Simanaitis Says

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IMAGINE THE EXCITEMENT experienced by R&T’s John R. Bond when he sat next to Lance Reventlow piloting the Scarab Mark II around Riverside Raceway. Indeed, my most memorable testing as R&T Engineering Editor involved race cars: IMSA Renault Le Car Turbo, the SCCA Formula Ford Swift, the Group 5 Lancia Monte Carlo Turbo, and the Formula 1 Benetton B186. Here are tidbits gleaned from R&T’s testing the Scarab II, including a cover blurb that read “0-60, 4.2 Seconds 0-100, 9 Seconds.”

This and other images from R&T February 1959.

That’s Lance Reventlow at the wheel, John R. Bond next to him in an evidently borrowed helmet. By the way, the crewman checking the tire is identified in the caption as Harold Daigh. Later in the article, he’s known as Chuck.  

Test Records. “Not unexpectedly,” R&T reported in February 1959, “the car’s performance exceeds any and all previous data recorded by us, or anyone else for that matter. It is possible that a 5-liter Ferrari or the 4.5 Maserati V-8 might improve upon the figures quoted here, but it should not be overlooked that the Reventlow crew has produced a much better handling chassis, which is no mean achievement.”

An Off-Scale Tapley. R&T wrote, “The general feel of the car can perhaps be conveyed by noting one fact. In any indirect gear the pulling power is so great that the Tapley meter dial spun right off the scale, i.e., over 600 pounds per ton.” 

R&T continued in a technical vein: “Since 600 lb/ton is, roughly, indicative of an acceleration equivalent to 0.6 g, we can say that wheelspin can be induced in 3rd gear at any time and at any speed on normal, smooth black-topped paving. Furthermore, even in high gear, the rate of acceleration indicated by 450 lb/ton is better than many cars in 1st gear, despite the enormous wind drag forces which come into play at over 80 mph!” 

Like No Corvette You Ever Heard. “As is well known,” R&T said, “the Scarab uses a modified Chevrolet engine. The word modified is an understatement…. Engine changes include an oversize cylinder bore, a very special camshaft grind and Hilborn fuel injectors.” 

R&T continued, “The engine idles like no Corvette you ever heard—it stutters and gallops at a very unsteady 1000 rpm. The fuel mixture runs very rich, and the black smoke is borne out in the resultant high fuel consumption.  [4.5/5.0 mpg.]”

Chassis Details. Double A-arms with coil/shock units reside up front in the tubular frame. “Scarab steering,” R&T reported, “is modified Morris rack and pinion.” Imagine how excited it felt to be there!

Moving to the rear, R&T observed, “Form-fitting fuel tank has large indentation to accommodate spare wheel.” The latter, required by regulations.

The de Dion assembly is located laterally by a Watts link and fore and aft by parallel trailing arms. The rear brake drums are located inboard to reduce unsprung weight; they’re shrouded for ducting cool air to them. 

Optimal Weight Distribution for Braking. R&T wrote, “… a Scarab on the starting line, with driver and 60 gallons of its weight in the tail, has nearly 60 percent of its weight at the rear. Thus the rear brakes do more work than is usual on most sports cars—a factor very much in the Scarab’s favor. During deceleration the braking and tire loads are very nearly equal, fore and aft, so oversize front drums are not required.” 

R&T Notes: “During the past summer and fall racing season, Lance Reventlow’s team of Scarab sports cars have proved themselves to be the most potent sports racing cars in the world today.”

“Le Patron” Reventlow in the Scarab Mark I.

The magazine shares what it calls “a humorous sidelight” from team manager Warren Olson: “Much of the know-how which went into the build-up of the Chevrolet engines can be attributed to the experience of the late Clay Smith and his intrepid crew of Ford specialists!”

I’m reminded of similarly complex sentiments when race driver Augie Pabst garnered championships in the Meister Bräuser Scarab. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2023  


  1. Tom Tyson
    February 14, 2023

    It still boggles my mind that there are numerous cars today which can be driven off the showroom floor with have far better performance than the “superlatives” of which we read and fantasized about in our youth. Racing DOES improve the breed.

    • simanaitissays
      February 14, 2023

      Agreed, Tom. A scary thought when you consider driver training/practice here in the U.S.

  2. Andrew G.
    February 14, 2023

    Great article, Dennis! I’d always assumed Scarab’s potency was the cliche method of showing up to a sports car race with a ginormous American V-8. I had no idea about their handling prowess; your description set me straight about the seemingly modern front and sophisticated rear setups. (Imagine the result of adding disc brakes and modern tires!) Would it be wrong to think the 40/60 weight distribution matches today’s mid-engined exotics?

    • simanaitissays
      February 14, 2023

      Thanks, Andrew. R&T did all the work back in 1959. (I always thought JRB looked kinda dorky in that helmet.) Lambo Countach: 41/59. Mid-engine Vette 40/60.

  3. Daniel Pithoud
    February 22, 2023

    Daniel, from France,
    Hello Dennis,
    Thanks for the four tests of racing cars. All set in my data base « Acceleration of racing cars ». The road tests of Road and Track are always a great fun to read, with a sheet with full technical data, accelerations and a chart of acceleration. Simply the best!
    The road test of the Scarab 2 is a jewel, because its challengers were never road tested (Ferrari 335 S, 412 MI, 121 LM and the Maserati 450S). Acceleration of the Scarab under 120 mph is probably slightly better (more torque) than its rivals. The Ferrari 121 LM (4,4L – 360 hp) ran the quarter mile in 12,2 seconds at Pomona (CA) dragstrip, probably with short ratios giving the same top speed than the Scarab.
    Acceleration of the Scarab to 120 mph is identical to the 1966 Ford GT40 (4,7L – 390 hp), with the same time at the quarter mile. The Scarab had only four gears, the GT40 five gears.
    It takes 4,8 seconds to the Scarab to go from 60 mph to 100 mph. Exactly the same time than the Ferrari 330 TRI winner of Le Mans 1962. Times for the Ferrari : 60 mph in 5,17 seconds and 100 mph in 9,94 seconds (from Classic & Sports Cars magazine, June 2008).
    The Lancia Monte Carlo turbo gr5 is incredibly powerful and fast (with short ratios) for such a little displacement engine. With 460 hp and a sleek spider body, it does the quarter mile in a fantastic 10,18 seconds (FIA record); that’s the level of performance of a Porsche 917K or a 935/76.
    Acceleration of the Swift Formula Ford is unbelievable with 115 hp. With 125 hp, the 1963 Lotus 23 B with the four cylinder 1500cc Cosworth engine has probably the same level of acceleration (or a little less : tyres were tiny and clutch less efficient, but the very low body was sleek).

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