Tuesday, November 14, 2023

F1: A long, forgotten American Constructor

Who unfortunately showed up late to thee Party…


Yeah, forgive Mwah if I missed somebody? Since I haven’t bothered attempting going year-by-year to see if my memory’s correct?


As I’m just focusing upon Post War American F1 Constructors, who’ve competed in the modern Formula 1 World Championship beginning in 1950. For which I can only come up with the names of Scarab, Anglo American Racers, (AAR) Penske Racing, Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing, Haas (Beatrice/Force Lola) and today’s  Haas F1 Team.


Although I just learned about the totally unknown Camoradi International F1 Team when perusing the 1960 Formula 1 Season record books. Yet this American Racing team strictly ran customer chassis and wasn’t a Constructor…


While I don’t consider any of the American teams that contested the Indianapolis 500 as part of the 1950-1960 F1 World Championship to be Constructors. Or Yanks’ who’ve raced in F1! Even if it was part of the championship then, in points only…


Lance George William Detlev Graf Haugwitz-Hardenberg-Reventlow was born on February 24, 1936. Being Woolworth Heiress Barbara Hutton’s only son, while married to Count von Haugwitz-Hardenberg-Reventlow; Hutton’s second of Her eventual seven Husbands…


Lance lived a most interesting life, with His Socialite Mother being one of the wealthiest women in the world afforded Him everything. Whilst other Step Fathers would include Carey Grand and Igor Troubetzkoy.


With the latter Prince Igor Troubetzkoy, who’d won the 1948 Targa Florio introducing then twelve year old Lance to the world of Formula 1.


In the early 1950’s Lance became Pals with Hollywood’s James Dean, another aspiring racer. With Reventlow and good friend and and fellow racer Bruce Kessler reportedly being the last two people to speak to Dean before His death in 1955, when both were on their way to an auto race in Salinas, California.


Lance raced many sports cars, along with “writing off” a Maserati!


Very little seems known about the exact date of when Reventlow formed Scarab, other than having it’s racing cars designed and constructed by the famed Barnes & Troutman concern. With the front engine Scarab’s 283-cid small block V-8’s being built by Traco.


As Barnes & Troutman built winning racecars for amateurs during the 1950’s. Whilst reputedly the Scarab racecars, utilizing a space frame chassis were heavily influence by famed fabricator and mechanic Phil Remington. While the team’s main driver Chuck Daigh is also noted for being one of the team’s “Chief” mechanics…


Reading between the tea leaves of Ye Intrawoods’, Daigh comes off sounding like potentially being the prototypical Ken Miles of later Shelby American fame. Putting Scarab on the map when winning the 1958 United States Grand Prix for Sports Cars at Riverside International Raceway ahead of an All Star cast.


Finishing ahead of the likes of Phil Hill and Dan Gurney driving Ferrari’s! Not to mention USAC drivers Uncle Bobby’, (Unser) Jerry Unser and Johnny Parsons. With somebody named Carroll Shelby in a Maserati and Roy Salvadori in a factory Aston Martin.


As Daigh and His “boss” Lance would share victory aboard a Scarab at the ’58 Nassau Trophy race. With Daigh’s crowning achievement being victorious at the 1959 12 Hours of Sebring.


The Scarab Sports Cars were quick, with two being sold in 1959 to Harry Heuer, son of the Peter Hand Brewing Company’s President, which brewed Meister Brau beer.


As Heuer had been bitten by the racing “bug” and started His Championship winning Meister Brauser racing team that year, running under Yuhs guessed it, Meister Brau Beer sponsorship.


Augie Pabst, Jr. drove one of the Meister Brauser  Scarab’s to the 1959 United States Road Racing championship, (USRRC) and 1960 SCCA National Championship


Whilst ‘Ol shel’, aka Carroll shelby won aboard a Scarab at the 1960 Continental Divide 100’s USAC Road Racing Championship event



Yet Reventlow had set His sights upon beating the Europeans with His All American race cars, sound familiar? And set His sights firmly upon Formula 1. But Lance had two major setbacks the Scarabs could never overcome.


Formula 1 engine regulations between 1954-60 limited normally aspirated engines to a maximum of 2,500cc. (2.5-litres) and thus, the Scarab’s small block V-8’s at 4,637cc’s were nearly twice over the limit. With Reventlow hiring legendous’ engine designer Leo Goosens of Offenhauser and Meyer & Drake fame to design a 2.5-litre inline four cylinder engine, to Lance’s specific requirement for it’s Formula 1 machinery. Yet reportedly, these engines suffered from it’s Desmodromic valve design; suffering continuous mechanical failures.


But the Scarabs Achilles Heel had to be the fact of showing up to F1 in 1960 with a front engine racecar, which were virtually obsolete thanks largely to Jack Brabham dominating the championship in the rear engine Cooper climax.


Nonetheless, Daigh and Reventlow attempted making the team’s debut at the 1960 Monaco Grand Prix, where both entries failed to qualify due to hydraulic brake issues.


Following the Indianapolis 500, round three of the 1960 F1 calendar. Both Daigh and Reventlow qualified for the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, with Daigh P16 and Reventlow P20; but both cars Did Not Start.


At the Mighty Spa-Francorchamps, Reventlow started 16th with Daigh 18th. Yet both cars engines went Kuhblamoe! With Lance’s detonating on lap-1, and Daigh’s lasting until lap-16.


At the French Grand Prix at Reims, Richie Ginther deputized for Reventlow, qualifying 20th in His lone start for Scarab, with Daigh last in P23. Yet both cars once again suffered from their continuing valve troubles and Did Not Start. (DNS)


Reventlow and Daigh switched to Cooper climax’s for the British Grand Prix. With Daigh retiring on lap-19 with Overheating issues, while Reventlow’s entry was withdrawn. Becoming Lance’s final Grand Prix race.


At the season finale at Riverside. Faced with abnormally Hot weather conditions, Daigh was forced to reduce the engine’s Rev’s to 6,000RPM and managed to finish the race in tenth, albeit  five laps behind. Being the Scarab’s only Grands Prix finish.


For 1961, the FIA mandated that the F1 season be run to Formula 2 regulations with a maximum engine capacity of 1,500cc. Thus signaling the end of the Scarab front engine racecars


And although a lone Scarab rear engine Formula 1 chassis was built in 1962. The car featured an aluminum Buick V-8 engine which didnn’t meet the FIA engine regulations and hence, the car was never raced in Europe. But Daigh did finish a fine fourth in the car’s single race at Sandown, Australia, before the Buick engine was sold Down Under.


Lance Reventlow soon tired of His team’s un-competitiveness, and “Wound Down” Reventlow Automobiles  Inc in ’62. Leasing His Venice, California workshop to Carroll Shelby, where ‘Ol Shel’ took up the mantle of building an “All American” car. Perhaps Y’all have heard of it? It’s name was the Shelby Cobra, and the rest as they say was History!


Ten years later, Lance, along with the other three occupants of the single engine plane, Died in a crash while scouting for property in Aspen, Colorado to develop into a Ski resort.


Ironically Reventlow who was a skilled pilot with IFR and multi-engine ratings was a passenger that day aboard the Cessna “Skywagon”. With a relatively inexperienced pilot at it’s controls when they flew into stormy weather…