Raoul ‘Sonny’ Balcaen
This variant is currently sold out
My exciting true-life story in motor racing from Top-Fuel drag-racing pioneer to Jim Hall, Reventlow Scarab, Carroll Shelby and beyond
By Raoul F. Balcaen, III with Jill Amadio and Pete Lyons
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. 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.
- 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 and Pete Brock.
- ISBN: 978-1-910505-77-9
- Format: 234x156mm
- Page extent: 320pp
- Illustration: 102 photos, including colour
- Published August 2022
Jill Amadio is the author of several fiction and non-fiction books and has a background in journalism with National Speed Sports News, Motor Trend, Kelly Blue Book, Los Angeles Daily News, Condé Nast, Washington Examiner and Gannett Newspapers as well as a spell as communications director for Skoal Bandit Racing. Pete Lyons is a revered racing journalist who has had positions with publications such as Autosport, AutoWeek, Car and Driver, Road & Track, RACECAR and Vintage Motorsport, and is also the award-winning author of more than a dozen books, the most recent being Shadow: The Magnificent Machines of a Man of Mystery (Evro, 2019).
“There is so much history included in this book, a super story, written by a man with dirt under his fingernails, who has been there and done that; having had a great ride, with wonderful memories… Buy it. Five stars. Could well be my Book of the Year.”
“No, I confess that I had not heard of Raoul ‘Sonny’ Balcaen III, either. And in case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced BalKAIN. But he seems like the kind of guy you’d love to bump into in LA, and wile away a day shooting the breeze about the old days… having read this illustrious account and learned more of American racing in its Fifties and Sixties heydays, I’m mighty glad to have made its author’s acquaintance on each of its 320 pages.”
David Tremayne, GrandPrix+
“A dazzlingly clear piece of eyewitness testimony to the birth of serious international American racing… engrossing… an eye-opening and entertaining account.”
“In this refreshingly personal book, Sonny’s love of motor sport and down-to-earth nature shine through.”