Peter Revson

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Peter Revson
Peter Revson 1973 Nürburgring a.jpg
Revson at the 1973 German Grand Prix
Born (1939-02-27)February 27, 1939
New York City, New York
Died March 22, 1974(1974-03-22) (aged 35)
Midrand, South Africa
Formula One World Championship career
Nationality United States American
Active years 1964, 19711974
Teams non-works Lotus, Tyrrell, McLaren, Shadow
Entries 32 (30 starts)
Championships 0
Wins 2
Podiums 8
Career points 61
Pole positions 1
Fastest laps 0
First entry 1964 Monaco Grand Prix
First win 1973 British Grand Prix
Last win 1973 Canadian Grand Prix
Last entry 1974 Brazilian Grand Prix
The McLaren Revson drove in the 1972 Indianapolis 500

Peter Jeffrey Revson (February 27, 1939 – March 22, 1974) was an American race car driver and heir to the Revlon cosmetics fortune. He was a multiple Formula One race winner and had success at the Indianapolis 500.


Peter Revson was born in New York City, the son of Martin Revson (1910–2016) and Julie (née Phelps) Hall (1914–2000).[1] Martin had been a founding partner (along with his brother Charles Revson) of Revlon cosmetics, but had parted ways in 1958 and become chairman of Del Laboratories [1] in 1963.[2] His mother had been a nightclub singer at the time Martin met her.

A young, handsome bachelor described as a "free spirit", Peter passed up an easy life for one of competition and danger. Off the track, he lived at the same accelerated pace, Revson piloting a 32-foot (9.8 m) ChrisCraft and courting some of the most beautiful women in the world. At the time of his death, he was engaged to the 1973 Miss World, Marjorie Wallace.

In a prior relationship, Revson fathered a child named Adam who became the subject of a paternity action that was amicably resolved in 1977. Adam is considered the last male heir to the Revlon empire.[citation needed]

Early life and racing career[edit]

Peter Revson spent his childhood living in White Plains in Westchester County, New York attending prep schools and living off the fruits of his father’s million-dollar empire. He had two sisters, Jennifer and Julie Ann, as well as a younger brother Doug who himself was killed in a race in Denmark in 1967. Though considered well educated, Peter never finished his college education after attending Columbia University, Cornell University, and the University of Hawaii. In 1960, while attending the University of Hawaii, Revson bought a Morgan and entered into sports car racing. In his first race, Revson placed second but victory followed shortly thereafter placing first in his next race. To the disdain of his family, Revson began to turn his attention full time to competitive racing. Teaming with Cornell classmates Timmy and Teddy Mayer, Revson competed in formula junior in 1962 losing the financial aid of the Revson family. Without support from his family, Revson embraced his independence and generated funds through his savings and education funds.

In 1963, after limited successes and with formula 1 aspirations, Revson took the remaining money he had, around $12,000, and moved to the UK. There he was able to buy a Formula Junior Cooper and a Ford Thames van named Gilbert. He then began barnstorming around mainland Europe competing and winning against the likes of future formula stars Denny Hulme and Jochen Rindt. Sleeping in his van and earning a living out of prize money he earned from his races, Revson soon caught the attention of Reg Parnell, whom Revson rented workshop space from, and offered Revson a spot on Parnell’s planned F1 team for the 1964 season. Revson made his initial Formula 1 debut late in the 1963 season in an exhibition race at the Gold Cup in Oulton Park, England finishing ninth. Teamed with fellow drivers Chris Amon and Mike Hailwood, referred to as the Ditton Road Flyers, received more attention due to their antics and wild parties, then their performances on the track. Moreover, due to a number of factors including the sudden death of Reg Parnell, financial troubles, and an uncompetitive car in the Lotus 24, Reg Parnell/Revson Racing was doomed before it even began. Racing in four Grand Prix’s and five non-championship races the best results for Revson that season came at Monza finishing 13th as well as a fourth place finish at Solitude during a non-championship race.

Barely noticed on the European circuits due to his limited formula 1 success, Revson accepted an offer to race back in the United States in 1965. Focusing mainly on sports car racing including the Can-Am and Trans-Am series, Revson was able to rebound from his formula one woes and quickly rebuild his reputation as a capable driver. In 1969, Revson competed in his first Indy 500 finishing an impressive 5th place after starting last. To make the feat even more impressive, Revson was racing in an underpowered Brabham BT25. During the Indy 500 the following year, Revson gained major exposure and entrance to a top team in McLaren’s Indy car team when the team asked him to drive the race following the release of Chris Amon. That same year, while teamed with famed movie star Steve McQueen, the duo finished second in the 12 hours of Sebring behind the Ferrari team led by Mario Andretti. Though McQueen received most of the credit by driving with a broken foot, it was Revson who drove the bulk of the race in the Porsche 908/2. Moreover, Revson also the finished the 1970 Can-Am season runner-up while driving a Lola T220 for the Haas team.

1971 proved to be the proverbial breakout season for Revson. During the Indy 500 that year, driving a McLaren M16, Revson qualified on pole position averaging 178.696 mph. He went on to finish second in the race behind Al Unser Sr. However, the real success came during the Can-Am series that year. Now driving for the McLaren team in the M8F, Revson rolled past the competition to a championship. In 10 races, Revson won five and placed on podium in all but two of the races. His successes caught the attention of the formula one teams. He was even offered a one race drive that year with the Tyrell team as a third driver at Watkins Glen. Nevertheless, shortly after in 1972, Revson was offered a full time seat racing for the McLaren Formula one team. Ironically, the team was headed by Revson's old friend and boss Teddy Mayer. Revson was now a driver in McLaren’s Indy Car, Can-Am, and Formula One teams.

Formula One career[edit]

During Revson's first year with McLaren during the 1972 at the age of 33, Revson was able to finish 5th in championship standing. Running 9 out of the 12 races, Revson finished on podium four times with three third place finishes and a second place finish. Greater success was soon to follow for Revson. The following season Revson secured his only two wins during his short formula one career. Driving a McLaren M23, Revson first tasted victory during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and later the Canadian Grand Prix. Despite his growing successes as a driver, Mayer's McLaren wasn’t satisfied and they opted for the 1972 Formula One champion and Marlboro sponsored Emerson Fittipaldi. Revson soon signed with the rather new Shadow formula 1 team for the 1974 season. In addition, Revson became engaged to 1973 Miss World Marjorie Wallace after meeting her at the Indy 500 that year. Driving a Shadow DN3, Revson retired from the first two races of the season. Despite this Revson liked the car and had high hopes about the season. Before the start of the third race at a test session before the South African Grand Prix at Kyalami, Revson crashed at Barbecue Bend and died in route to the hospital. The car slammed into the guardrail while exiting the turn going over 110 mph after a suspension failure on his car. The car ended up flipped over and wedged into the barrier impacting it at a shallow angle. The car caught on fire and by time the rescue crews arrived at the scene it was too late. Revson was dead at the age of 35. Revson's replacement Tom Pryce, died at the same circuit in 1977. Emerson Fittipaldi, Revson's replacement at McLaren, won the formula one championship that year (1974).


Revson was killed during a test session on 22 March 1974, before the 1974 South African Grand Prix in Kyalami. While driving the Shadow DN3, he suffered a front suspension failure and crashed heavily into the Armco barrier on the outside of "Barbecue Bend". The car stood on its nose, wrapped itself around the barrier and caught fire, and although safety workers and other drivers managed to pull Revson from the wreckage, he was already dead.

Tony Southgate, designer of the DN3, (Motorsport Magazine June 2012, Pg 84.) –

Revvie was a fabulous easy-going guy, fitted in well, and a very good driver. But tragically he wasn't with us for long. He qualified on row 2 for Argentina and row 3 for Brazil. Then he and I, our chief mechanic Pete Kerr and two other mechanics went down to Kyalami for testing before the South African GP. Revvie was going very well, very happy with the car, and then he didn't come around. We rushed out to the back of the circuit and found the car buried under the Armco on the outside of a quick corner. Peter was already in the ambulance and gone. I phoned the hospital, and they told me I had to go to the morgue and identify him. When the news got out all hell let loose, journalists banging on my hotel door, then the Revson family lawyer arrived and took over.

We were using titanium quite a lot on the DN3, which was quite a new material then. Titanium is finicky, it has to be machined smooth and the surface polished, and a ball joint which had some coarse machining on it had failed. There was only one layer of Armco and the car, instead of being deflected or stopped, had gone right under as far as the cockpit. I felt personally responsible. It was a very difficult time. The glamour of Formula 1 had gone, replaced by a sort of loneliness. You just had to work on. Of course I replaced all the titanium components with steel before the next race.

He was the second Revson to lose his life racing; his brother Douglas was killed in a crash in Denmark in 1967. Peter and Douglas Revson are interred together in a crypt in the community mausoleum at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Revson's autobiography, Speed with Style, co-written with Leon Mandel, was published posthumously by Doubleday & Company in 1974.

Revson was replaced by Tom Pryce, who died three years later at the same Grand Prix.


He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1996 in the sports car category.[3]

Racing record[edit]

Complete Formula One World Championship results[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 WDC Pts
1964 Revson Racing Lotus 24 BRM V8 MON
Reg Parnell Racing BEL
Lotus 25 FRA
1971 Elf Team Tyrrell Tyrrell 001 Cosworth V8 RSA ESP MON NED FRA GBR GER AUT ITA CAN USA
NC 0
1972 Team Yardley McLaren McLaren M19A Cosworth V8 ARG
GER 5th 23
McLaren M19C AUT
1973 Team Yardley McLaren McLaren M19C Cosworth V8 ARG
5th 38
McLaren M23 ESP
1974 UOP Shadow Racing Team Shadow DN3 Cosworth V8 ARG

Indianapolis 500 results[edit]

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish
1969 Brabham Repco 33rd 5th
1970 McLaren Offy 16th 22nd
1971 McLaren Offy 1st 2nd
1972 McLaren Offy 2nd 31st
1973 McLaren Offy 10th 31st

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths REVSON, JULIE PHELPS". The New York Times. February 9, 2000. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Friedman, Dave (2001). Trans-Am: The Pony Car Wars 1966–1972. MotorBooks/MBI Publishing Company. chapter 3. ISBN 978-0-7603-0943-8. 

All work no playboy | Motor Sport Magazine Archive. (2014, November 27). Retrieved from

Chang, R. S. (2008, May 29). McQueen's Porsche, but Memories of Another Driver. Retrieved from

(n.d.). Retrieved from

There but for fortune | Motor Sport Magazine Archive. (2014, December 23). Retrieved from

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Jackie Stewart
Monaco Formula Three
Race Winner

Succeeded by
Jean-Pierre Beltoise
Preceded by
Denny Hulme
Can-Am Champion
Succeeded by
George Follmer
Preceded by
François Cevert
Formula One fatal accidents
March 22, 1974
Succeeded by
Helmut Koinigg