36 SEPTEMBER 2017
from the VPJ shop in Torrance. The
groundbreaking VPJ Turbo Engine would
also get a new name, the Cosworth DFX,
as the firm began churning out the
engines for a variety of clientele.
McLaren Racing chose the DFX for
1977, finishing second at Indy behind A.J.
Foyt’s in-house chassis and engine. For
’ 78, legendary owner/tech pioneer Jim
Hall called on Cosworth as he readied
Chaparral Racing for its Indy 500 debut
with the engine’s original user, Al Unser.
“All of a sudden, here they are offering
the DFX to anybody,” Hall recalls. “So I
said, ‘Sign me up, I want four.’”
Unser crushed the field in Hall’s Lola,
leading 121 of 200 laps to win his third
“500” and deliver Cosworth a first Indy
triumph. With that breakthrough, the DFX
was on its way to owning the Brickyard.
“The Cosworth DFX changed the whole
game,” says Roger Penske, who would
win the following year’s Indy 500 with
young Rick Mears. “The performance
and the reliability was so much greater.”
Still irked by events, VPJ found one
way to serve Duckworth and Cosworth a
bit of comeuppance as the DFX became
Indy car racing’s engine of choice.
“Ironically, they didn’t have a dyno,”
Jones recalls with a grin. “So guess what,
they come down the street to use our dyno
– and the dyno time was very expensive!
I wouldn’t say we got even, but we got
our pound of flesh, let’s put it that way...”
Stiff and light, the DFX was an easy
bolt-in for a variety of chassis, and became
a key factor in improving a car’s handling
as Indy’s lap speeds surged past 200mph.
Unlike the turbo Offy and its neck-snapping,
all-or-nothing power delivery, the Cosworth
was more predisposed to respond to its
driver’s requests. It made cornering a
faster and friendlier proposition.
“The main thing was the drivability
factor,” Mario Andretti recalls of the
in-demand DFX. “Especially as we were
going to more and more road races.”
Like the Offy, Cosworth’s DFX supplied
some mind-blowing stats as a growing list
of teams opted for the no-brainer route.
At “peak DFX,” in 1983, 32 of Indy’s 33
starters used the DFX. Between 1978 and
’ 87, 10 consecutive Indy 500s fell at its
feet. It was the engine that gave the CART
IndyCar Series its foundation, powering
every champ from the inaugural ’ 79
season through Bobby Rahal’s ’ 87 title.
(LEFT) Tom Sneva
dives under Al Unser
Jr. in the 1983 Indy
500. Sneva’s winning
83C was one of 32
in the field – the DFV’s
Like the DFV in F1, the DFX’s 90-degree vee configuration
made it the perfect engine to accommodate ground-effect
venturi tunnels. Johnny Rutherford and the “Yellow
Submarine” Chaparral 2K proved the concept in the 1980
Indianapolis 500, starting from the pole (BELOW) and
leading 118 laps on the way to a dominant victory.
READY FOR THE AERO REVOLUTION