Scarabs at Monaco

Scarab, Lance Reventlow, Monaco Grand Prix

This rather nervous looking young man is Lance Reventlow, who benefitted from his mother’s Woolworth fortune. In the late 1950s he had constructed three sports cars powered by Chevrolet engines that had swept away the best of international competition in American road racing. With that success in hand Reventlow decided to put together an all-American F1 effort. It was an expensive lesson.

Two Scarab F1 cars were entered for the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, to be driven by an inexperienced Reventlow and California mechanic and journeyman driver Chuck Daigh. The cars were beautifully finished, far better than Grand Prix cars of those years. However, the design which had been laid down while front-engined F1 cars were still winning races, resulted in a car which was overweight and under-powered, while its drivers were certainly not F1 level. In 1960 Monaco only allowed 16 starters from the 24 cars entered, so the Scarabs would have to qualify fast enough to make the grid. Stirling Moss claimed pole in a Lotus 18 with a time of 1’36.3 and the slowest car to make the grid was Maurice Trintignant’s F2 Cooper with a Maserati four-cylinder motor at 1’39.1. The Scarabs were some seven seconds slower than Trintignant which was a lot on a two-mile circuit. During practice Reventlow asked Moss to try his Scarab to see what the best driver could do – 1’45.0 – still not good enough to make the grid for 1960 or even for 1959.

The Scarab engine was a unique design, based on the four-cylinder Offenhauser and designed by the famed Leo Goosen, it was fitted with desmodromic valve gear and laid over to lower the car’s center of gravity and frontal area. Time constraints had not allowed for adequate testing and multiple engine failures were experienced when run at peak rpm at the three races which the team entered after Monaco.

Over 30 years later and after some modern development, one of the Scarab Grand Prix cars enjoyed excellent success in historic F1 racing. Lance Reventlow would have been proud.

Photo by Robert Daley ©The Klemantaski Collection – http://www.klemcoll.com

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