Cosworth: Visiting a Legend

by Tim Sawyer
2 December 2015 4 min read
Cosworth: Visiting a Legend
The Cosworth Factory has been producing performance engines in the same Northampton location since 1964. Veloce Publishing

Depending on your age, the name Cosworth may evoke different memories. For some, the name will call to mind the DFV engines that powered so many of the great F1 cars of the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. For others, it may be reminiscent of the BDA engine that took so many Ford Escort RS1600s and RS1800s to rally wins in the forests of the world in the 1970s, or the fire-spitting Sierra RS500 dominating the touring car championships of the 1980s and early ‘90s and being the car to be seen in on Britain’s streets.

Whatever your memories, the Cosworth name is charged with emotion. That’s why, when I was offered the chance to visit the Cosworth factory and meet some of the legendary figures behind the company, I jumped at the chance. The day was organised by Veloce Publishing to mark the publication of a new book: Grand Prix Ford: Ford, Cosworth and the DFV by Graham Robson.

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Today the Cosworth name may not be quite so high-profile, but on a nondescript industrial estate in Northampton, Cosworth Engineering are still very much involved in motorsport, and still working from the same building where all their great engines have been built since 1964. Today they are creating engines for the Nissan Le Mans racer, the Porsche 911 Super cup championship and various other car and bike series around the world, with engine and electronic components even making an appearance in Ken Block’s latest car.

Cosworth also still do a lot of work in the road car sector, creating performance parts for Subaru, Toyota and Ford, and are supplying the engine for the new TVR.

Cosworth are just as much about the future as they are about their past and their Northampton factory was the perfect place for the launch of Robson’s book.

As we entered the reception of Cosworth we were greeted by a Lotus 49 surrounded by a group of people. Graham Robson was there, and also Cosworth founder Mike Costin, BDA designer Mike Hall, and the man who commissioned the Sierra Cosworth, Stuart Turner. These are the people that created so much of Ford and Cosworth’s history.

Before the launch of the book we were given a tour around the Cosworth facilities, starting off in the engine building room which is part of the old building. We saw a range of engines, including a V10 F1 engine that used to be in the Jaguar F1 cars, and a Ford Duratec that is found in Ford Fiesta, Focus and Mondeo road cars and many race cars.

Reminders of Cosworth history were everywhere- on one of the walls was a big photo of the old Cosworth factory in London, showing where the company has come from; if only these walls could talk.

The second stop on the tour was the engine dyno cells. Here Cosworth have the ability to test an engine in controlled environment, including running an engine with a gearbox and bodywork attached and going through a full-race simulation. This lets them recreate a problem experienced in a race without having to run a car ‘live’, or to test a new component for a full race duration in a safe environment. One of their latest projects has been the Nissan GT-R LM Nismo, Nissan’s newest sports car built for Le Mans.

The last stop of the tour was the most recent addition to Cosworth’s Northampton site- a warehouse housing nine CNC machines capable of creating a new Duratec or DFV engine block or cylinder head.

To finish off the tour we were escorted into the conference room where Graham Robson gave us a talk about his new book. Lined up around the room were many of the great race engines Cosworth have built over the years from the early SCA to the V8 and V10 engines used in the late ‘90s and 2000s F1 and Indy Cars.

Grand Prix Ford: Ford, Cosworth and The DFV is a detailed look at the DFV-powered F1 car that dominated Formula one between 1968 and 1983 winning 13 of the 16 world championship in this period. The book also offers an insight into Ford UK’s entry into motorsport in the 1950s and ‘60s along with the birth of Cosworth from its humble London beginnings through to the new factory in Northampton where they still operate today.

Grand Prix Ford includes over 300 photos, many not seen before, covering every Formula 1 car that was powered by a DFV- an amazing 53 teams over 22 years with a total of 155 race wins between them.

All of these teams are featured, showing the various chassis they ran and giving a great insight into how F1 car design and aerodynamics changed over the years. The development of the DFV engine is also tracked, from the early engine with its 410BHP to the finally evolution that was putting out just short of 600BHP, which helped to keep it at the top of the sport for so long.

The book also covers the other engines that were the DFV’s rivals during its time at the top, an era which many people consider the golden age of F1. These include the BRM H16 of the ‘60s, the Ferrari and Matra VEE12 and the Renault VEE 6 turbo that finally overcame the DFV’s dominance.

The last chapter of the book covers the engines that were the offspring of the DFV and used in championships away from F1 like the Turbocharged DFX used in Indy car and the DFL that was used in Group C endurance racing.

The only thing that is missing is a sound track to play so you can fully experience these great sounding engines.

Grand Prix Ford: Ford, Cosworth and the DFV by Graham Robson is limited to 1500 copies
Published by Veloce Publishing Ltd
01305 260068
Book ISBN 978-1-845846-24-4

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