History of the Lotus-Cosworth Ford Type 49 by English Motor Racing Journalist and Historian Doug Nye

The Lotus Type 49 is one of the most significant landmark-technology Grand Prix cars of all time.

During the years 1967-1969, the British Team Lotus built and rebuilt—and rebuilt again—nine of these Type 49 cars. Conceived by the legendary Colin Chapman, detail-designed by Maurice Phillippe, the Type 49 introduced the 3-litre Cosworth-Ford DFV V8 engine.

This power unit—itself designed by another British legend, engineer Keith Duckworth—revolutionized Formula 1 racing.

1967 Canadian Grand Prix, Mosport. DFV stands for “Double Four Valve,” referencing the twin-cam head design with four valves per cylinder. Photo: Revs Digital Library, Karl Ludvigsen Collection.

Its initial design and development was funded by Ford of Dagenham, England, and in this very Lotus chassis (49/2) the DFV burst upon the Formula 1 world in utterly sensational style, driven by two-time World Champion and 1965 Indy 500 winner Jim Clark to a debut victory in the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

The DFV went on to win 11 more World Championship GPs in Lotus 49 chassis. It would also ultimately win no fewer than seven consecutive World Championship titles from 1968-1974 in Lotus, Matra, and Tyrrell cars until it was toppled by Ferrari’s flat-12-cylinder engine in 1975. The DFV became World Champion again in 1976, in James Hunt’s McLaren. It went on to become the first engine in Formula 1 history to win 100 Grand Prix races—and would ultimately win a record 155 in total.

1967 Dutch Grand Prix, Zandvoort. Jim Clark at the wheel of 49/2 on his way to a debut victory for the new Lotus, which set the pace for the rest of the season. Photo: Revs Digital Library, Eric della Faille Collection.

The engine was designed by Duckworth—with Chapman and Phillippe at his shoulder—to act as the Lotus 49’s rearmost structural chassis member, attached to the forward stressed-skin monocoque nacelle just behind the driver’s seat back by only four bolts—and then accepting all major rear suspension and tractive loads. This structural engine feature had been pioneered by Lancia, then Ferrari, but reached its most elegant expression in the Lotus 49.

1967 Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps. A confident and relaxed Jim Clark in the pit lane. Photo Revs Digital Library, Eric della Faille Collection.

This particular car was driven by the immensely charismatic—yet intensely modest and much-loved—Jimmy Clark in seven 1967 World Championship F1 races. In it he won not only that debut Dutch GP, but also the British and United States GPs. He also finished third in this car in what is considered to have been one of his most miraculous drives: the 1967 Italian Grand Prix which he initially led until lap 12 when a tire punctured. That lost him an entire lap while the wheel was changed. He spent the next 48 laps ripping back through the field, passing everyone to regain the lead on lap 60, and then pull away. But on the final lap, a faulty fuel pump caused his DFV engine to die, resulting in a third-place finish.

1967 British Grand Prix, Silverstone. Race win number two for chassis 49/2. Photo: Revs Digital Library, Eric della Faille Collection.

The configuration of this ex-Jim Clark Lotus-Cosworth Ford Type 49—and the power unit it introduced—re-wrote Grand Prix racing history, and shaped it for the decade and a half that followed…