In a recent “Enthusiasts’ Directory” feature on motoring clothing we mentioned the fact that the American “space-man” type of crash helmet had failed the tests laid down by the British Standards Institution. This brought forth queries from readers who were anticipating the purchase of one of these helmets and from a racing driver who already uses one. Naturally they were anxious to know what tests these helmets had failed. This is especially important as the R.A.C. are issuing a list of requirements for crash helmets used in competition, only helmets reaching these requirements being allowed in races.
Unfortunately the acquiring of the necessary information proved difficult to obtain. The B.S.I. appoint various experts to test products and in the case of crash helmets the Ellis Laboratories at Shere in Surrey do all the testing work. Unfortunately the results of these tests are only available to the B.S.I. or the firm who submits the helmet for test. We were able to ascertain that all of the American helmets submitted for test had failed for various reasons, mainly in the matter of failure of chin straps. Having examined the American Anderson helmet worn last season by Peter Ashdown which is lined with a thin layer of foam rubber which “bottomed” at the slightest pressure we feel that they failed on other accounts also.
Certain basic differences of opinion exist between British and American scientists on the methods of testing helmets, but we are assured that the Americans are gradually coming round to our way of thinking and that possibly some international standard will be agreed. The proposed requirements of the R.A.C. are as follows:
Shock Absorbent Test:
Three helmets are tested under various conditions of wet, heat and cold, a 10-1b. striker is raised to a clear height of 12 ft. and allowed to fall freely. This test is carried out on the front and the back of each helmet and in no case shall the transmitted force exceed 5,000 lb. (2,270 kg.), and the shell shall remain intact, with no cracks.
Test for Resistance to Penetration:
A cylindrical steel striker weighing 4 lb. 1.25 in. in diameter, having at its lower end a conical point with an included angle of 60 deg. is dropped from a clear height of 3 ft. on the centre of the crown and the maximum instantaneous vertical deflection of the internal surface of the helmet shall not exceed in.
Test for the Attachment of Harness:
A load of 150 lb. is applied to the chin strap of the helmet for two minutes, neither the harness nor its attachment to the helmet shall show signs of damage, nor shall the vertical movement relative to the centre of the crown exceed 1-1/4 in. Temporal protection shall be given by extending the shell below the lower edge of the head band covering the temporal region of the head. Peak to be detachable.
It will be seen from these requirements that protection of the temples and base of the skull is now considered essential. It appears that the “space-man” helmet will gain in popularity in this country and in fact two examples are to be put on the market shortly. These are shown on the left of our picture. On the far left is the Cromwell helmet which is made by Helmets Ltd., Moat Lane, Wheathampstead, Herts. It utilises a thick cork lining with foam rubber protection for the ears. The strap is of the webbing type with press stud fasteners. The centre helmet is of similar type, using a glassfibre shell with cork lining, but the padding for the temples and ears is rather more elaborate. Two chin straps are provided, one being of the press stud type and the other utilising a buckle type of fastening. This helmet is manufactured by E. W. Vero Ltd., makers of the Everoak helmets, who will sell the helmet through the various retailers of racing equipment such as Leston’s, Lewis’ and Johnson’s. These two “space-man” models have not yet been officially approved by the R.A.C. but they have passed the necessary tests at the laboratories. The model on the right of the picture is of the type worn by Stirling Moss last season, which is also made by E. W. Vero Ltd., the particular example being retailed by Herbert Johnson Ltd., of 38, New Bond Street, W.1, who have incorporated their own ideas on trimming, padding, etc. This model has been designed in excess of the B.S.I. requirements.
Although the American helmets have failed British tests their authorities are to be praised for their rigid requirements on racing clothing and such things as compulsory roll bars which will not be introduced in Europe until the 1961 G.P. Formula. It is to be hoped that the R.A.C. introduce similar rules in the near future. — M. L. T.