Lance Reventlow

Some racing drivers worked their way up through the ranks, living from hand-to-mouth before making their reputations and their fortunes but some had it easier and became Grand Prix drivers because they had the money that was needed and wanted something to do. Very few of the wealthy men were ever talented enough to win races but they added to the colour and glamour of the sport. Lance Reventlow was one of them. He was the son of Danish nobleman Count Court Haugwitz-Reventlow and American heiress Barbara Hutton, who had inherited a vast fortune when she was 21 from her grandfather Frank Winfield Woolworth, founder of the Woolworth store chain.

The couple was so worried about the new baby being kidnapped that they built the magnificent Winfield House in Regents Park (today the official residence of the United States ambassador to Britain) and lived there until the marriage broke up a couple of years later. When Lance was a toddler his mother married film star Cary Grant and although that (and several other marriages) did not last, Reventlow was close to Grant and thus mixed with the Hollywood set. He became interested in racing when he was 19 and was friends with film star James Dean. Reventlow and Dean actually met on the day that Dean died while the pair were both driving in the hills of California.

Two years later after competing in club events on the West Coast Reventlow flew to Europe and that summer he rented a factory Cooper Formula 2 car at various races in Britain. He then returned to the United States, inspired to build his own racing cars. Reventlow Automobile Inc was established and began to build Scarab sportscars. In the late 1950s the firm enjoyed some success on the US scene. Reventlow then decided that the company should build F1 cars and embarked an ambitious scheme for a front-engineered roadster. By the time the car appeared Formula 1 had undergone the rear-engine revolution and after several attempts to qualify the Scarab, Reventlow ended up driving a factory Cooper at the British GP in 1960. The team returned to Europe in 1961 but the Scarab was quickly destroyed in an accident and Reventlow went back to America where a new sportscar was built.

Reventlow, who was still only 25, began to lose interest and went back to a life of wealth and opportunity. He was constantly in the US gossip columns, squiring around a variety of actresses in the years that followed. In 1972 he was killed aboard a small aeroplane while trying to cross the Rocky Mountains in a storm.