This is a 1977 Tyrrell P34 “Six-Wheeler,” it’s one of the most famous Formula 1 cars of all time and it’s undeniably one of the most distinctive open-wheel racing cars of the 20th century.

The Tyrrell P34 debuted in 1975 and shocked the racing establishment. It was the first Formula 1 car ever made with six wheels, four up front and two in the rear, and it was completely within the current regulations which didn’t limit the number of wheels an F1 car could have.

Fast Facts – The Tyrrell P34 “Six-Wheeler”

  • The Tyrrell P34 was developed in the mid-1970s as a solution to increasing grip and reducing drag. Derek Gardner, Tyrrell’s Chief Designer, proposed the radical idea of adding two sets of smaller, 10-inch wheels at the front of the car. The concept behind the smaller front wheels was to reduce frontal area, improve braking, and increase the front-end grip due to a larger total tire contact area.
  • When the car was unveiled at the Heathrow Hotel in September of 1975 it was hidden under a cover, and a pair of hoops were added where the normal front wheels would be, to hide the quad-wheel arrangement.
  • When the cover was removed the onlookers were shocked, and many believed that team owner Ken Tyrrell was playing an elaborate prank, and would unveil a normal four wheeled car later. It wasn’t a prank. The P34 won the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix and would go on to take a further 14 podiums.
  • The car you see here is a 1977 Tyrrell P34 that was built up from an original unused monocoque chassis in the 2000s. It’s a complete, race-ready car and it’s a past winner at the Monterey Historics race meeting. It’s now being offered for sale from Jody Scheckter’s collection with a price guide starting at $490,000 USD.

The Prank That Wasn’t A Prank

In September of 1975 there was a scheduled event at the Heathrow Hotel for the unveiling the Tyrrell Formula 1 Team’s new car. As the press gathered in the room they saw a car under a cover, and thanks to a pair of carefully placed hoops over the front wheels, it looked like nothing out of the ordinary. Once the cover was pulled back, absolute mayhem ensued.

The reason the event attendees were so shocked by the unveiling is that it was the first Formula 1 car with six wheels –four up front and two in the rear. Many in the room believed it was a prank, or at the very least a trick that team owner Ken Tyrrell was playing on the media and the other teams, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. The car was real, and it would quickly become a race winner.

Above Video: This episode of Ben Collins Drives covers the Tyrrell P34 “Six-Wheeler” and tells its story, it also includes ample footage of Ben driving the car and putting it through its paces.

The Tyrrell P34 And The Interpretations Of Smart Men

Formula 1 team owner Colin Chapman once said “rules are for the obedience of fools and interpretations of smart men.” He could very well have been speaking of Derek Gardner, Tyrrell’s Chief Designer, who realized in the mid-1970s that the rules didn’t say anything about a car being limited to just four wheels.

The regulations did strictly control the size of the front wing, resulting in it being smaller that the front wheels. This resulted in the front wheels rising well above the wing, which increased frontal drag and created turbulence that limited the effectiveness of the rear wing.

What Gardner realized was that if he used a tiny 10 inch wheel it would tuck behind the front wing, solving both of the issues. The only problem was that a 10 inch wheel wouldn’t provide enough of a contact patch to do its job. This is where Gardner had his eureka moment, and double checking the rules to ensure it was legal, he added another set of 10 inch front wheels.

The design was revolutionary, and it would quickly prove to be successful as the 1976 Formula 1 season got underway. With drivers Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler behind the wheels of their P34s the team would go onto achieve 14 podium places and a popular win at the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix.

Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 8

Image DescriptionThe four wheels at the front of the Tyrrell P34 are one of the most innovative designs in the history of Formula 1, alongside the Brabham BT46, otherwise known as the “Fan Car.”

Tyrrell would race the unusual six-wheeled P34 for much of the 1976 season and through the 1977 season. It was successful enough that many other teams reportedly had their own six-wheelers in development, but by 1978 it became clear that it was time to return to a standard four wheeled platform.

The rules governing F1 would later be changed to clearly stipulate that all cars had to have four wheels – no more and no less.

The Tyrrell P34 Shown Here

The car you see here was almost certainly the last to be completed – as it wasn’t built and deemed race ready until the early 2000s. It was built up from an original Tyrrell P34 chassis, #008, and given the correct Cosworth DFV V8 and Hewland transmission.

This P34 has been used for vintage motorsport competition, gathering crowds wherever it goes, and it took a win at the prestigious Monterey Historics race meeting a number of years ago.

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Image DescriptionPower is provided by the Ford-Cosworth DFV, arguably the most important engine in the history of F1, and the most successful race engine of all time.

The car is eligible for historic racing events around the world and a potential front-runner, not to mention the fact that organizers would be bending over backwards to get a P34 on their grid for the sheer spectacle of it.

It’s now due to be offered for sale in Monaco as part of the Jody Scheckter collection, with a price guide of $490,000 – $700,000 USD. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.

Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 4 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 1 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 15 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 14 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 13 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 11 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 10 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 9 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 7 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 6 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 5 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 3 Tyrrell P34 Six-Wheeler 2

Images courtesy of Simon Clay ©2023 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s

Published by Ben Branch -