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Legends at FoS: F1’s Greatest Engine ‑ Cosworth DFV



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An absorbing array of Formula 1 cars spanning the entire history of the World Championship as we know it, from 1950 to very recent seasons (there won’t be any 2015 racers there because of ‘testing’ restrictions), provides visitors to the Festival of Speed with a visual and aural history lesson like nowhere else.

Slippery, front-engined beauties from the 1950s – think Maserati 250F and Mercedes W196 – and modern-day rocketships complete with complicated aerodynamic appendages and high-revving V8 powerplants bookend the line-up.

And, as is traditional at this petrolheads’ nirvana, nestled in between you’ll stumble across cigar-case, monocoque masterpieces of the mid-’60s such as the luscious and lightweight Lotus 25, as well as the 1000bhp-plus turbocharged expressions of excess from the ’80s. Expect a black-and-gold Lotus-Renault and a red-and-white McLaren-Honda or two to stop you in your tracks – each with ‘ Ayrton Senna ’ inscribed on their flanks for added jaw-dropping.

Somewhere in among that lot, however, comes a separate class for an era of F1 that defines a generation and rarely polarises opinion, whatever your age and regardless of whether you were there or not: the 1970s. Race fans young and old eulogise about this decade of wedge-shaped noses, high airboxes, massive wings and fat slicks, not to mention long hair, sideburns and flared team trousers.

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But there was another constant during that time, one that came with an evocative soundtrack that stirred souls then and stirs memories now, 40 years on: the Cosworth DFV – for many the greatest racing engine ever built.

‘Derivatives of the concept, albeit with an extra two cylinders added on, were still racking up wins 20-years after that.’

Thanks to a pioneering turn of events in 1967 involving former Lotus engineers Mike Costin and Keith Duckworth and a pot of cash from Ford, an off-the-shelf, three-litre V8 engine that perfectly married power, packaging and price became the motivation of choice for the majority of teams in this popular period.

When Jim Clark and the all-new Cosworth DFV-powered Lotus 49 won the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort 48 years ago today (June 4), the F1 goalposts were dug up and moved to another, bigger pitch. And the ubiquitous Double Four Valve motor kept on winning, courtesy of McLaren, Matra, Brabham, March, Tyrrell, Hesketh, Penske, Wolf, Shadow, Ligier and Williams, until 1983. Derivatives of the concept, albeit with an extra two cylinders added on, were still racking up wins 20-years after that.

With examples of distinctive racers from some of those winning squads, most of them British, on show at Goodwood – in demos on the hillclimb course and in static displays around the site – there’s no excuse for failing to immerse yourself in Cosworth DFV heaven.

The Scream: Ford’s Cosworth SCA Engine

24th February 2021

A 997cc Cortina-based engine with an overhead cam alloy head that revs to 11,000 rpm? Scream if you want to go faster with the Cosworth SCA.

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With a new 1-litre F2 category due in 1964, Ford commissioned an engine from Cosworth. Basing this on the existing five-main-bearing Cortina 116E cylinder block, Keith Duckworth designed his first-ever aluminium cylinder head, complete with single overhead camshaft and two vertical valves per cylinder. Drive to the cam was by a train of gears, and the combustion chambers were formed in the piston crowns. As with all future Cosworth race car engines, it was miraculously compact.

Up until this point, Cosworth had concentrated on modifying the Ford Anglia/Classic/Cortina engines (the most famous, MAE, being the Modified Anglia Engine), so new engineering for the SCA was a real shot-in-the dark. Duckworth had to play safe, by improving on what other engineers had already done but soon started to develop novel, and forward-thinking, ideas of his own.

This engine was always purpose-built for F2, which explains combining the five-bearing Cortina bottom end with the bore/stroke dimensions of the original 997cc Anglia. The final engines peaked at more than 11,000 rpm, when they reached their breathing limits. Driveability was always a problem — but there was never a need for them to be used at low-speed or in heavy traffic.

To fit the tiny single-seater race cars from Lotus and Cooper, the SCA engine was designed to be canted over at an angle in the chassis, so the steeply angled inlet ports ended up vertical, the carburettors being immediately behind the driver’s head. In later years Duckworth was ashamed of this: “The SCA was the first cylinder head that I ever designed, and now I think there was a lot wrong with it. We had all sorts of trouble with the combustion — we couldn’t make it burn — but it was still good enough to win a lot of F2 races…”

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Having started life with an impressive 115 bhp, the SCA was eventually persuaded to produce up to 143 bhp (from just 997cc, though with an early type of Lucas fuel injection), but by 1966 it had been matched by a new and complex F2 engine from Honda. Cosworth had, however, also learned enough about four valves per cylinder to banish two-valve heads for ever.

Cosworth SCA: the spec

Built: 1963-1966

Used in: 1-litre F2 and other race-car series

Layout: four-cylinder, single overhead cam head, two valves per cylinder

Capacity: 997cc (later 1098cc and 1498cc)

Block/head material: Cast-iron/cast aluminium

Power: 115 bhp from 997cc, rising to 140 bhp by 1966, 175 bhp from 1498cc

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