THE RISE AND RISE OF THE COSWORTH DFX
FROM F1 TO INDY
It was a simple, yet
brilliant idea: take the
Cosworth DFV Formula 1
engine, reduce its
capacity from 3 to 2. 65
liters, and bolt on a
TAKING OVER THE BRICKYARD
DFX quickly became de rigeur at Indy. Early holdouts
ran Chevy stock-blocks or clung to Offys. But when the
DFX was so good – and available – the question is, why?
INDY’S X MEN
10 consecutive Indy 500 wins for the Cosworth DFX
between 1978 and ’ 87 sealed its legend status. Nine-straight CART titles, 1979-’ 87, merely confirmed it.
YEAR DRIVER & TEAM/CAR
1978 AL UNSER
1979 RICK MEARS
1980 JOHNNY RUTHERFORD
1981 BOBBY UNSER
1982 GORDON JOHNCOCK
1983 TOM SNEVA
1984 RICK MEARS
1985 DANNY SULLIVAN
1986 BOBBY RAHAL
1987 AL UNSER
DFX-POWERED STARTERS/TOP FINISHER
A hard-fought duel with
Penske’s Rick Mears ended
with Johncock’s Wildcat
taking the checkered flag
by 0.16sec – at the time,
the closest Indy finish.
Sullivan’s only Indy 500
win is also one of the most
famous, the Penske driver
fighting back to take the
win after a 360-degree
spin on lap 120.
It also kept the cottage industry of
former Offy builders busy supporting the
booming field of entrants. It wasn’t long
before Cosworth was surpassed by the likes
of Herb Porter, VDS, McLaren/Nicholson,
Penske, and numerous others, who took
the DFX to new performance levels.
“Everybody was working on their own
bag of worms,” says Carl Cindric, who
served as “Herbie Horsepower” Porter’s
right-hand man. Cindric often had the help
of his young son, future Team Penske
president Tim, during the rebuild process.
“I recall we took two seasons to
develop our DFXs,” adds Cindric. “You
built connecting rods, pistons, wrist pins,
In time, Duckworth would come to
appreciate the slight felt by Jones and
Miletich when Cosworth plucked Slutter
and Hirashima from VPJ.
“Because of Cosworth, I got to know two
of their key engineering people, Mario Illien
and Paul Morgan,” says Penske. “They
came to me and said, ‘We’d like to start an
engine company. Would you be interested?’
I said, ‘Yeah, put a proposal together,
come on in, and let me take a look at it.’”
With that invitation to talk, the sun was
about to begin setting on the DFX’s reign.
“A month later, they came back to me
with a proposal about an inch and a half
thick,” Penske recalls. “I remember sitting
at home, going through it page by page.
I said, ‘I’ll go find the money for it; you
guys start designing.’”
The Captain struck a deal with General
Motors to back the project, and by 1986,
“The Cosworth DFX changed the
whole game. The performance and
the reliability was so much greater”
Penske proven... Rick Mears gave The Captain
pole (BELOW) and a first Cosworth-powered win
in the 1979 Indianapolis 500. (BOTTOM) Team
Penske was an early adopter of the DFX engine.