Derek Gardner

Derek Gardner

19/9/1931

Visionary designer who worked on advanced transmission systems such as the 4 wheel drive Ferguson system for Matra in 1969. Joined Tyrrell in 1969 and designed some of the most successful F1 cars. He was also responsible for the P34 six wheeler.

Derek Gardner was transmission specialist who worked at Ferguson on the four-wheel drive system. He was involved in the four wheel drive Lotus Indy Car as well as the 4WD Matra Ford MS84. He had never had designed a complete Grand Prix car of his own never the less when Ken Tyrrell decided to construct a car of his own in 1969, he arranged a meeting with Derek at a pub in Henley-on-Thames, halfway between Tyrrell's headquarters in Ripley, Surrey, and Gardner`s residence in Leamington Spa.

Derek Gardner set himself up as a private engineering consultant on a freelance basis and a design office was installed in a spare bedroom in his home. He originally considered four-wheel drive but due to time constraints decided to take a more conventional route, loosely followed the lines of the Coke bottle-shaped Matra Ford MS80. The car was put together in the garage at his house and appeared in August 1970.

It made its debut at the Oulton Gold Cup but did not make its GP debut until the Canadian GP. Jackie Stewart put the car on pole and led until a stub axle failed. Stewart qualified the car on the front row in the United States and in Mexico, but failed to finish on both those occasions as well.

In 1971 Gardner's 003 saw Stewart and Francois Cevert win seven GPs. Stewart took the Drivers title and Tyrrell took Constructors title. In 1972, Stewart was beaten to the World Championship by Emerson Fittipaldi, but still managed to score four wins.

Then the 1973 car once again pushed ahead of the opposition. Stewart won five times and took the Drivers title although Lotus won the Constructors after Tyrrell withdrew from the United States GP following the death of Cevert.

Stewart retired partly prompted by the death of his friend and teammate and, for 1974, Tyrrell signed Jody Scheckter and Patrick Depailler. Gardner designed the 007, which enjoyed some success that year.

Then in 1976 came Gardner's most innovative design, the radical Tyrrell six-wheeler P34. With Scheckter and Depailler, the team were winning less frequently, challenged by a rejuvenated Ferrari team. Then Scheckter who hated the P34 left to join Wolf. He was replaced by the talented Ronnie Peterson, but then they lost Goodyear's support. As they focused on the impending tyre war with Michelin in 1977, they saw no point in developing for the P34's 10" diameter front tyres.

Tyrrell finished 6th in the Constructors' Championship that season. Derek's disappointment over the P34 led to his departure and in the middle of 1977 he decided he left to become the divisional director of engineering and research at Borg-Warner.

He was replaced by Lotus 49 and 72 designer Maurice Philippe, who went back on a more traditional route, which saw Tyrrell slip further down the grid.

However that was not the end for Derek and the P34. During the mid 1990's Derek Gardner teamed up with historic F1 car owner Simon Bull, the horologist on the  BBC's Antiques Road Show. Simon had acquired the ex-Jackie Stewart Tyrrell 005 for Martin Stretton to drive in the inaugural FIA Thoroughbred Grand Prix Cup. Martin duly won his class.

Simon, who loves a challenge, wanted another 70's F1 car and asked Derek which car would be his choice. Derek chose the P34 and a 1977 version (chassis No 6) was purchased from a German collector in December 1997.

The biggest problem facing Derek, Simon and Martin were the front tyres. Avon, who make the tyres for all the TGP cars, came to the rescue, they got access to the original tyre moulds and also found that two of their engineers had worked on the original Goodyear 10" tyres.

Derek and the team found modern solutions to some of the braking problems the car had suffered from. One being the size of the disc that would fit inside the tiny front wheels.

Over the following year the car was rebuilt and reappeared at Donington Park in March 1999.

With Stretton at the wheel, the car proved to be extremely competitive, always qualifying on the first or second row. After a good year in 1999, in 2000 the team had an even better one, winning the TGP cup outright. One can only speculate that given good tyres, the car could have been a serious F1 contender.

The car makes less frequent appearances now but has won the Monaco Historic Grand Prix, which is run bi-annually, the last three times, 2002, 2004 and 2006.

It has also run at the Goodwood festival of Speed were Martin has put in a some very quick times and makes regular appearances at many historic events.

Derek has less to do with the car and with failing eyesight has retired completely. Derek was also always interested in aviation and owned an ultralight biplane, though I don't think he ever flew it!

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