Raoul ‘Sonny’ Balcaen grew up in Los Angeles at a time when it became the epicentre of American motor racing, nurturing a vast talent pool of people whose influence has echoed through to today.
As a teenager, he successfully competed with his home-built Top Fuel dragster during the formative years of the sport. With Lance Reventlow, he worked on the famous Scarab sports cars and was standing in the dyno room when the team’s all-American Formula 1 engine was fired up for the first time. A period as Jim Hall’s crew chief and a close association with Carroll Shelby added to the know-how that guided him towards becoming a successful entrepreneur and led to all that followed. Aged 17, Balcaen built his own Top Fuel drag racer, the ‘Bantamweight Bomb’, which he developed relentlessly and drove to many successes.
His role in the fabulous Scarab sports cars — the landmark all-American racers — and insights into life with their creator, the incomparable Lance Reventlow.
Working as crew chief to the brilliant Jim Hall, preparing and running his Lotus Eleven and Lister-Chevrolet long before the famous Chaparrals emerged.
A second spell with Scarab, this time with the Formula 1 project — the first American Grand Prix car — plus a special job for Reventlow converting a Scarab sports racer into a street car.
Onwards into setting up his own successful business, IECO (Induction Engineering Co), to create and sell high-grade performance and appearance accessories, with Chevrolets — especially Corvair and Vega — featuring strongly.
His many-faceted dealings with Carroll Shelby, leading to consultancy and even assignments as occasional Shelby American company pilot.
Along the way we meet many other big names of the era, including Chuck Daigh, Bruce Kessler, Warren Olson, Dick Troutman, Tom Barnes, Phil Remington, Ken Miles, Leo Goossen, Jim Travers, Frank Coon, Ed Donovan and Pete Brock.
This engaging memoir is the very personal history of a momentous time and place in which we meet a who’s who of West Coast road-racing heroes.