all the way to the rise of the turbo engine in the early 80’s. Cosworth was founded in 1958 by two Lotus employees, Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth, as a way to “make a living messing around with racing engines''. When the company was founded, Duckworth left Lotus, with Costin staying on with lotus for a further 4 years, in order to fulfill his contract. Lotus soon became Cosworth’s largest customer and its source of finance to get off the ground. Cosworth’s first 5 engines were made exclusively for Lotus. Eventually the success of its Formula Junior engines started to draw the attention of other teams and Cosworth started to rely less on Lotus for revenue. These Formula Junior engines happened to be based off a Ford road car engine, marking the beginning of a long relationship with Ford. As the years went by, Cosworth’s engines were starting to get better and better. In 1966 they changed the engine game forever with the introduction of the Cosworth FVA, a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine that would prove to be one of the best engines in Formula 2, with the best price tag. However, Cosworth had its sights set on something larger than F2, they wanted to win in F1 and when it became apparent that the FVA was a rocket, they knew that they had the perfect base to build off. By 1967 their new F1 engine was complete, and it was to put simply, two FVA’s put together to form a V8. Seems simple enough right? In theory yes but in practice, definitely not. In reality the concept of the DFV was done well before the FVA. But the project was expensive, and Cosworth did not have the funds to produce the engine. Colin Chapman, the team owner of Lotus, stood by his former employees and took the project to Ford. They left Ford giving up the rights to their engine, with GBP 100 000 in hand, enough to put the project into motion. As part of the contract, Cosworth was to show Ford a Ford based 4-cylinder engine as proof of concept, which is where the FVA came from. The Ford DFV was instantly a success, winning it’s first race at the hands of Jim Clark at the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix.

Jim clark on his way to victory at the 1967 Dutch GP (Unknown)

The engine was the first a Formula One team could buy “off the shelf” and expect to be successful with minimal engine prep. A team that would once have to change engines every race or even session, could now last a whole season or even two, with one engine. Following this, Cosworth would go on to produce two of the greatest homologation special road cars ever with Ford. The Sierra RS Cosworth, and the Escort RS Cosworth. Both were built to satisfy manufacturing requirements needed to homologate a Group A rally car at the time. Both failed at winning a rally championship, but hey, they made for an exciting road car!

The Ford Escort RS Cosworth could be heard miles before it got to you (unknown)

Cosworth is still active today, finding itself on the forefront of data acquisition and vehicle connectivity. Although, they still like to produce crazy engines such as the 6.5-liter V12 used in the Adrian Newey designed Aston Martin Valkyrie. One of the most impressive attributes Cosworth has is being able to adapt to a changing market, while still being able to have fun building crazy engines. In 1958 Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth would have ever imagined that the business they founded would branch out into helping vehicles communicate with each other.