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Revell, Raymond Stephen Henry (1911–1968)

by Andrew Moore

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Raymond Stephen Henry Revell (1911-1968), speedcar driver, was born on 9 March 1911 at Newtown, Sydney, son of Australian-born parents Percy Raymond Revell, water-bag maker, and his wife Edith Hilda, née Saxon. Educated at Bexley Public and Kogarah Boys' Intermediate High schools, Ray worked as a motor mechanic. At St Clement's Anglican Church, Marrickville, on 25 March 1937 he married Margaret Gordon Nicol, a laundress; they were to have two children before she divorced him in 1948.

Although Revell had shown promise as a sprinter and Rugby League footballer, he turned to speedcar racing in the mid-1930s. Gaining prominence in the sport during the years of World War II, he played an important part in its revival once peace had been restored. He competed at the Sydney Showground speedway against such stars as (Sir) John (Jack) Brabham, and Frank ('Satan') Brewer who had raced extensively in the United States of America. At a time when many drivers favoured air-cooled, twin-cylinder motorcycle engines to propel their diminutive dirt-track racers, Revell was open to new ideas. In 1946 he experimented with jet propulsion to assist his conventional engine. With a brace of rockets (mounted on either side behind the cockpit) generating extravagant plumes of smoke, his car proved a spectacular drawcard for promoters in Sydney and Brisbane. Revell won the Australian championship in 1947 and the world title in 1948 (without the assistance of rockets).

In 1948 Revell travelled to the United States and raced on the West Coast with some success. He became the first Australian resident to own and import an Offenhauser vehicle. Thus equipped, he won four consecutive national speedway championships in 1950-53, and many New South Wales and Queensland titles. By 1957 he had been awarded a hundred trophies. He once made £160 in a night of racing. Less precise than Brabham, who deferred to his rival's experience and superior vehicle, he was the leading speedcar driver of the period, possessing quick reflexes and the ability to sense danger and avoid collisions. Despite suffering a serious injury in a racing accident in 1945, he acquired a considerable reputation for safe driving, unusual in a 'harum-scarum' sport.

On 24 December 1949 at Wesley Chapel, Sydney, Revell married with Methodist forms Violet Nancy Young, a clerk; she was a widow, and sister of his fellow racing-driver Andy McGavin. Revell dabbled in stock-car racing. He also entered his distinctive, blue-and-white Offenhauser in road-races at Mount Druitt and Bathurst; the car's two-speed gearbox and tiny wheels, while suitable for the speedway, proved serious liabilities in its three appearances at Bathurst. In October 1956 Revell raced a Cooper-MG at that circuit. His fame boosted his motorcar repair business, which was finally based at Woolloomooloo, Sydney.

Red haired and freckled, Revell belonged to a distinguished motor-racing family. His younger brother Aubrey was a leading competitor in Formula Vee in the 1960s; Ray's son Howard was a first-rate speedcar driver; Aub's sons Neil and Phillip excelled in open-wheeler racing. Ray Revell died of cirrhosis of the liver on 18 November 1968 in Sydney Hospital and was cremated with Anglican rites. His wife survived him, as did the son and daughter of his first marriage.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Medley, Bathurst: Cradle of Australian Motor Racing (Syd, 1997)
  • Sports Car World, Oct 1959, p 30
  • Australian Speedway News, no 59, 1974?, p 18
  • Racing Car News, Feb 1980, p 54
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Feb 1946, 17 Nov 1948, 16 Apr 1950, 15 Apr 1951
  • Sun (Sydney), 3 Oct 1956, 22 Mar 1957, 19 Nov 1968
  • private information.

Citation details

Andrew Moore, 'Revell, Raymond Stephen Henry (1911–1968)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/revell-raymond-stephen-henry-11510/text20533, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 1 November 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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