Number 287: The 2017 Great Cars Issue
A couple of engines take center stage in our sixth annual Great Cars Issue. Two Cosworths, to be precise – Formula 1’s DFV V8 and Indy car racing’s DFV-derived DFX. Their gestations are fascinating (and contentious, in the case of the DFX), but it’s the way each went on to shape and change racing that bestows greatness.
Both started out as a means to end. In the case of the DFV, Lotus main man Colin Chapman was in need of an engine for F1’s new-for-1966, 3-liter era, but wanted one that would steal a march on the opposition. Cue Cosworth’s fully-stressed jewel, bolted to the
back of the gorgeous Lotus 49 in ’67. A decade later, Parnelli Jones knew the venerable Offy had run its course at Indy and chose a home spun solution: bolt a turbo on an F1 DFV and see if it stays in one piece with an extra 300hp straining to get out. Hey presto, the DFX.
Judged solely on their power-producing abilities, both were impressive – very impressive. But when made available to a wider audience, they had a transformative, democratizing effect on their respective categories. Suddenly, F1 in the late 1960s became a genuine meritocracy; ditto the Indy 500 – and the fledgling CART series – at the end of the ’70s. A DFV or DFX couldn’t make you a winner in itself, but for more than a decade, each provided a level playing field from which to excel.
Speaking of level playing fields, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ standard aero kits (one for speedways; one for short ovals and road/street courses) have been getting rave reviews in readiness for their 2018 introduction. With Honda and Chevy still able to showcase meaningful, road car-derived tech via their engine programs, has IndyCar found the optimum blend of parity and relevancy?
Let’s wait and see, but if the answer’s in the affirmative, maybe it’s a bellwether for the likes of F1, currently looking over its shoulder at Formula E as it tries to figure out how much tech is enough tech?