Formula One: America’s first cars up for sale at $3.5 million – CNN
(CNN)He was a wealthy playboy who counted movie icon James Dean among his friends and Hollywood actresses for wives.
But when Lance Reventlow, an heir to the Woolworth retail fortune, led the first U.S. team to compete in a Formula One World Championship there was no fairytale ending. Instead, his dreams of high-speed glory came spluttering to a halt.
Reventlow’s Scarab might not have won any prizes then, but the marque’s cars have become collector’s items and will shortly go up for sale at the UK’s Goodwood Revival meeting on September 12 for an eye-watering $3.5 million.
London auctioneers, Bonhams are handling the sale of both racing cars and their Fiat transporter, with Reventlow’s car alone expected to fetch around $1.5 million.
“The Scarab team cars were fantastically quick, but unfortunately for Reventlow, not quick enough in their development,” Bonham’s auctioneer James Knight said in a statement.
“These Scarabs are spectacular and beautiful Grand Prix cars with a proven race winning record at historic motor racing events.”
Reventlow was the only son of Barbara Hutton, a well-known socialite who counted Hollywood star Cary Grant among her seven husbands and whose troubled private life earned her the moniker “Poor Little Rich Girl.”
Her son, whose father Count Kurt von Haugwitz-Reventlow was Hutton’s second husband, also mixed in similarly swanky circles.
Reventlow was married twice, first to actress Jill St. John — best known for playing Bond girl, Tiffany Case opposite Sean Connery in “Diamonds Are Forever” — and latterly Cheryl Holdridge, an original cast member of “The Mickey Mouse Club.”
He christened the team Scarab after the Egyptian “good luck” beetle, but good fortune was in short supply as the American team endured a misfiring season in 1960.
He and fellow driver Chuck Daigh made their debut at the Monaco Grand Prix, but failed to qualify for the race later won by Britain’s Sterling Moss driving a Lotus.
Powered by a V8 Chevrolet at the front, the Scarab cars built in 1959 were fast but not as quick as the rear-engine Cooper Climax driven by Jack Brabham which had better road holding.
The famous British racing marque became the first to win the world title with an engine towards the rear. Rival F1 teams would quickly follow suit, leaving Sacrab to fight an almost unwinnable battle in 1960.
Daigh and Reventlow persevered, making it to the starting grid at the Belgium Grand Prix — qualifying 16th and 18th respectively — only to see Reventlow retire with engine trouble after one lap.
Daigh didn’t last much longer, succumbing to the same problem 15 laps later.
A 10th place for Daigh at their home grand prix, held at California’s Riverside International Raceway, proved to be both a high point but also the closing curtain on Scarab’s brief F1 adventure.
There would be no happy ending for Reventlow off the track either.
In 1972, he was killed when the Cessna aircraft he was a passenger in crashed in Aspen, Colorado. He was 36.