The Tyrrell P34 is undoubtedly one of the most unique and recognisable Formula 1 cars of all time. Its six-wheeled design, penned by Derek Gardner, aimed to skirt the rules that limited how wide front wings could be. In order to leave room for all the needed components (suspension, steering, the driver’s legs) the front wheels would sit well outside the edges of the front wing. To remedy this problem, Gardner devised his six-wheeled layout. By using 10 inch front wheels and tyres he could fit everything neatly inside and under the confines of the front wing, reducing drag for higher straight line speed and providing the rear wing with cleaner air for cornering downforce. The problem with using smaller front wheels was the decreased contact patch which made cornering very difficult. So he just added another set, and connected them to the first.
When the car was unveiled in 1975 it was kept under a sheet with hoops to mimic the silhouette of normally sized front wheels. Imagine people’s surprise when that sheet came off! It’s clever aerodynamics and 3.0 litre Cosworth V8 made it quite a competitive car during the 1976 season, with its crowning moment coming as a 1-2 finish at the ‘76 Swedish Grand Prix. Jody Scheckter remains the only driver to have won an F1 race in a six-wheeled car, despite the fact that he hated the thing and referred to it as ‘a piece of junk’.
Changes to the car for the 1977 season meant that it was no longer very competitive and the idea was eventually scrapped. However, it’s worth mentioning that Tyrrell wasn’t the only team to toy with the idea of a six-wheeled F1 car. Williams and March Engineering developed prototypes with four rear wheels on two rear axles, while Ferrari built a version of their 312 T with four rear wheels on one axle. That’s right, a Ferrari F1 car with duallies. It was tested by Niki Lauda and Carlos Reutemann, with the latter crashing it at Fiorano and burning it to the ground.