There are few Formula 1 cars whose fame is so disproportionate to their achievements as the Tyrrell Project 34 or ‘P34’. The winner of a single Grand Prix, driven by Jody Scheckter at Anderstorp, Sweden, in 1976 (the car pictured below), the P34 has nevertheless acquired near-mythical status.
The reason, of course, is that no other six-wheeler won an F1 World Championship race. Indeed, no others raced and few such cars were built at all. Neither March’s 2-4-0 nor Ferrari’s 312T6 made it beyond testing, nor did the Williams FW06B (a ban rendered it illegal after promising results).
If you’ve ever tried to pin down an old 1:55 Polistil or perhaps one of the 1:64 Kyoshos from the Tyrrell Collection, you’ll know that the P34 has long garnered a premium in its diecast versions. And so it should, because the coolest cars have always made the coolest models.
The P34 has long been a favourite of mine. I’ve picked up a few over the years but both of those popular small-scale versions still elude me, which is one reason why I was happy to see Mini GT’s new model. That’s the thing about cool cars – their popularity means that they still command the attention of model makers, long after the real thing has gone off sale or retired from the racetrack.
I’ll show a few of my six-wheelers in this article. There are others, notably some higher-end collectors’ pieces in 1:43, 1:18 and 1:12 scales, but hopefully you’ll get a flavour for some of the variety out there.
Mini GT 1:64
Let’s start with the Mini GT. I recently covered this model in depth in a separate article, including some exclusive detail on its development from Mini GT’s Glen Chou. If you’ve not read it yet, click here, there’s lots to enjoy!
I won’t repeat myself here but this tiny, true-1:64-scale model does not disappoint. Check out those miniature front tires and the rounded shoulders of the rears, for example. It was ultimately a lack of development of the smaller tire size that killed the real P34’s prospects, but no one can accuse Glen and the team of skimping on tire development! And of course, it rolls beautifully.
Here it is with a modern-day successor, the ixo/Tarmac model of Lewis Hamilton’s 2020 Tuscan GP-winning Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance (BAR bought out Tyrrell’s entry, then became Honda, Brawn and finally Mercedes). You can see how much smaller F1 cars were in the 1970s. No wonder you can’t overtake around Monte Carlo anymore!
Let’s crack right on with a look at some other P34s from my collection, beginning with one of the best known among collectors, the Hot Wheels casting that debuted in 2010. There’s a Mini GT connection here too, as the designer was Jun Imai, whose Kaido House models are now made by Mini GT.
Four versions of the Hot Wheels P34 have been made to date: a semi-authentic First Edition in blue, with Tyrrell in place of the Elf script; and three fictitious liveries of white, red (regular TH) and black (2013 Flying Customs). Not surprisingly, the blue one is the most sought after, but none of the models in this article, Hot Wheels or otherwise, are worth a fortune.
I like that a driver was included but I’m less keen on the way the rear wheels don’t stick out beyond the sidepods. There’s no mistaking what it is though, and for a dollar toy, it does the job nicely.
Incidentally, I included the P34 and this particular model in my new children’s book, 20 Great Race Cars. Check it out on Amazon here!
I picked up this loose Tomica racer a couple of years back. The 1:52-scale P34 was first issued in October 1977 in the Foreign Tomica line.
It was later recoloured into the First National scheme (need to find that one), also as #3, although by this time Ronnie Peterson was driving. An Audi 5000 Turbo took over the number F32 slot in January 1983, but I don’t know whether the Tyrrell was discontinued earlier.
The older Japanese model makes for an interesting comparison with the much newer Hot Wheels. The two are almost identical in length and both model the zero-rear-bodywork, no-airbox variant, but they are clearly different in the details. The height of the sidepods and rear-wheel width is better on the Tomica for example, but the rear axle detail is a little simplistic.
Throw the Mini GT into the mix and you can see how much bigger the two ‘toys’ are.
This was my first P34 and is one of my oldest surviving childhood toys. I was given it in 1977, the year this 1:36-scale replica joined the range as #581. It was a favourite then and remains a favourite now.
According to Marcel van Cleemput’s definitive Great Book of Corgi, 166,000 were sold before it was withdrawn at the end of 1978, by which time the colours had changed from Depailler’s #4 Elf car to his 1977 First National Travelers Checks livery.
The P34 was the last, and possibly best, of Corgi’s 1970s F1 models, but the specially produced racing front wheels must have cut into the company’s margins! I think its upright proportions are more accurate than most of the other toy versions, which tend to have an elongated, flattened look.
A few years back I bought a small collection of Western Models F1 cars here in Calgary, all from the late-70s. Scheckter’s 1976 Elf #3 (WRK 3) was a highlight.
Being made of white metal rather than zamak, this is a heavy model. Some of the detailing is perhaps clumsy by modern standards and several other 1:43 P34s have been made since the Western Models effort, but I like the fact that – as with many of my other Tyrrells – this model was made roughly contemporarily with the car, rather than decades later.
Here’s a name you likely won’t have read about on Lamley before. Nationalized in the former East Germany in 1952, VEB Prefo (short for Volkseigener Betrieb (publicly owned enterprise) Pressformwerk (molding plant)) made toys and tools in Dresden.
I picked a couple of liquidated stock items up in 1993, not long after the fall of the Wall, in a discount store in Bonn, during a teenage trip to visit my German exchange partner. This yellow P34 (badged only ‘Tyrrell’) was one of them; the other was a Chaparral.
This is easily the most obscure P34 in my collection. I have no idea how many were produced, or for how long it was made. I believe it was derived from the company’s P34 slot car, which was perhaps copied from the Corgi casting at some point. If any of our German readers have more insight to share, please get in touch in the comments below!
Most of my Polistil F1 models are 1:55-scale from the RJ series but as I said, I’ve yet to pick up the P34 in that size (RJ 57). Instead, I have a 1:32 and 1:16 versions of the 1977 development of the six-wheeler, the P34/2.
Polistil’s scales were all over the show. I have models in 1:16, 1:22, 1:25, 1:32, 1:40 and 1:55! I love them though. I think it’s the childhood connection – when I was a kid, Polistil was the only company producing a line of pocket-sized F1 and other racing cars.
I don’t know when these models were available but I’m guessing roughly 1977-80. Browsing a 1980 Polistil catalogue online shows that the FK 12 model in 1:32 scale remained in the range but the 1:16 GF/GG-series cars had gone. Like VEB Prefo, Polistil made a slot car P34, too.
The 1:32 Tyrrell is almost a great replica, bar the strange, flat airbox arrangement.
The 1:16 P34 is the largest model in my collection, I think. It’s also my only P34 in First National colours. I hope to source or make a replacement roll hoop at some point.
I don’t normally buy larger scale stuff now because of the storage implications – check out the size difference compared with the Hot Wheels!
Hope you found something of interest during this ramble through my Tyrrell P34 collection. Perhaps I’ve inspired you to hit eBay and pick one up. There are tons more out there, including a modern Scalextric slot car and lots of more detailed versions. If you want to prioritize then the Mini GT should be on the list (more versions are coming soon) and of the older ones, I still love that Corgi. Happy collecting!