Lance Reventlow, or to use his full name, Lawrence Graf von Haugwitz-Hardenberg-Reventlow was an American racing driver, the son of Danish Count, and socialite Barbara Hutton, heiress of the Woolworth empire.
An upbringing on boarding schools and hardly the sight of his parents, his nannies took over. Mother Barbara married actor Cary Grant in , who took the young boy under his wing. Even after the divorce in 1945, Grant remained close to Reventlow. When his second step-father, Prince Igor Troubetzkoy, won the Targa Florio in 1948, Lance got the introduction to motor racing. Being a wealthy young man with access to fast cars, his teenage years were all about driving them, dating beautiful women and spending money.
Reventlow left for Europe in the mid-1950´s, where he raced Cooper Formula 1 cars for a season. Deciding he had learned enough about racing, he returned to the States, where he used some of his money to set up a business , constructing Chevrolet-powered cars he called Scarab. The success of the team took many established teams by surprise. Tom Barnes and Dick Troutman built the cars, and they were famous in the 50´s for building sports cars.
Reventlow hired Chuck Daigh to drive for him, and they won the most of the races they entered. One of their finest moments came in 1958, when they won the Riverside International Grand Prix , beating such acclaimed names as Phil Hill and the Ferrari team. Carroll Shelby drove the Scarab sports car to victory at the Continental Divide raceway in Castle Rock Colorado setting a new course record.
In 1960 Reventlow decided to enter Formula 1, which was when it all started to go wrong. The engines were 4-cylinder units similar in layout to the Offenhauser, a very popular American built engine which dominated American open wheel series for more than 50 years, but entirely of Scarab’s own design. The problem was that the cars were front-engined, and the Desmodronic valve gear could not cope with the large amount of movement in the engine block.
For 1960, the Scarab F1 team entered five events, Monaco, Holland, Belgium, France and the US. The cars failed to qualify or to start, and in Belgium, whre they did start, the cars retired. Daigh drove the Scarab in the US, finishing tenth.
After the disappointing result, Reventlow went back to the drawing board and concentrated his efforts on a rear-engined car. He did construct a very successful prototype, but had lost interest in racing. In 1962 he shut down the Scarab company and sold it to Carroll Shelby.
Lance Reventlow was married to actress Jill St. John, from 1960 to 1963, and then met Cheryl Holdridge in 1964 and married her. . the couple relocated to Aspen, Colorado, where they lived a somewhat secluded existence, only being social when they wanted to. In 1972, while flying a Cessna airplane around the area in Aspen, the airplane stalled. Reventlow was a fully capable pilot, with thousands of hours and could pilot almost any aircraft. However, on this day, a fatal decision was made. An in-experienced pilot was hired, flew into a blind canyon and failed to get the plane out of the stall. Reventlow, as well as the other passengers, were killed instantly. Cary Grant attended the memorial service.
The video below is one of Lance Reventlow, in which he drives the Scarab around Riverside in 1962. I strongly suggest you turn up the volume…