Lance Reventlow

Cars People

Scarab cars created by the gentleman racer sell for a mint...

Lance Reventlow was THE classic gentleman racer.

And the British-born Danish-American aficionado of all things automotive was heir to both a Danish nobleman’s title and the vast Woolworth fortune by birth. Cary Grant was his stepfather. One of his buddies was James Dean. He married a Bond girl. From this star-spangled background Reventlow became a successful racing driver, racing car builder and entrepreneur before his untimely death in a plane crash at the age of 36. Bonhams recently presided over the sale of a goodly proportion of his legacy at the Goodwood Revival auction.

Another of Reventlow’s stepfathers, Russian Prince Igor Troubetzkoy, had exposed the kid to the world of Grand Prix racing from a very young age. Troubetzkoy had won the 1948 Targa Florio at the wheel of a Ferrari 166 S – and Reventlow was determined to match the Prince’s feat in an American car. With this in mind in 1957 he set up Reventlow Automobiles Inc. (RAI) in Venice, California.

The first RAI cars were Chevrolet-powered race cars he called Scarabs (the name comes from the Egyptian ‘good luck’ beetle). A driver called Chuck Daigh drove a Scarab to victory in the 1958 Riverside International Grand Prix in California finishing ahead of world-class European marques like Ferrari and Maserati.

Daigh and Reventlow himself drove a pair of Formula 1 Scarab single-seaters in the 1960 F1 season, making their debut at the Monaco GP, though success on the biggest stage proved more elusive. They found fame as the world’s first all-American team of F1 cars, while Reventlow, who had just married Jill St. John – later to star as Tiffany Case in Diamonds Are Forever – captured the attention of the celebrity press.

A quartet of Scarab vehicles went on sale at auction at the Bonhams Goodwood Revival auction, including two of the F1 cars (pictured) as well as the Fiat-Bartoletti transporter and the 1958 Chevy touring car.

These are gorgeous machines with real historical chops.