Derek Gardner, 1931-2011
Designer; at post from 1970-1977
Derek Garnder was a soft-spoken engineer when he met Ken Tyrrell. He was working for Matra on the latest craze in Formula One, four-wheel drive, and found that he enjoyed motorsport and the challenges associated with it.
So when Ken Tyrrell asked Gardner out for a drink "to discuss something," Gardner accepted the invitation without waver. However, when Tyrrell asked Gardner to design a Formula One car to replace the team's temporary and out-going March 701 chassis, he had to think about it.
Derek Gardner took on the biggest project of his life in the Tyrrell "Secret Project" (SP). He had never designed anything like it, and Gardner had absolutely nothing to start from.
Gardner was completely dedicated to the project. When the wooden mock-up for SP demanded his garage's space, Gardner sold his beloved Bentley Mark VII because he couldn't bear to see it out in the weather. The meticulous Gardner checked and double-checked every detail. His attentiveness paid off when the car set a record lap in its first outing at Oulton Park.
Derek Gardner would do it again, with the advent of his "Series Two" chassis, 005, 006, 006/2, and 006/3. With Stewart back on form at the end of the season, 005 notched up two record laps, wins, and a pole to close the season. Stewart went on to be World Champion in 006 and 006/2.
Since his time in the 4WD Matra program, Gardner had been thinking about the idea of a car with two sets of front wheels - it would theroretically keep the same grip level (contact patch) and significantly decrease the frontal area of the car, and thereby drag. Gardner insisted that it would work well, and Tyrrell okayed the genius to begin work on Project 34. Nobody expected the Tyrrell to have six wheels, but it did, and it was not a bad idea. The Tyrrells came first and second in Sweden that year showing their worth, but Goodyear couldn't afford to support the special program just for Tyrrell, so the car disappeared as a "could have been" in Formula One history.
Gardner left Tyrrell at Monza in 1977 with two World Championships through 1971 Chassis 003, 002, and 1973 Chassis 006, and 006-2. His departure was put down to "differences of opinion," Gardner simply insisting that "Ken Tyrrell is a difficult man to work for..." We will never know what more his genius could have brought us. Three of his designs four designs make it into Formula One's Top-100 chassis designs.
Unfortunately, Gardner doesn't make it to many races in latter years. It's a pity, because many Tyrrell fans appreciate the work he did, and Formula One fans see his genius through his work.