JUL 29th 2015

America's first grand prix cars for auction ‑ and the race transporter, too

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The all-American Scarab team was the very first US operation to enter grand prix racing. The distinctive blue and white, Chevrolet V8 powered cars were front-engined in a rear-engined world by the time they made their Monaco debut in 1960, but they’ve demonstrated their competitive edge in historic racing.

The Scarab team was the brainchild of Woolworth heir Lance Reventlow. He had cut his teeth racing the likes of Mercedes-Benz and Porsches, but wanted to go racing ‘for America’. He named his team after the Egyptian ‘good luck’ beetle and, over the next five years, the team built eight racing cars.

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Success in sports racing led to delays in developing the grand prix cars. That’s why, by the time the Scarabs arrived on the grid, almost everyone else had moved to rear-engined cars, pioneered by 1959 world champion Cooper. The cars were driven by Reventlow himself and driver/engineer Chuck Daigh, but they failed the quality. Of its brief grand prix career, Scarab’s best result was a 10th place in the USA. The rest of the team’s results include failures to start and retirements. When the Scarab team’s time was up, Reventlow wrote it off as a tax loss.

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Scarab founder Lance Reventlow

Reventlow had true celebrity status, counting James Dean amongst his friends while his first wife was the Hollywood actress Jill St John and his second was Mickey Mouse Club star Cheryl Holridge. His mother, Barbara Hutton, was one of the world’s wealthiest women and married seven times, including a brief marriage with Carey Grant. Her second husband, and Reventlow’s father, was Count Kurt von Haugwitz-Reventlow.

Reventlow died in 1972 in Aspen, Colorado. He was in a private plane being flown by an inexperienced pilot who he was tutoring. He was just 36.

Two Scarab Formula One cars, both built in 1959, and the Fiat Bartoletti transporter are to be offered in the Bonhams sale at the Goodwood Revival on 12 September.

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James Knight, Bonhams International Group Motoring Director, said: “The Scarab team cars were fantastically quick, but unfortunately for Reventlow, not quick enough in their development. However, at events such as the Monaco Historic, and Goodwood Revival, the superiority of these front-engined projectiles has been absolutely demonstrated, time after time in recent years. These Scarabs are spectacular and beautiful Grand Prix cars with a proven race winning record at Historic motor racing events.”

The estimates for the grand prix cars are £700,000 to £950,000 and £400,000 to £525,000 respectively, while the truck is estimated at £600,000 to £800,000. Two more Scarabs will be at Revival – the Richmond and Gordon Trophies, for front and rear engined grand prix cars, will feature a Scarab single-seater while a Scarab Mk1 sports car will compete in the Richmond Trophy.

Below is some great period footage of Reventlow testing the car at Riverside.

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