My Car Quest

December 9, 2023

The Key To Cosworth – Keith Duckworth

by Mike – 

The Double Four Valve (DFV) engine developed by Keith Duckworth (August 10, 1933 – December 19, 2005) at Cosworth is one of the most successful engines in racing history.

The DFV engine revolutionized Formula One racing.

Keith Duckworth

Keith Duckworth in 1969

The Cosworth DFV, and other engines based on this design, became the standard in Formula One and other racing venues.

Cosworth’s 176 wins make it one of the most successful engine manufacturers to race in Formula One, second only to Ferrari engines in race wins. Ferrari only passed Cosworth in wins in the past 5 years.

Graham Hill

Graham Hill driving at the Nürburgring in 1969 in a Lotus 49, photo by Lothar Spurzem

In 1955 Duckworth began working for Lotus but after three years Duckworth, along with fellow Lotus employee Mike Costin, founded Cosworth in 1958. The Cosworth name is the combination of Costin and Duckworth.

Mike Costin is the brother of Frank Costin the car designer who was involved with Lister, Lotus, Maserati and others. Frank Costin was also the co-founder of Marcos with Jem Marsh. Yes the “cos” in Marcos comes from Costin and the “Mar”comes from Marsh.

These Costin brothers were clever with car design and engineering but not so much with company names.

From the beginning Cosworth was associated with Ford and Lotus, and the two companies found early success in the newly formed Formula Junior in the early 1960s. This success motivated Lotus founder Colin Chapman to persuade Ford to finance the production of Duckworth’s DFV engine.

Lotus 49

Lotus 49 photo by Mikaël Restoux

Chapman’s idea was to reduce the cars weight by using the engine as a stressed part of the chassis attaching it directly to the front monocoque tub. This has been standard in Formula One ever since.

The DFV made its debut in the third race of the 1967 season, at the Dutch Grand Prix. Powering a Lotus 49 it was the winner with Jim Clark driving.

The Cosworth engine then went on to power the winner of 15 out of the next 21 Formula One races.

Lotus 49

Lotus 49 photo by Mikaël Restoux

Cosworth was a subsidiary of Ford between 1998 and 2004 when Cosworth was sold to the Cosworth Group owned by Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven.

“The chance of things breaking is fairly proportional to the number of bits there are in the engine. The fewer the bits the less likelihood of one breaking” said Keith Duckworth in Road & Track magazine in May 1969.

Cosworth V8 Engine

Cosworth V8 Engine - Champ Car 2004 photo by Jcordle

Click on the images for a larger view.


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