Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Keith Duckworth

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(David) Keith Duckworth (1933-2005), automotive engineer.

1933 born in Blackburn, Lancashire, on 10 August

His father encouraged his interest in practical engineering, giving him a lathe, a vertical drill and a grinder. He made model steam and aero engines and won local popularity for dealing with the neighbours' mechanical and electrical malfunctions.

Educated at Giggleswick, a boarding school in Yorkshire

Joined the Royal Air Force as a national serviceman. He undertook pilot training but was eventually rejected as a pilot after he fell asleep in the cockpit during a night training flight owing to an allergy to medication he was taking for an ankle injury.

After release from the RAF, went to Imperial College, London, to study engineering. Introduced to motor racing, he purchased a sports kit car from Colin Chapman, which he crashed at Goodwood after three outings.

He obtained, as he fully anticipated, only a pass degree, as his dissertation comprised primarily a critique of his BSc course, its content, and methodology.

Engaged in holiday work at Chapman's gear and transmission department at Hornsey, which at that time was headed by the racing driver Graham Hill.

1957 On Hill's departure from the company Duckworth succeeded him in charge of gearbox engineering. Almost immediately he pointed out the deficiencies in Chapman's product and left the firm.

1958 With Mike Costin, established Cosworth Engineering. Duckworth focused on design and Costin on engineering development.

1959 Married (Dorothy) Ursula Cassal, the 22-year-old daughter of Charles Victor Cassal, electrical engineer. They had a son, Roger, and a daughter, Tricia.

1965 Colin Chapman and Walter Hayes persuaded Sir Patrick Hennessy, chairman of Ford of Britain, to fund the design and manufacture of a new 3-litre Formula One car. Duckworth designed the engine, initially a four cylinder, 1600 cc Formula Two engine from which was developed the V8 Cosworth–Ford DFV (double four valve).

From 1967 the DFV-powered Lotus dominated Formula One racing through to 1983, winning 155 events. The engine that was also sold to independent firms such as Brabham, Tyrrell, McLaren, Hesketh, and Wolf.

1980 After some health problems, he sold his 85 percent interest in the business to United Engineering Industries

Retired to East Haddon, Northamptonshire.

2005 Died in Northampton hospital.

See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of David Keith Duckworth, ODNB