Peter Revson had it all: he was lithe and handsome, 35 years old and rich through his own accomplishments. He had become the best American sports-car racer and was recognized on the Grand Prix circuit as one of the very finest drivers in the world. He had just finished his autobiography with motor sports writer Leon Mandel, and its title, "Speed with Style," summed up Revson's outlook on life.
The book offers a different approach from most of the genre; in alternating sections Revson and Mandel present their individual views of racing. Last March 22, his book completed, Revson was at the Kyalami circuit near Johannesburg, South Africa, practicing for the third Grand Prix of the season. After 191 miles of testing, his speeds were steadily climbing, and late in the afternoon he decided to make a run for the track record. He pulled in for five gallons of fuel and rolled away. Two laps later Revson was dead, his car crushed against the steel barrier on the fastest turn.
The excerpt that follows spans the last year in the life of a man who had everything to live for.
MANDEL: After eight months of following Peter Revson around the world, I finally discovered his real name. For eight months I stared at him over his platters of sea bass (dieter's style) in New York restaurants, hung around the pits at Watkins Glen and Indianapolis wondering whether his driving suit was tailored by the same London firm that cut his slightly flared flannels and watched him ease his executive chair back to full rake at his office in Harbor City, Calif.—all this time thinking his name was merely Peter Revson. It wasn't. It was Peter Jeffrey Revlon Revson.
In all his 14 years as a race driver Revson had reacted in the same outraged way whenever he read newspaper stories referring to him as a millionaire playboy, PETER REVSON, THE REVLON HEIR. It was as though they were calling him some kind of pansy. Now I discovered Revlon was his middle name.
But something has happened to him since he won the Canadian-American Championship, two Grand Prix races, the pole at Indy, Pocono and Ontario and became recognized in Brazil, South Africa, Sweden and England as one of the top three drivers in the sport—as well as one of the most glamorous figures on the circuit. Revson laughs a great deal more now, and now that he is rich by his own hand he is openly boastful about being careful with money, even as the Kennedys and the Rockefellers.
As for the lipstick connection, well, if it is there it is there. Is it his fault that his father Martin and his uncles, Charles and Joseph, were compulsive cosmetic empire builders? Perspective has come to Peter Jeffrey R. Revson. Moreover, he is pretty busy these days.
Friday, Nov. 16, 9 a.m., the Revson apartment in Redondo Beach. It is the off-season, time to relax, do all the work that has to be done during the three-month racing break: sign the contracts, negotiate the deals, film the TV special and rejoin the real world. P.J.R.R. starts with the priority problems. There are trade books and training films to review, bills to pay, fan letters to answer, 200 or more photos to autograph. And a decision must be made on whether the decal for the turbocharger manufactured by his new parts and accessories company should read PETER REVSON TURBOCHARGER Or REVSON TURBOCHARGER Or REV-SON-CHARGE or TURBOPETER. Seventeen minutes of contemplation and it comes out REVSONTURBO.
At 8 p.m. Revson dines. At 9:30 p.m. he settles down to work on this book. At 9:33 the doorbell rings. Revson sighs, goes to the door, peers through the peephole and then opens the door to reveal an attractive lady in jeans, a layered shirt, a tall Scotch and soda and a 30� list to port. "I don't believe I know you," she says.
The opening so intrigues Revson that he invites her in.