1977 Tyrrell P34 heads to auction

By automotive-mag.com 3 Min Read

An example of one of the most unusual Formula 1 cars in history is up for grabs.

This 1977 Tyrrell P34 six-wheeler will be one of the featured lots at RM Sotheby’s upcoming auction in Monaco. Scheduled to be offered for sale May 11, it’s an artifact of a bygone era where small, modestly funded F1 teams could pull off big technical innovations.

Tyrrell won multiple championships with Jackie Stewart in the early 1970s, but as the decade drew to a close the team was looking for something new to help it remain competitive. Designer Derek Gardner’s answer was a six-wheeled car with four small front wheels that dramatically reduced aerodynamic drag compared to taller, conventionally sized wheels. The effect was thought to be equivalent to extracting an additional 40 hp from the P34’s Cosworth DFV engine.

1977 Tyrrell P34, chassis number 8 (photo via RM Sotheby’s)

With Goodyear developing custom tires for the 10-inch front wheels, the P34 made its competition debut at the 1976 Spanish Grand Prix. Patrick Depailler qualified third—well ahead of teammate Jody Scheckter, who only managed 14th in the four-wheeled Tyrrell 007.

After switching to the P34, Scheckter put the six-wheeler on pole at that year’s Swedish Grand Prix, then led a Tyrrell 1-2 victory, with Depailler finishing second. That was as good as it got for the P34, however. It was raced less successfully in 1977 before Tyrrell switched back to a four-wheeled design for 1978. Scheckter would go on to win the 1979 F1 Drivers’ Championship with Ferrari, while Tyrrell would begin a long decline. The team entered its last race in 1998, although its assets were used to create what is now the Mercedes-AMG team.

The P34 remains the only six-wheeled car to race in F1. March and Williams tested six-wheeled cars, but never raced them. And unlike the P34, those designs used conventionally sized wheels all around, with two powered rear axles and a single unpowered front axle. So the P34 is truly a one-off unicorn design.

1977 Tyrrell P34, chassis number 8 (photo via RM Sotheby's)

1977 Tyrrell P34, chassis number 8 (photo via RM Sotheby’s)

The car up for auction—chassis number 8—comes from Scheckter’s own collection. It isn’t one of the cars he raced, however. It was constructed as a spare tub, assembled into a complete car in the 1990s by Paul Lanzante, and passed through several owners before being purchased by Scheckter.

RM Sotheby’s expects chassis number 8 to sell for between 450,000 and 650,000 euros—approximately $485,000 to $700,000 at current exchange rates. It may not have competition history, but this car’s sheer rarity should justify a high final bid.

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