Mo­tor­sport mem­ory: Tyrrell P34

Six-wheeled sur­prise in­spires an en­dur­ing love af­fair with mo­tor­sport

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - GARY WATKINS

Dad passed the news­pa­per across the kitchen ta­ble. “Look,” he said, “there’s a story ’ere about a rac­ing car with six wheels!” My eight-year-old, car-mad self didn’t know much about mo­tor rac­ing save that it ex­isted and there was a place up the road called Brands Hatch where said ac­tiv­ity took place. I hadn’t even been given my first set of mo­tor­sport-themed Top Trumps at this point – I’d find them un­der the Christ­mas tree a few months later. But what I did know was that rac­ing cars should have four wheels, just like the fam­ily Austin

1100 and grandad’s Ford Pop­u­lar.

That prob­a­bly ex­plains why I was so taken by the grainy black-and-white images be­fore me. The date was Septem­ber 23,

1975 and the pho­to­graphs’ sub­ject re­ferred to some­thing as a Tyrrell. It is prop­erly called the P34, of course, but to me it will al­ways be the six-wheel Tyrrell. The story from the launch of the six-wheeler the day be­fore was the start­ing point of my love af­fair with mo­tor­sport.

I can’t tell you that I was on ten­ter­hooks await­ing the start of the 1976 For­mula 1 sea­son and I also ad­mit that Jody Scheck­ter’s vic­tory at An­der­storp in the P34 in June of that year passed me by. My first glimpse of the P34 was the spark for a smoul­der­ing in­ter­est, which would be fanned by a world ti­tle bat­tle be­tween James Hunt and Niki Lauda that was barely out of the pa­pers later on dur­ing the blaz­ing sum­mer of ’76.

Mo­tor rac­ing rarely seemed to make the na­tion­als be­fore Hunt, F1’s first pop star, be­came big news that year. It needed some­thing spe­cial for our sport to be deemed wor­thy of more than the odd col­umn inch. Some­thing as out-there as a six-wheel rac­ing car was just the shot in the arm re­quired.

It helped that the P34 had a proper launch, a rar­ity for the day, at a posh Heathrow ho­tel. Its im­pact was max­imised be­cause the fu­tur­is­tic Tyrrell’s de­sign and build had taken place in near-to­tal se­crecy.

Tyrrell main­tained the cloak of se­crecy on the day – quite lit­er­ally. Sit­ting un­der­neath the cov­ers and atop each pair of the P34’s tiny 10-inch front wheels was a card­board cut-out mim­ick­ing a con­ven­tion­ally-sized rim.

I can only imag­ine the gasps of sur­prise from the press pack when those cov­ers came off. My imag­i­na­tion will also have to do when it comes to re­mem­ber­ing my own re­ac­tion on see­ing those pic­tures.

All I know is that you’re read­ing this now thanks to the Tyrrell P34.

“CARS SHOULD HAVE FOUR WHEELS, JUST LIKE GRANDAD’S FORD POP­U­LAR”

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