Scarab Chevrolet Mark I


  • Chassis number 
  • Lot number 
  • Drive 
  • Condition 
  • Number of seats 
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
  • Drivetrain 
  • Fuel type 


1958-Type Scarab-Chevrolet Mark I Sports-Racing Two Seater
Chassis no. RAI-003

Lance Reventlow is recalled nostalgically by many enthusiasts today as one of the iconic characters of American road racing history. Others accept an alternative view of him as having been merely a car-mad Californian spoiled brat with deep pockets. On the one hand his Scarab cars were a pioneering marque that cleared the way for the Shelby Cobras and Jim Hall Chaparrals that were to follow – on the other the Scarab sports-racing cars are regarded as simply the ultimate and best-financed of the US racing specials. Either way, the truth is that Scarab wins...

Lance Reventlow himself – the Woolworth heir with the movie-star good looks and the burgeoning sporting ambitions to match – seemed somewhat ambivalent about his entire Reventlow Automobiles Incorporated adventure. Sometimes he would declare that he chose the name Scarab for his cars because it was the ancient Egyptian symbol of immortality. Other times he would claim that choosing Scarab as his brand-name had instead been just an inside joke; naming his car after a lowly dung beetle was his way of thumbing his nose at the contemporary convention of naming cars with what he described as "super-totemistic" names – usually the more macho the better. That was not the young American's free-wheeling way.

But, as Scarab historian Preston Lerner has recalled: "Even after Reventlow quit, his wonderful, stirring, fearsome Scarabs lived on. And on. Owned by others they scored victories in the hands of A.J. Foyt, Walt Hansgen, Carroll Shelby, Augie Pabst, Jim Jeffords, Harry Heuer, Don Devine, Bill Wuesthoff, John Kilborn and Jack Saunders. Today, incredibly, all of the cars still survive, many of them restored by men who helped build them in the first place..." (from 'Scarab – Race Log of the All-American Specials 1957-1965' by Preston Lerner, Motorbooks International, 1991).

In the Historic racing world American owner/driver/restorer/collector Don Orosco has done more than most to perpetuate the enduring Scarab legend, racing his charismatic original ex-works Formula 1 single-seater and preceding sports-racing Scarab-Chevrolet Mark I throughout the International motor racing world.

Here we are now delighted to offer Mr Orosco's second sports-racing Scarab-Chevrolet – a Mark I-based left-hand-drive car painstakingly constructed around surviving and re-made absolutely as-original components. This project was intended to ensure that as more of the original cars have retreated into un-raced collection storage, enthusiastic race-going crowds can still be thrilled and entertained by the sight and sound of what first rocked all enthusiastic American road-racing fans back upon their heels in the late 1950s...

It was upon Lance Reventlow's personal insistence that the first of his Scarab sports-racing cars was powered by a small-block Chevrolet V8. The Ed Cole-designed Turbo-Fire V8 introduced in 1955 was Chevrolet's first new 8-cylinder engine in 36 years, and as one of the most tunable power units on the open market it has proved to be one of the most enduring designs in automotive history.

Lance Reventlow's original plan had been to mount such an engine in a chassis suitable for International road racing up to FIA World Championship level. But just as his new Reventlow Automobiles Incorporated Scarab project was gaining pace, in September 1957, the FIA dropped its capacity-ceiling bombshell, declaring that the 1958 World Championship would be restricted to only 3-litre engined cars, no larger. At 283 cubic inches displacement – 4.6-litres – the Chevrolet V8 was too big to be downsized successfully.

Reventlow simply decided that his new racing venture would instead confine itself to domination at home in American road racing. Initially, future team driver Chuck Daigh would be Reventlow Automobiles Inc's one-man engine department. He worked in a corner of Warren Olson's workshop, boring-out the basic 283CID block to 301.6CID, then 327 and ultimately 339.3CID which, as Preston Lerner observed: "...was more than enough". Jim Travers and Frank Coons of Traco Engineering were the first specialists in America to optimize tuning of the small-block Chevrolet, and they rapidly formed a partnership with RAI. Jim Nairne did all the machining on the cars and engines – and the machine shop, Traco and RAI were all in neighbouring workshops.

The team wisely opted for maximum torque rather than outright media-impressing horsepower, and when track-tested by Reventlow for 'Road & Track' magazine in 1958 his new Scarab-Chevrolet Mark I clocked 4.2secs 0-60mph, 9.0secs 0-100mph, it gobbled-up the quarter-mile in 12.2secs, and with a 3.31:1 final-drive ratio Chuck Daigh predicted it would exceed 175mph down the back straight at Riverside Raceway. At Goodwood the car offered here was clocked on radar at 172mph, when its engine's valves floated after holding peak revs for probably 15 seconds. It is now fitted with a 577bhp engine built by veteran former Traco specialist Jim Jones to maintain peak rpm – for an hour...

Ken Miles was invited to contribute on spaceframe chassis and suspension design, but it seems moreso to have been designed during manufacture by a combination of Warren Olson, Chuck Daigh and fabricator Dick Troutman. The original chassis comprised a tubular spaceframe of 1.25-inch diameter chrome-molybdenum main-tubes triangulated by 1-inch diameter stock. The finished structure weighed around 125lbs. Some of the most sophisticated drum brakes ever produced reined-in the cars, massive radial-finned, custom-cast aluminium brakes with 11-inch diameter drums, 4-inch wide front shoes and 3.5-inch wide rears. The front brakes were mounted outboard, the rears inboard.

The first prototype Scarab-Chevrolet Mark I – with left-hand driving position - first ran on January 16, 1958, its aluminium bodywork was hand-finished by renowned craftsman Emil Deidt to a design by youthful LA Art Centre College design student Chuck Pelly. Paintwork was by Von Dutch "the Michelangelo of West Coast painting and striping (who) mixed a show-stopping shade of blue metal flake and set it off with bold white scallops and snakelike pinstripes..."

The Scarab-Chevrolet's public debut was then the stuff of legends – Bruce Kessler driving at Riverside to break the lap record on his first flying lap, then passing Dan Gurney's 4.9-litre Ferrari 375-Plus round the outside in a turn. Diminutive Richie Ginther was then invited to try the car, lapping 6 seconds inside the existing lap record.

Subsequently, in two May 1958 races at Danville, Virginia, Reventlow finished 3rd and 5th. In June at Riverside, Reventlow won an 8-lap preliminary race, and at Pomona two weeks later he won twice with the new car. The Nevada Grand Prix at Reno saw Chuck Daigh in the first right-hand-drive Mark II Scarab-Chevrolet beat his boss by passing him in the last corner of the race. In August, at Montgomery, Chuck Daigh won handsomely in the second team car built – at Thompson Raceway Reventlow won imperiously – and the major International 'Los Angeles Times' Grand Prix at Riverside in October was then won by Chuck Daigh, beating no less than future World Champion Phil Hill in a potent Ferrari. Reventlow then won at Laguna Seca in a team 1-2 domination – and so the Scarab legend took root. Here was a homegrown all-American project that was not just beating the imported foreign sports cars – it was humiliating them.

Three of these front-engined Scarab-Chevrolets were completed in period by RAI, the prototype LHD Mark I followed by two right-hand drive Mark IIs, chassis '002' and '003'. A copycat '004' was later produced by Frank Troutman for Lance Reventlow's half-brother, Richard. Hence the adoption of chassis number '005' for the contrastingly true-to-original younger-sister car now offered here.

And not only did the cars look sensational, they ran and sounded a million dollars too. Preston Lerner quotes long-serving race official Joe Moore who recalled of the Scarab-Chevrolet V8s: "When they started up, it sounded like the beginning of the third day at Gettysburg – not exactly a rumbling but like a heavy thunderstorm over the horizon. And when they went by at speed they gave you a sort of gut-wrenching feeling. I've seen a lot of racing, and I've seen a lot of great cars, but I've never seen a car that stirred me so deeply. The earth shook when they went past."

Consider all this background and understand how, after selling his original left-hand drive Scarab-Chevrolet Mark I in the late 1990s, American collector and enthusiast Don Orosco became concerned that modern generations of Scarab fans worldwide might be denied the chance of seeing such cars in full-blooded action.

It was in consideration of this thought – and while racing his Lotus-Climax Type 15 in the Mark I car's place – that Mr Orosco decided "...that we really ought to see how much of a replacement Scarab sports car we still had amongst our spares and parts before we might forget what connects with what".

His chief mechanic Brad Hand had all the relevant parts laid out on their workshop floor and when – virtually five years to the day after he had sold the unique original Mark I car - Mr Orosco walked in he asked "What are we missing to put this car together...?". In answer, Mr Hand simply held up one hand, thumb to forefinger. Zero. Nothing more was needed. Nothing at all. Mr Orosco had produced sufficient spare parts over his 15-year period of ownership to cover every eventuality, including total loss of the car as perhaps in some air-freighting disaster.

They had a complete car set there on the workshop floor, including engine, gearbox, suspensions, front and rear cast brake drums, the Masterman-built chrome-molybdenum frame made some years before as a stand-by for the original, and perfectly matching its every dimension and specification. Halibrand cast-alloy wheels, instruments, De Dion rear axle from the original car, magnesium rear hub carriers, the original-type Porsche 550 tail lights that RAI adopted, Dick Troutman's favoured Northrop Aviation white-insulated wiring, upper and lower A-arms (suspension wishbones), unique-pattern Scarab Halibrand quick ratio-change back axle/final-drive, unique Hilborn fuel injection, the unique Lehman drive for the engine that powered the car's magneto, water and fuel pumps, toggle switches, the steering, radiator, body panels – everything was there, begging assembly into one rumbustious race entity – a younger-sister Scarab-Chevrolet.

This sports car rebuild project was conducted in 2002 and the body panels which were adopted for it had been formed over a complete forming buck which specialist Jack Hagerman Sr had prevailed upon Mr Orosco to have made. He had flown out of London on the very next PanAm service after Flight 103 that was lost in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing disaster. Since Mr Orosco's Scarabs were being flown all over the world to race, Mr Hagerman feared that such an American icon could easily be lost without possibility of accurate replacement, and so he had fashioned the forming buck over the original Mark I body surfaces.

Jointly they set out to ensure that there should in future be little chance of perhaps the most iconic front-engined American sports-racing car of them all not being seen again in red-blooded racing action. That danger simply, as Don Orosco says "...stuck in my craw", and so here we offer this magnificent – and in the right hands still potentially Historic race-winning iteration of Lance Reventlow's 67-year old all-American dream.

It has already proved its frontline capabilities in the hands of both Don Orosco himself and his son Patrick. This is more than just a younger-sister Scarab-Chevrolet – this is the uniquely runnable, raceable, entirely practicable 'Team America' legend, designed in 1957-58 and built with abiding respect and adoration by Team Orosco at the outset of the 21st Century. And proud ownership and use of this great car could for you be just one bid away...

Please note this lot is subject to import tax if remaining in the EU.