America’s First Formula One Cars Offered At Bonhams Revival Sale

Filed under: Auctions,Classic News |
ST_36 crop_zps8x33wyahThe Reventlow Automobiles Inc.’s (RAI) Scarab Grand Prix single-seaters were the very first, home-grown, all-American team of Formula 1 racing cars. Bonhams is to offer two of these Formula 1 classics, along with their much-admired Fiat-Bartoletti transporter, at the Goodwood Revival Sale, on 12 September. 
The Scarab racing team was the brainchild of Woolworth heir, Lance Reventlow. A youthful racing enthusiast, he learned to race in Mercedes-Benz and Porsche cars, mixed in social circles that included the likes of James Dean, and founded Reventlow Automobiles Inc. to go racing “for America”.
Named after the legendary Egyptian ‘good luck’ beetle, the first two Scarab sports cars used Chevrolet V8 engines, re-writing racing standards in US events through 1958-59. Three Formula 1 Scarabs followed, constructed by the legendary Troutman and Barnes, combining combining lightweight and startling looks and a Mercedes formula one inspired fuel injected desmodromic engine. But sports-racing success in the US and slow development delayed the Scarab team’s F1 debut until the 1960 Monaco GP. By that time the new age of rear-engined F1 cars, led by 1959 World Champions Cooper, had re-written the performance standards, and Reventlow’s Scarabs - driven by Reventlow himself and by the talented driver/engineer Chuck Daigh - proved already outdated.
After running RAI for five years, during which the company built eight racing cars, Reventlow wrote-off the operation as a tax loss.
Lance Reventlow was a true contemporary celebrity. His first wife was Hollywood actress Jill St. John, and his second was Mickey Mouse Club star Cheryl Holdridge. Heir to the Woolworth fortune, his mother was wealthy socialite, Barbara Hutton. A debutante, heiress and philanthropist, Hutton was one of the wealthiest women in the world. She married seven times (including a brief marriage to actor, Cary Grant), and had one son, Lance, with second husband, Count Kurt von Haugwitz-Reventlow.
In 1972, aged only 36, Lance Reventlow was killed when his private aircraft - flown by an inexperienced pilot he was tutoring - flew into a box canyon near Aspen, Colorado, stalled in attempting a U-turn and crashed.
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.”
Bonhams Goodwood Revival Sale takes place on 12 September in Goodwood, Chichester. For more information visit
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