The United States of America has had a lot of historic firsts, starting with landing a man on the Moon and inventing the personal computer.
But in motorsports, the true story of Lance Reventlow and his incredible Scarab is the best story of them all, when the Scarab GP-2 became America’s First Formula 1 race car.
Reventlow was the apparent heir to a department store fortune, and he loved racing and was a serious competitor. He poured his inheritance into building the first American race car to compete in Formula 1, which stunned the crowd at Monaco that had gathered that historic day in 1960 to see it run.
Among the Europeans watching Reventlow in Monaco was legendary race driver Stirling Moss, who Reventlow had hoped would test drive his Scarab. Apparently that never happened, but Moss did give Reventlow some pointers about Formula 1 and it paid off.
There were several Scarabs that competed in Monaco, but Scarab GP-2, number 48 was driven by Reventlow himself, which he raced at both the United States Grand Prix and the Gran Prix of Monaco with the front-mounted Offenhauser 2.5-litre, dual overhead cam four-cylinder engine, in keeping with Formula 1 rules on cubic-inch displacement.
The Scarab Formula 1 cars were ambitious undertakings, rooted in conventional front-engine rear-drive layouts, which Reventlow insisted on. What we know is that Reventlow Automobiles produced eight Scarabs in all from 1958 to 1962, and raced with great success thanks to the likes of A.J. Foyt, Carroll Shelby and Augie Pabst. They were near equally split between American Chevy V-8 powerplants and the Offenhauser-inspired four-cylinders. It's unconfirmed how many still exist, but number 48 has been spotted at a venue or two.
Today, few purpose-built race cars have enjoyed the same following as the original Reventlow-produced Scarab, a car that won nearly all the American road races it had entered. It’s a story that many have attempted to clone, but that's like trying to repaint Mona Lisa.
The Scarab GP-2 that raced at Monaco is proof that legends are made by the men and women with the most vision and the willingness to chase their dreams no matter how far they must travel to become the first at what they do. Reventlow managed to pull off what others thought was impossible.