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Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Scarab: An American Racer with Plenty of Style




Scarab Race Car
The Scarab racer was an all-American open-wheel race car built by Tom Barnes and Dick Troutman for Reventlow Automobiles Inc. The duo’s careers for building cars for amateur road racing began back in the 1950s.

 The company, owned by Lance Reventflow, saw its cars garner both successes and rather grand failures during their short production run which ended in the early 1960s.

Success came in the 1958 Riverside International Grand Prix, which saw Chuck Daigh behind the wheel of a Scarab that won the race, beating out heavy-hitters like Phil Hill and the Ferrari team.

Scarabs also took the win at that year’s SCAA International Grand Prix. Two of those cars were sold the next year, but Lance Reventflow’s was converted into a street-worthy vehicle for his personal use.

Scarab Race Car 3
Scarabs saw more glory when Carol Shelby drove one at the Continental Divide Raceway in Castle Rock Colorado and set a new course record in the process.

 This was followed by a less than stellar attempt at Formula One during 1960 where the car’s front-engine design proved to be its downfall.

The 4-cylinder engines had a layout similar to the Offenhauser, but were Scarab’s own design with a Desmodromic valve gear like what was on the Mercedes F1 engine from the 1950s.

 That gear simply couldn’t manage the movement in the engine block which pulled the valves too far closed and caused them to fail.

Scarab Race Car 2
Scarabs took part in five Grand Prix races, experiencing problems with hydraulic brake fluid aeration and oil starvation issues that saw only one of the original nine vehicles entered actually making it to the final F1 race of the 1960 season, the American Grand Prix held in Riverside, California. While the car did finish, it only did so just barely with Daigh keeping RPMs under 6000 to avoid fuel delivery issues.

Another unsuccessful year followed in 1961 with Daigh crashing before the season was out and destroying the car which was then left in Europe.

 A final car was built for the 1962 season with a Buick aluminum V8 with Phil Remmington fabricated intake and exhaust manifolds that was deemed illegal by FIA engine rules so that it couldn’t even be raced in Europe.

Scarab Race Car 4

The last Scarab was built as a mid-engined two-seater, again with a Buick V8, but this one Reventflow wanted to take out on the streets. He installed a muffler, went to the California DMV, and got it registered as his personal car.

He also took this one to the track three times, sans muffler, managing second place in Santa Barbara.

When he decided to close-up the Scarab shop, he sold his personal car to John Mecom, Jr. of Houston Texas who put in a Traco-built 327 Chevy engine.

 A.J. Foyt took that one to the track, winning several races at Nassau, Bahamas during 1963. It later got a Chrysler Hemi engine which Augie Pabst, who still owned the car as recently as 2013, drove to several victories.

Photo Credit: Peter Harholdt