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Country of origin:United States
Produced in:1960
Numbers built:3
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:September 10, 2015
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWhen the Scarab Formula 1 car debuted at Monaco in 1960, an American Grand Prix victory was long overdue. The last and only success dated back to 1921 when Jimmy Murphy won the French Grand Prix in a Duesenberg. Since then open-wheel racing moved into different directions on the two continents. Lance Reventlow's Scarab project was the first serious American Grand Prix effort since the introduction of the Formula 1 class.

The young heir to the Woolworth fortune, Reventlow had made quite an impact during the 1958 season. Built by a 'dream-team' of engineers in California, his V8-engined Scarab sports cars outclassed many established manufacturers like Ferrari and Maserati in the American championship. The next objective were the world championship races in Europe. An Offenhauser built three-litre engine was tried to comply with the regulations but it was not powerful enough to match Europe's finest.

With no other American engine available that would fit the bill, Reventlow abandoned the sports car program after a single season. He spent the next year and a large chunk of his vast resources on creating an all-American Formula 1 car. The program was up against it from the outset; single-seater racing was on the brink of the mid-engined revolution and none of the engineers involved had any experience designing or developing a Formula 1 car. Reventlow's desire to rely exclusively on American built components complicated the project even further.

The responsibility of developing the chassis was placed on 23-year old Marshall Whitfield, even though he had never designed a car before. He penned a wholly conventional steel spaceframe chassis. Suspension was by double wishbones and coil springs on all four corners. Much time and money was wasted on the development of a proprietary drum-brake system. Reventlow eventually caved and ordered the far superior but British Girling disc-brakes. Chunky Halibrand wheels and Goodyear tyres completed the package.

Offenhauser's Leo Goossen worked on a bespoke four-cylinder engine for the Formula 1 car. The all-aluminium engine followed the familiar Offenhauser pattern with one major exception; the desmodromic valve-train. The design for the sophisticated system was 'inspired' by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, which had been on display in the Henry Ford Museum. The desmodromic or positively actuated layout featured valves that were opened and closed by the camshafts. With no need for valve-springs, it allowed for much higher engine speeds.

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  Article Image gallery (121) Chassis (4) Specifications User Comments (1)