Obituary

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Frank Costin

Frank Costin died on February 5 after a short illness. He was 73. Frank was working for De Havilland when his younger brother Mike asked his opinion about an aerodynamic body which Colin Chapman had designed. Frank did not think much of it, and designed another, thus beginning an involvement with Chapman which led to several body designs for Lotus and a collaboration on the Vanwall, the car which changed Britain’s fortunes in Formula One.

The relationship with Chapman ended when Frank decided that being paid was a good idea and became a freelance (his remuneration for five years’ work for Lotus was a Ford Anglia). In the world of the motor car Frank left behind a string of partners with whom he disagreed, yet he was prized by the best engineers. He worked on projects with Brian Hart, for example, and at the time of his death was working on a glider and a powered light aircraft for Keith Duckworth.

Frank always regarded cars as low technology compared to his beloved aircraft, yet he was responsible for over 40 automotive projects. Apart from the Vanwall and early Lotuses, they included the Lister, Marcos, Costin-Nathan, Protos, Costin ‘Amigo’, and the body for the March 711 in which Ronnie Peterson was runner-up in the 1971 World Championship. Automotive design was only a small part of his portfolio; there were also microlights, gliders, boats, printing presses and the body for the British team’s fourman bobsleigh.

Frank was a polymath who had been an Olympic-standard swimmer in his youth, and who composed music in his mature years. He lived life to the full, shrugged off the hard knocks (there were many), and was the most honest and kindly of men.

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