Augie Pabst still drives the Scarab he raced nearly five decades ago
Story and photographs by Tom Strongman
ELKHART LAKE, WIS. — One of the neat things about vintage sports car racing is the window it provides to the past.
In general, the cars are the stars, but occasionally a car and driver are paired just as they were nearly 50 years ago. On July 22, Augie Pabst Jr. wheeled his Scarab sports car around the Road America circuit near this tiny village a little more than an hour northwest of Milwaukee.
Pabst, now 73, drives with a graceful touch. He and his car move together with the familiarity of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
He races the Scarab two or three times a year, and he takes it easy. That’s wise considering that it’s a 2,000-pound car with a 500-horsepower Chevrolet V-8, skinny tires and drum brakes that are far less powerful than modern disc brakes.
“It’s a nice car to drive but very challenging, and I’m getting older,” said Pabst, from Oconomowoc, Wis.
“Winning is not important any longer. The car is now very valuable and I’d hate to damage it.”
The Scarab was originally conceived by Lance Reventlow, young racer and son of Barbara Hutton, heir to the Woolworth and E.F. Hutton fortunes, according to Michael T. Lynch in American Sports Car Racing in the 1950s. Reventlow assembled a team to design and build a car that could humble the popular Ferrari and Maserati racers of the day. Dick Troutman and Tom Barnes constructed the Scarab. Chuck Pelly designed the gorgeous body, and Von Dutch, the hot-rod painter, laid down the beautiful metallic blue paint and white scallops.
In 1958, Reventlow won the Road America 500 at Elkhart Lake in a Ferrari 335S.
In 1959, the Peter Hand Brewing Co. bought two Scarabs and hired Pabst to drive one. He won the United States Auto Club’s National Road Racing Championship in 1959, and he was national champion in the Sports Car Club of America’s B-Modified class.
In 1963, according to Lynch’s book, Pabst drove Scarab 002, the car he owns today, to victory in its final race at Continental Divide Raceway at Castle Rock, Colo.
Pabst’s car was called Meister Brauser I to promote Meister Brau beer. Pabst chuckled when he said that the brewery let him go after seeing a headline that said, “Pabst wins blue ribbon.” He bought the car from the brewery in 1968.
Next year, the Scarab will celebrate its 50th anniversary, and Pabst said he hopes to get all of the cars together at Road America for one more dance.