This Tyrrell P34 continuation is the six-wheel freak show reborn

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Jakob Ebrey

CGA Race Engineering, based in Warrington, England, has built a Tyrrell-backed continuation of the 1976 P34 (chassis no. 9). The P34 was Formula 1’s short-lived six-wheeled oddball, winning the hearts of racing fans as it chiseled away at the ’76 season to an ultimate victory at the Swedish Grand Prix’s Anderstorp Raceway.

The newly-built P34 follows Tyrrell’s exact plans to a T (other than the original titanium roll bar, which contemporary tech rules mandate must be made of steel).

The car’s owner, Jonathan Holtzman, was unable to buy one of the surviving originals for vintage racing. After gaining the blessing of the Tyrrell family, Holtzman and CGA were granted access to the original build documents for the 1976 chassis. CGA exactly followed Derek Gardner’s original blueprints.

“This is an exciting new chapter in the Tyrrell P34 story,” said Bob Tyrrell, son of famed F1 constructor Ken Tyrrell. We are looking forward to seeing a P34 back on track and making its race debut at the Masters Historic Festival.”

Normally, losing a front tire would be disastrous for an open-wheel race car—a race-ending setback that typically concludes in a disappointing return trip to the pits. Thanks to the Tyrrell’s four-wheel front suspension design, however, the P34 managed to limp back to the pits like an insect missing a leg—down, but not out for the count. Driver Jody Scheckter was behind the wheel of the P34 in the 1976 Swedish Grand Prix when one of its 10-inch Goodyear front tires freed itself from the spindle and rolled off-course. Scheckter, who would continue on to win the race after a pit stop to replace the tire, told DriveTribe that the P34 had “a bit of understeer” as he drove the car back around to the crew.

Today’s F1 cars are strictly governed by a complex set of rules, and it took outlandish machines like the P34 to help the sport evolve. Tyrrell’s innovative approach challenged conventional thought, but its efforts were cut short when the motorsport rule book closed shut on its advancements.

 

CGA used everything it could to bring the P34’s unique chassis back to life. While every piece on this particular P34 is newly-machined and constructed, the English outfit 3D scanned many original parts and an original chassis to reverse engineer the six-wheeler and its various continuation parts. The juxtaposition between the slide-rule-and-pencil engineering of the ’70s and the comparatively immense technology used to decipher it is fitting for just how impressive these machines were for their time.

 

To source raw aluminum sheets large enough for the frame, CGA had to contact Boeing, which was the only other company using pieces large enough to fashion into a P34 chassis. While CNC routers and mills have replaced some aspects of the process, the puzzle pieces are still authentic to their 1976-spec blueprints and materials, thanks to CGA’s research and attention to detail. CGA even brought in John Gentry, an F1 designer that joined Tyrrell late in the P34’s life cycle and ironically helped build the four-wheeled replacement after it was banned in F1, to help oversee the project.

Despite the advantages of hindsight and technology, though, the core chassis still took 800 man-hours to construct. Since the project began in 2018, CGA in total sunk 7000 hours into the reverse-engineering, design, and construction of its continuation P34.

This past weekend, the new P34 made its racing debut at Brands Hatch (with Holtzman at the wheel) without any major kinks to speak of. As vintage racing returns to the schedule in 2021, the team at CGA looks to enter more vintage races. Until then, dig through our detailed gallery of build photos to see every nook and cranny of the P34, like you’ve never seen it before.

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