Two F1 Engines Built Nearly 50 Years Apart Show How Far Racing Technology Has Come

Two F1 Engines Built Nearly 50 Years Apart Show How Far Racing Technology Has Come

12/29/2020

The engine block you see on the left is from a 2013 Cosworth V8 Formula 1 engine, and the corresponding part on the right is from a 1967 Cosworth DFV. Marvel at how much more advanced the later Cozzy is compared to the DFV, thanks in large part to computer-aided drafting (CAD) and computer numerical control (CNC) machining. The 21st Century power plant isn’t necessarily more masterful than its predecessor from nearly 50 years prior, but the technological advancements that make it far more powerful and immensely more compact are special in their own right.

F1 engine designers have progressed plenty since 2013, directing their attention to the series’ turbocharged, 1.6-liter V6 hybrid power units. That’d be an apples to oranges comparison, though, which is why we’re pitting the venerable 2.4-liter V8, last supplied to the now-defunct Marussia team, against its ancestor. The comparison was first brought up by Matt Grant, co-owner of Cosworth parts supplier Modatek, on Twitter.

Head comparison.

As for the old-school Cosworth DFV, it had the distinction of winning its very first time out. The 3.0-liter V-8 went on to win 155 races, the last coming in 1983 with Keke Rosberg at Monaco, just before F1 entered its initial turbocharged era. It was also notable for serving as a structural member of the chassis. 

The engine was a 2,993cc V8 pumping out over 400 brake horsepower at 9,000 rpm, eventually cranking 11,200 rpm by the time it was retired. It was the masterpiece that made the names of Cosworth’s Keith Duckworth and Michael Costin legendary.

On the other hand, the Cosworth “CA” 2.4-liter never won a race. Still, it allowed multiple teams—such as Williams, HRT, Virgin and Lotus—to at least put cars on the grid when they couldn’t afford top-tier powertrains. Earlier versions spun to a marvelous 20,000 rpm before being restricted to 18,000 rpm for 2013, and the initial feat was achieved by featuring the largest permissible bore and thus, a shorter stroke. Series 6 versions were said to make 755 bhp, which was down from the V10s that preceded them but still respectable at 315 bhp per liter.

Piston comparison.

These two engines span a remarkable period in advancements by a remarkable company. Cosworth may no longer supply F1 engines, but its expertise showed through its tenure as being both extremely innovative and resourceful. There’s a reason they hung around for so long, often at the top of the heap.

Well before the 1.6-liter turbo hybrid power units were introduced, Cosworth went on record complaining about what the new regulations would do to engine costs. As it turns out, they were prophetic—but that’s a discussion for another time.

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