Frank Costin: The Man Behind the Legends

This is my entry for the semi-finals of “America’s Next Top Car Blogger.”  The article also appears here: Jalopnik

Frank Costin: The Man Behind the Legends

He worked with Lotus, Vanwall, and Maserati. He cofounded Marcos. He was first to use a NACA duct in a car. His shapes were uber slippery. But mention the name Frank Costin and you’ll probably hear “who?”

British aerodynamicist Frank Costin and his brother Mike were silent yet powerful forces in the auto industry for over four decades. While Mike helped make one of the greatest engines ever, the Cosworth DFV (guess which part of the company Mike named), Frank was responsible for some of the most iconic shapes of all time.

The Lotus Elite, Lotus Eleven, Vanwall VW1, Vanwall VW6 Streamliner, and the Vauxhall Firenza “Baby Bertha” touring car were among the superstars penned by Costin. His collaborations with Maserati and Jaguar, as well as his own Costin Amigo were epitomes of the classic tear drop shape.

Costin’s use of the NACA duct on road and race cars like the Vanwall VW1 and Lotus Elite has since been emulated countless times. The NACA duct is a low drag intake that is only fully functional if placed correctly on the car. However, in the ideal position it draws in air with minimal disturbance to the flow. While a great aero solution, it also looks awesome. The F40, Viper, Sauber-Mercedes C9, and the Veyron Super Sport all make prominent use of this beautiful and functional vent.

Frank Costin: The Man Behind the Legends

Costin made up half of Marcos (the second half), one of the quirkiest British sports car builders of all time. He also created the Speedwell Streamliner, an Austin Healey Sprite with 92 horsepower that achieved 132 MPH over a standing mile.

Frank Costin: The Man Behind the Legends

While he made successful racecars, Costin was also eco. He had his own Peel P50-esque shopping car and also designed the Costin Ultimate Low Drag Vehicle. It was powered by a two stroke DKW engine, went over 100 MPH, weighed under 1000 pounds, and had a shape that decidedly influenced modern hybrids.

So remember: next time you see a NACA duct laden supercar or just a run-of-the-mill hybrid, thank Frank.


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