The “Rich Kid” – that’s what the veterans called Peter Revson when he arrived in Indianapolis in 1969. The nickname stuck but the respect level went way up when he finished 5th after starting 33rd in the 500. Rookie of the Year was awarded to Mark Donohue even though he finished in 7th, 10 laps behind Revson.
Revson was the nephew of and heir to the Revlon Cosmetics magnate Charles Revson. There is some dispute about just how rich he really was but Peter was known to comment that he wished he was as rich as people thought he was. He qualified for 5 Indy 500s with a pole in 1971; 3 top 10s with a best finish of 2nd in 71. Overall in Champ Cars he had 1 win, on the road course at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 69, and 3 poles.
Revson had some brief experience with F1 in the early 60s in non-works cars and returned for a one-off in 71 with Tyrell. In 72 he was hired by McLaren and raced for them through the 73 season. In that period he had 1 pole (Canada 72), 2 wins (Britian and Canada 73); and had 8 career podiums. He finished 5th in the World Drivers Championship in both 72 and 73. He remains the last American born driver to win an F1 race (Mario was born in Italy). In addition his overall racing resume includes a class win at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 66, 2 TransAm wins in 67 and he drove a factory Ford GT40 at LeMans in 67.
Revson’s greatest success came in the CanAm seies in 71 when he won 5 of 10 races and became the first American Champion of the series. It would be his only major series championship. For the record the CanAm series was a closed wheel, open cockpit series which raced from 1966 to 1987 except for 75 and 76. CanAm cars were brutally powerful and were clearly the fastest road racing cars of their era, and perhaps of all time. The McLaren M8F that Revson drove to the championship was powered by an 8.3 litre normally aspirated Chevy V8 and was capable of lapping faster than its contemporary F1 cars.
In 1974 Revson switched to the UOP Shadow F1 team. While testing at Kyalami for the GP of South Africa a titanium front suspension component failed and Revson crashed heavily. There is some disagreement about the crash with some reports of the car submarining a single armco barrier (photos of the scene clearly show a double height guard rail) while others report that the car flipped over the barrier. In either case Revson was killed, probably instantly.
There are some interesting footnotes to Revson’s racing career. He is credited as a “driver” in the Transportation Department (not as a member of the cast) in the 1966 film Grand Prix. A footnote to this footnote is that also credited in the film, as a “Camera Operator” is one George Lucas (yes the Star Wars George Lucas). Revson partnered with Steve McQueen in a 2nd place finish at the Sebring 12 Hour in 1970.
Revson’s autobiography (co-authored by Leon Mandel) “Speed with Style” was published posthumously in 1974. It is a good read and I’m happy to say I have a first edition in my racing book collection.
© throughthecatchfence 2015