BELL was founded in 1954 in California by Roy Richter, a passionate of auto racing. Roy perceived the need for safety in the auto racing field and moved to put products in place to serve that need. The name BELL simply comes for the fact that Roy’s activities were housed in a small, garage-like facility in Bell, California.
BELL started by manufacturing protective headgear for auto racing. BELL moved to the leading edge of helmetry in 1957, introducing the use of a non-resilient polystyrene liner. That same year, BELL also began to supply helmets to law enforcement agencies.
One of the first open face BELL helmet, the 500-TX is selected by the Museum of Modern Art in New York for Excellence of Design. Four Bell helmet models are on continuous display at MoMA.
Consumers began recognizing the need for safety and the business grew rapidly.
By 1964 BELL had to triple its capacity and moved to a new facility in Long Beach, California.
In 1968 BELL introduced the first full-face helmet, the Star. It was worn by Dan Gurney at the 500 Miles of Indianapolis.
These products innovations, like expanded polystyrene liners (EPS) or full face helmets, generated a reputation throughout the world for providing state of the art qualityhelmets.
In 1971 BELL diversified into the motorcycle helmet market and developed the first full-face motorcycle helmet and the first full-face off-road motorcycle helmet. During the next ten years, BELL continued its efforts in automotive and motorcycle field but also entered the bicycle industry with the first hard shell helmet, the Biker in 1975. In addition, it began providing helmets for marine racing, parachute jumping, and many other high risk activities where head protection was needed.
The explosive growth of motorcycle use in the 70′s required tripling capacity once again. Bell, in 1976 moved into a 180.000 square feet facility in Norwalk, California. This factory was, at the time, the world’s largest helmet factory with the most up-to-date equipment, including one of the most sophisticated test labs.
Bell begins manufacturing its first helmet – the ’500′ – in a garage located behind Bell Auto Parts.
Cal Niday becomes the first driver to wear a Bell Helmet in the Indy 500. On the 170th lap, Niday crashes hard into a wall. He credits the helmet with saving him from more serious injury.
Bell develops the first full-face motorcycle helmet.
A motor racing history first, all 33 drivers at each of USAC’s 500-mile championship races – Indianapolis, Pocono and Ontario – wear Bell helmets.
Bell introduces the Star FX, the first fire retardant auto racing helmet.
The XFM-1 was the first lightweight composite auto racing helmet, quickly becoming the helmet of choice for open wheel drivers around the world.