An F1 car like no other: Everything you wanted to know about the Mini GT Tyrrell P34

For me at least, Mini GT releasing Formula 1 models is one of the diecast highlights of the year. And what a way to start! Few classic F1 machines are as recognizable as the six-wheeled Tyrrell P34, while the Lotus 78 was a ground-effect pioneer.

Mini GT’s move into F1 has been a long time coming: it’s two years since an initial prototype of the P34 was shown but here we are at last, and it’s worth the wait. Mini GT boss Glen Chou was kind enough to talk me through the Tyrrell’s development, so read on for an exclusive look behind the scenes.

(find Mini GT P34 on eBay)

Tyrrell meets TSM

“The P34 is a very special car for me,” says Chou. “Before the P34, I wasn’t interested in F1, until one day, I saw the 1:20 Tamiya kit and said, six wheels, that’s interesting! I wanted to buy a diecast model for my own collection but the only available one was a discontinued Exoto model. It was expensive! I thought maybe I should start making a model myself, so I contacted [Bob] Tyrrell [son of team founder, Ken]. That’s how we started TSM’s Formula 1 diecast range more than 10 years ago.”

The new Mini GT P34 is therefore preceded by TSM diecast and resin models in 1:43 scale as well as examples in 1:8 and 1:12. These larger models enabled TSM to build a bank of knowledge that could be applied when they shrank the car into 1:64.

Chou says that the company applies the same collector-focused philosophy to Mini GT as it does to its more detailed, larger models. “Small-scale doesn’t have to mean cheap and simple,” he says. “It can be small-scale and accurate, it just takes a little more time and effort to make it happen. P34 is one of the cars I love, and we have very good understanding of it, so it was natural choice for us.”

Developing the P34

The model’s long gestation had a lot to do with it being the first car in Mini GT’s Grand Prix Collection. With more exposed engine and suspension parts compared with a modern F1 car, it’s a much trickier proposition.

“The question is how to design that accurately and within the budget,” he continues. “There are limitations on the suspension parts, for example. The engineer was worried that it might be too thin, it might break, so we had to make it thicker. But how much thicker is [visually] acceptable? We went back to the tooling and remade it to a point where it was acceptable to me. It’s a lot of back and forth, but for the first car [of a new type] it’s always like that. Once we have a certain amount of experience, it’s much easier.”

The P34 was developed at the same time as the Lotus 78, by two different design teams. When the initial prototypes were placed side-by-side however, there was too much of a noticeable difference in the rear tires, even though they were supposed to be a similar size. The team went back and made new tire tooling for the Lotus 78 to fine tune the size.

In fact, Mini GT did no fewer than four iterations of the 3D print for the rear tire, and three iterations of tooling, at a cost of thousands of dollars. The expensive result is a puffy, donut-like, authentically 1970s rear tire rather than a square-shouldered modern one, complete with distinctive markings. There are even separately tooled wet tires coming because Mini GT is making wet-race, Japanese GP editions of the P34 and 78.

“There are a lot of things people never think about,” says Chou. “We’re going to have a McLaren and another Lotus coming up in the range, and collectors will display all of them together. The look of the engines has to be right. Maybe not all collectors will notice, but I will! For example, we moved the CAD for the [Ford-Cosworth] DFV engine from the P34 to the Lotus 78 because they use the same engine, although it’s still a separate tooling.”

P34 versions

There’s no driver in this initial, Patrick Depailler edition of the P34 but Jody Scheckter will be in the car for the next release, the Swedish GP-winning car, due for preorder later this month. Chou says that sometimes it’s a rights issue – a licence from a modern F1 team might also include the driver, as with the upcoming Red Bull models – but also that race car collectors, especially in larger scales, are split between those who want a driver and those who don’t. Personally, I don’t really mind, but it will encourage me to buy the Scheckter car when it comes out!

Unfortunately, my P34 buying might not stop there. I’m a bit of a sucker for the 1977 First National-schemed cars as well, and Glen says that one of those at least is on the horizon.

“There are four types of P34,” he explains. “We’ve made the first one, the ’76. The ’77 car is 95% the same except for an additional suspension part [the high-mounted front anti-roll bar], plus you have the white and blue livery of First National. Then you move on to the third one, for which the whole engine cover is on and the radiator is in the front wing. Then there’s the fourth one, based on the third version, but they moved the radiator to the side. It’s the one that Bob Tyrrell hates the most, because the four small wheels stick out from the bodywork. The [point of the] original design was you have the four smaller wheels within the bodywork for nice aero!

“We will produce the first type and second type,” he continues. We might do number three and number four, but not immediately, based on our past experience with other cars. When we designed the tooling for the S2000 and Miata, for example, we would make one huge tooling with all the variations inside. But although people loved the car, we saw that people kind of got sick of it because there were too many [released] in a short time.”

Look out for the planned ’76 Japanese GP version of the P34. Wet tires, mesh over the intake trumpets, the driver’s name in Japanese characters, duct tape sealing the upper and lower parts of the bodywork and a huge rear wing on Scheckter’s #3 car. Says Chou, “I think it will be the peak of our P34 range”.

Crunching the numbers

Of course, complex development and limited versions means a smaller return on investment for a car that, as much as I love it, will never have the wider appeal of, say, a Liberty Walk Skyline that can be produced in pretty much any colour and with a lower royalty. As Chou says, with a real race car, “You can only do what’s historically correct”.

It’s testament to Mini GT’s commitment to variety (“The collector can pick from what we offer and form their own collection”) that the Tyrrell exists at all. To put that in financial terms, Mini GT might get four times the return on the tooling for a Skyline than it will from the P34. At least it’s not as bad as the imminent Alpha Tauri AT03, which will be issued once for each driver and then retired, as the car saw no notable changes during the 2022 season!

So what do I think?

You’ll have guessed by now that I’m a huge fan of this model. Time for a closer look. The pictures tell the story.

The Mini GT P34 features a diecast body and a dinky metal base. The detail – Cosworth DFV engine, suspension, tailpipes, even the rivets on the bodywork – is great. No complaints with the 1976 Spanish GP deco, either, and being a Mini GT, it rolls fantastically.

This final picture shows it alongside a 1:64 Kyosho model of the Tyrrell 008, the more conventional design that replaced the six-wheeler in 1978. The First National deco gives you an idea of what to expect from Mini GT’s planned release of the P34/2.

What’s next?

For Mini GT, Depailler’s ’76 P34 is only the beginning for the Grand Prix Collection. We’ll see multiple versions of the Tyrrell as previously described, and several of the Lotus 78 that’s already available, too. Next will come an unnamed McLaren and the Lotus 79 – Mario Andretti’s championship-winning machine for which the 78 laid the groundwork. Chou says that a Williams is also under consideration, although again, limited changes through the season are a challenge for the business case.

Then we have the imminent 2022 Red Bull and Alpha Tauri cars, heavily trailed on the brand’s Instagram channel, including pit crews. Next year we’ll see modern F1 cars from McLaren, Alfa Romeo and possibly Aston Martin also represented in the Mini GT line. Good times to come for F1 collectors.

(find Mini GT P34 on eBay)

5 Replies to “An F1 car like no other: Everything you wanted to know about the Mini GT Tyrrell P34”

    1. I know what you mean! I’m not a completist normally but with clear differences between each release, it’s going to be hard to say no…

  1. Great history here and I love hearing the behind the scenes stuff. I got the Lotus but passed on this P34 only because it was not the same year as the Lotus. I like my cars to go together for photos and things. That’s great news that the 77 P34 is coming too. I’ll get that one to race my Lotus. I do wish that MiniGT would include the year these raced on the box just to help keep track.

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