The Tyrrell P34 was the boldest car seen on Formula One grids during the 1970s. The idea of six wheels came from Derek Gardner, Tyrrell’s chief designer, who calculated in 1974 that four small wheels at the front would hugely reduce a Formula One car’s fontal area. Cutting aerodynamic drag would make the car faster, yet maintain the same surface-grip of two large wheels. For the P34, he chose 10in (25cm) diameter wheels, with crossply tires specially made by Goodyear. All four wheels were steered and were fitted with miniature disc brakes.
The car caused a storm when unveiled to the press in 1975, and made its public debut in the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix in the characteristic blue Elf oil livery. The P34 showed great promise, especially when Jody Scheckter won the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix driving a P34, and his team-mate Patrick Depailler brought his example home second.
Unfortunately, that was the pinnacle of success; this radical racer was dogged by braking and aerodynamics problems, and Goodyear had insufficient test facilities to develop the P34’s tiny tires to keep abreast of the latest rubber technology.
The P34 saw no further wins, although it often finished second. It was campaigned throughout the 1977 season, constantly modified but progressively less competitive. To Derek Gardner’s disappointment, the car was then retired as Tyrrell concentrated on the conventional 008 four-wheeler. Present Formula One regulations restrict cars to a four-wheeled layout only.
“When Ken Tyrrell rings you up and says: ‘Can you come over, I’ve got something to show you’, you don’t ask: ‘What?’ or ‘Why?’. After a welcoming cup of coffee, he said: ‘Come out into the garden’. Totally unprepared for what to expect, I followed him out to the lawn and my mouth fell open, and a look of total disbelief came upon my face.”
Denis “Jenks” Jenkinson, Sage Of Motor Sport Magazine, On First Seeing The P34
Video: model of the car Tyrrell P34
Specification: model of the car Tyrrell P34
YEAR REVEALED: 1976
PLACE OF ORIGIN: Ockham, Surrey, UK
HISTORICAL STATUS: Formula One racing car
ENGINE: V8-cylinder, 183ci (2,993cc)
MAXIMUM POWER: 485bhp
LAYOUT: mid-mounted engine driving the rear wheels
BODYWORK: single-seater racer
TOP SPEED: 186mph (299kph)
NUMBER BUILT: seven