Motorsports

AUDI SELLS COSWORTH TO FORD

by Larry Roberts

July 24, 1998

This is definitely an era of major corporate mergers and acquisitions in the auto world. General Motors owns Sweden's Saab, BMW owns Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz (otherwise known as Daimler) recently fell in with Chrysler, and Volkswagen outbid the world and gobbled up those stiff-upper-lip British icons, Rolls-Royce and Bentley.

The latter merger has had some auto media pundits doing some "what-ifs" of late, one being that the British Vickers Company owns the Rolls-Royce name and trademark and it's possible that the name won't go with the car after the deal is finalized. VW might find it hard to market quarter-million-dollar sedans without being able to put the famous "Double R" logo on that distinctive radiator shell

But the part of the sale that had auto racing fans as well as international Formula One and CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) constructors on the edges of their chairs is that Cosworth, one of the few world-class pure auto racing engine manufacturers, went with the deal. Audi, the upscale subsidiary of Volkswagen, acquired Cosworth in order to expand its role as VW's research and development arm. Cosworth engines have been a mainstay in big-time racing for decades and has powered various Grand Prix race cars to 175 victories as well as 12 Indy 500 checkered flags - among other accomplishments.

All of which would still be OK if it weren't for the fact that for many years, the other name on the cam covers of Cosworth engines has been Ford. The Big Blue Oval has put millions into the development of Cosworth engines and its sale by Vickers to VW has been the cause of much consternation around the world.

The name Cosworth has been in auto racing for at least 40 years and is in reality, the combination of the last names of Keith Duckworth and Mike Costin, a pair of Brits who came to the forefront of racing in those halcyon days of the '50s and '60s. Those years produced such automotive design greats as Colin Chapman (Lotus) and Eric Broadley of the Lola company. Duckworth was a graduate engineer who actually got his start with Chapman and Lotus and worked there full-time after having been a part-timer during his college days. Costin was the one-time Director of Development for Lotus and in 1965, co-authored with David Phillips "Racing and Sports Car Chassis Design," a book that has become the classic treatise on the subject.

The Ford connection goes back the Cosworth/Ford 105E engine that was the mainstay of the then-popular Formula Junior entry-level class of single-seaters in the '50s and '60s. In fact, the first "true" Cosworth engine, developed in '64, was, in reality, a Ford 105E block modified by Cosworth to accept a single overhead camshaft cylinder head. It became the engine of choice in Formula 2 racing until it was overwhelmed by more sophisticated Honda and Brabham powerplants. Even back then there was considerable support given to Cosworth by Ford.

The symbiotic relationship between Ford and Cosworth carried on after the sale of the British Vickers Company, which is best known for producing aircraft engines. Vickers was really more interested in acquiring the Castings, Engineering and Manufacturing divisions that had evolved out of Cosworth Engineering and was quite happy to have Ford as a joint-venture partner in its Racing Engines division. But when VW and Audi came into the picture, it was thought that Audi might have had plans to substitute its "Four Ring" logo and name on Cosworth-powered cars on the Grand Prix circuit and the CART Championship Trail.

But a recent press release by Ford has set everyone's mind at rest. "AUDI AND FORD AGREE TO TERMS FOR COSWORTH RACING" reads the bold caption. Dan Davis, head of Ford's Special Vehicle Operations and motorsports program is quoted as saying "A loyal partner for years, Cosworth Racing can now benefit from some of Ford's resources in ways that were not possible prior to the sale." After an engagement of 40 years, Ford and Cosworth have finally tied the knot in true matrimony.

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