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  • #16
    Originally posted by Martyj View Post
    I’ve had a little time to research my own question.

    While I don’t know if he was the first sport wide, it appears Gurney was among the pioneers in the full face helmet. Because of his height the windscreens on open cockpit cars didn’t protect him to the degree they did other drivers, catching bugs, pebbles, dust, etc. on a regular basis. He begin using the full face mid 1968 with the German GP at the Nurburgring being the first race. He wore one at Indy the following year, but I’m not sure if he was the only one in Indy car at that time, or indeed the first.

    I wonder if Dan got the idea from the Can-Am series?

    An interesting variation, also dated to 1968, is that some F1 drivers were wearing open faced helmets with transparent full face “bubble” visors in wet races. Both the Dutch and the French races were in the rain prior to the also wet Nurburgring GP, and photos confirm select drivers were using them. Apparently the Canadian GP the prior year was extremely wet and many drivers goggles were fogging up, which led to a desire for something different. Why this wasn’t an issue before I don’t know; certainly there were wet GP’s before 1967.

    EDIT: On further research, Dan wore one earlier at Indy in 68 and Dutch 68. Apparently the first in each case. Still no idea who sported the last open face design. [sic]
    While Dan Gurney in 1968 was the first to wear a Bell Star at the Indianapolis 500, he was not the first race driver ever to wear a that kind of helmet. Gurney was the first internationally renowned driver to wear a Bell Star when he donned it at Indy. It made him, as you say, a pioneer. Gurney gave the helmet a degree of credibility in auto racing and turned it into a fashion statement. Gurney did not get the idea to wear a Star from the Can-Am. Gurney brought the Star to the Can-Am. He brought it to F1 as well. Jack Brabham, Piers Courage and Jackie Stewart pioneered the use of fighter pilot helmets in F1 two years later. They believed this type of helmet would improve safety. The idea never caught on. Al Unser also was a helmet pioneer of sorts. Unser pioneered a fighter pilot-based helmet in Indy car racing. He thought it might better help him hear pit-to-car radio radio transmissions. The development of custom earpieces consigned that idea to the scrapheap. Meanwhile, Bell Star and other Star-like helmets continued to grow in popularity.

    Early in his career, Gurney, like the diminutive Bruce McLaren, learned that stones and other flying debris could turn a driver's face into a bloody pulp. Gurney first tried to protect his face by employing a leather mask he adopted from short track motorcycle racing. He soon abandoned the mask, saying it was impractical.

    Gurney used both a Bell Star and his regular open-faced helmet during the Dutch GP meeting in 1968. He raced a year-old Brabham BT24-Repco for BRO at Zandvoort. He wore a Bell Star at other GPs from the summer onward whether driving his Eagle or a rented McLaren.

    Bell Star-like helmets have not always been warmly embraced. Jochen Rindt, for instance, often complained about the Star during 1969, citing his claustrophobia. During the high downforce, solid suspension era of F1, many drivers complained about enclosed helmets. The complaints included how they served as wearable receptacles for vomit. A number of Indy car drivers were vociferous about them and more than one stock car driver condemned Star-type helmets as being outright dangerous.

    The last driver to wear an open-faced helmet in F1 is not an easy question to answer. Two drivers were said to be the last. One spent years bragging about it. Both answers can be said to be correct depending on how the question is phrased.

    Helmet bubbles were used by drivers prior to 1968. Bubbles were used both in wet and in dry races. Use was a matter of personal preference. For example, there was a German driver and a British driver who opted for bubbles whenever feasible at dry races. They found bubbles to be more reliable and more comfortable than goggles, especially the kind of goggles regularly used in Europe at the time. Jo Siffert switched from goggles to a shield during the French GP in 1968. He began the soggy race wearing goggles, pulled over and stopped his car when he saw Graham Hill had retired his Lotus and asked Hill if he could borrow Hill's shield. Hill attached the shield to Siffert's helmet and the Swiss driver returned to racing. Many attempts have been made to combat the elements over the years; fogging has always been an issue. On occasion, Hill experimented with the Lance Macklin-developed Turbo Visor fitted to his helmet. From saliva to a potato to Rain-X to a half-hundred other remedies, great efforts have been made by drivers over the decades to combat fogging. If you wear glasses, you may have come up with some anti-fogging home remedies of your own for them.

    Anecdotally, some drivers believed bubbles were more prone to providing an obscured view in the rain than goggles. Improved vision was not the only reason some switched from goggles to bubbles for wet events. If you've ever ridden a motorcycle at high speed in the rain while wearing an open helmet, you know how painful raindrop strikes on the face can be. If you're old enough to remember the plastic toy helmets for children that could be purchased at Indy, you might be aware of how easy it was for the strap on the goggles to slip or to snap. The same was true for real-life grown-up versions. Both Mark Donohue and Bruce McLaren memorably had goggle straps snap while racing in the rain.

    The rainy 1967 Canadian GP was not an impetus for change.
    Last edited by editor; 05-29-2020, 05:58 AM.

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    • #17
      Nice info, Editor.

      In a 1980 magazine column, Mario wrote that when he first saw full-faced helmets being used, he vowed he'd never wear one due to the added weight. Of course the benefits soon became obvious.

      I forgot about the Macklin rain propeller. Looks ridiculous but is effective. I would be skeptical about its durability with modern race speeds.
      You have the IndyCar you deserve.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Stick500 View Post
        79320C0B-3791-49FE-8D38-F6FB09E17382.jpeg
        The same question about the last 500 driver to wear an open face was asked in the latest Miller Mailbag and he says Hurtubise in ‘74 was the last. I don’t even remember him making that race, but he was in it. According to google images this his ‘74 car.
        And I've seen photos of Herk running the Malard later than 74, still using an open face helmet. I don't know that he ever used a full face version.
        "For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal".

        John Kennedy at American University 1963

        "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"

        A. Lincoln

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        • #19
          Here’s an interesting little side note to the open/full face helmet story. I was watching World Cup downhill skiing this winter and one of the women had a wipe out and smacked her face on one of the poles that hold the banner for the turns. I was wondering why they all wear open face helmets. With a little research I found that many of the downhill skiers switched to full face helmets in the late 90s, but then they found that when they did crash the front part of the helmet underneath the chin was catching in the snow and snapping necks back in a dangerous manner. So to this day open face helmets with goggles is the way they do it.
          Still some of the bravest athletes in the world in my humble opinion.
          "Charging a man with murder here was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500."- Capt. Willard, Apocolypse Now
          "Ain't nuthin' like [being with a woman], 'cept maybe the Indy 500."- Bunny, Platoon
          "To alcohol! The cause of- and solution to- all of life's problems."- Homer J. Simpson

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          • #20
            Originally posted by dalz View Post
            Nice info, Editor.

            In a 1980 magazine column, Mario wrote that when he first saw full-faced helmets being used, he vowed he'd never wear one due to the added weight. Of course the benefits soon became obvious.

            I forgot about the Macklin rain propeller. Looks ridiculous but is effective. I would be skeptical about its durability with modern race speeds.
            Happy to be of help.

            Like every driver I've known, Mario Andretti said things on the record that given a moment of introspection might have been better off left unsaid. A selection of his greatest hits include how he'd never race a dirt car equipped with a cage; how he would never join a champ car team full-time that ran more than one car in each race; how the Granatellis would be prohibited from having any technical or operational role involving the car he drove for them; his views concerning the death of Colin Chapman; what he was going to do with The Unbreakable Race Car when he got his hands on it; that he not only would not become a team owner again, he would never even entertain such thoughts; how he came to his decision to retire from Indy car racing.

            A word of to the wise: Unless you have reason to believe comments expressed in a driver's column are those of the purported author, don't blindly accept them as gospel. One of our driver columnists made a habit of conferring with us before deadline to find out what words were being put into his mouth by his ghostwriter. It was one of the reasons each of his columns ended up rewritten by staff. Not all publications were so attentive to copy.


            Last edited by editor; 05-29-2020, 05:56 AM.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by ensign14 View Post
              The last open-face helmet in F1:

              lk-gb74.jpg

              Leo Kinnunen, 1974. Started one race (Sweden), retired after 8 laps. DNQ'd a few others, the last one at Monza.
              As stated in post 16, the accuracy of that answer depends on how the question is phrased. You are overlooking Carlos Reutemann at Monaco in 1975.

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              • #22
                Thank you, editor, for your detailed and insightful response to my question. You can usually be counted on to settle questions in the Nostalgia forum.

                Those pictures of Gurney in his experimental leather mask pop up when one googles the subject. About as strange as anything I've ever seen on a driver.

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                • #23
                  Go find the 1914 Peugeot team featuring Eddie Rickenbacker and his riding mechanic in their helmets,dark goggles and leather face masks with communications hoses between them.This device was not use because it became too hot to wear. THIS is the strangest-looking driver device that you will ever see.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Martyj View Post
                    Thank you, editor, for your detailed and insightful response to my question. You can usually be counted on to settle questions in the Nostalgia forum.

                    Those pictures of Gurney in his experimental leather mask pop up when one googles the subject. About as strange as anything I've ever seen on a driver.
                    You're welcome. Happy to be of help.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by JThur1 View Post
                      The early/mid-70s period between his efforts with the Mallards seems forgotten.
                      As is his track record qualifying run in 1960

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                      • #26
                        Originally posted by Norman J Crump View Post

                        As is his track record qualifying run in 1960
                        Well played, sir! Well, at least one person forgot it, albeit briefly. Guilty as charged
                        "Versions of a story that are more tidy, compact, and camera-ready should generally be viewed as historically suspect." - Jackson Landers

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by Stick500 View Post
                          Here’s an interesting little side note to the open/full face helmet story. I was watching World Cup downhill skiing this winter and one of the women had a wipe out and smacked her face on one of the poles that hold the banner for the turns. I was wondering why they all wear open face helmets. With a little research I found that many of the downhill skiers switched to full face helmets in the late 90s, but then they found that when they did crash the front part of the helmet underneath the chin was catching in the snow and snapping necks back in a dangerous manner. So to this day open face helmets with goggles is the way they do it.
                          Still some of the bravest athletes in the world in my humble opinion.
                          I saw that incident, and never gave the helmet question much thought. It makes sense for the speed events, but skiers do use chin guards for the slalom disciplines because of the likelihood of taking a slalom flag to the face.
                          “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

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