My Car Quest

December 11, 2023

How To Create A Great Race Car – The Story of The Scarab

by Mike –

I wrote before about Lance Reventlow and the Scarab Race Car but that article was mostly about Lance Reventlow’s fascinating life. Here I want to discuss the classic Scarab cars and the experts who helped Lance Reventlow build these fast cars.

Lance Reventlow, Scarab

Lance Reventlow in the Scarab Mk. I, probably at Riverside.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s the Scarab race cars were the best of the best sports race cars. Not only were they great race cars beating Ferraris, Maseratis and Listers but they were beautiful too.

Lance Reventlow was the leader, and funder, of the team that built these race cars. One of the important keys to his success was the team that he assembled. Bruce Kessler, who raced with Lance in the United States and Europe, was the first member of this special team.

Together they toured some of the racing factories in Europe and were influenced by what they saw there, in particular at Lister in Cambridge, UK. Reventlow decided that he could build a better chassis so rather than buy a chassis from Lister he struck out on his own with his company, Reventlow Automobile Inc. (RAI), to design his own chassis. Even Carroll Shelby did not do this.

Warren Olson was a key to Lance’s plan, Olson had worked on Lance’s previous race cars and he was an expert mechanic and more. RAI was started in Olson’s shop in Southern California. Together they recruited Dick Troutman, Tom Barnes, Phil Remington, Emil Deidt, Jim Travers, Frank Coon, Ken Miles and driver Chuck Daigh. Many of these talented people later helped Carroll Shelby design and build the AC Cobra and Shelby Mustangs.

Scarab Engine

They chose their engine – the Chevrolet small block V8, starting at 283 cid, they went to 301 cid and soon were at 327 cid and later 339 cid. With fuel injection they produced around 360 hp. They used aluminum Borg Warner T-10 transmissions. The beautiful body was designed by Chuck Pelly and built by Emil Deidt who had experience making Indy cars.

The paint scheme was a pearl blue with white stripes and was pinstriped by Von Dutch himself.

The Mk. I had a very successful race career and the Mk. II was soon to follow.

The Mk. II looked similar to the Mk. I but the two Mk. IIs were right hand drive so that the driver was on the inside of most turns on a race track in the clockwise direction as most race tracks were designed. These cars started racing in 1958 and they had a great season, even beating Phil Hill in the best car Ferrari could deliver.

Scarab Race Car

Harry Heuer in a Mk. II at Laguna Seca in October 1961.

After the 1958 season the Mk. IIs were sold by RAI and Lance kept the Mk I and converted it to street use as his personal car.

These Mk. II cars continued to have success racing in the hands of private owners with drivers: Augie Pabst, Carroll Shelby, Jim Jeffords and Harry Heuer.

These cars were competitive until 1963 when mid-engine cars became too tough to beat.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Scarab Logo

Scarab Race Car

Scarab Race Car


  1. Thanks for the video posts and great article!

  2. Mike Gulett says


    You are welcome. I am glad you like My Car Quest. Please share it with others who like cars and car people.

  3. Robert K SNARE says

    As a kid I watched car number ONE being built.. Indy car fabricator BOB PETERSEN? helped by Rathman Brothers and badly burned mechanic.. Chicao area maybe late 50s. “when upside downreverse steer” Rathman brother installed VW tranny upside down. I watched till my suppertime. HAND BUILT… By Peterson and pals.. I was there…
    Robert (Bob) Snare

  4. Ken Phillips says

    Mike, Thanks for another special article, photos of a special car from a special time. We raced the Ferrari against the mid engine Scarab. Please do an article on that beautiful car sometime.

Speak Your Mind