HISTORY & FACTS
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. The following year, BELL moved to a larger facility and a full time staff was employed.
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 quality helmets.
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.
By 1985, the BELL family of companies included BELL RACESTAR (manufacturing auto racing suits and drivers equipment as distributing the auto racing helmets), Vetter Products (manufacturers of fairings, helmets, leather clothing...), Marsee Products (fine leather motorcycling apparel and accessories) and Bagman (luggage for motorcycling).
It was at this time that BELL entered into its first licensing and distribution agreement with a French company for the manufacturing, sales and marketing of BELL motorcycle products in France. The ultimate goal was to expand throughout Europe.
In 1986 BELL relocated its manufacturing facility to Rantoul, Illinois and closed down its manufacturing operation in California completely. A small office was maintained in the old Norwalk, California facility which housed BELL's Research & Development, and Corporate Affairs departments as well as part of the Sales and Marketing staffs.
BELL's auto racing unique helmets line includes many different models, specifically designed for each type of car racing and being at the edge of technology. Since the 1980's, BELL has pioneered an outstanding number of innovations in all areas of modern helmetry: lightweight composite materials shells, ventilation systems, advanced aerodynamic designs, fog free shields, and the list is very long ...
In November 2001, Bell Sports sold the rights to use the Bell name for automobile helmets to two new entities: BELL Racing USA (for North and South America + New Zealand) and BELL Racing Europe (for Europe, Asia and Africa) located near Brussels, Belgium. Both BELL Racing US and BELL Racing Europe operate as two totally independent companies under license from Bell Sports Inc; each having their own Research and Development programs and product line adapted to their individual markets.
In June 2010 Bell Racing Europe acquired Bell Racing USA, reuniting the Auto Racing activity again under common ownership.
BELL now produces automobile racing helmets using the latest, state of the art, equipment and technologies which are available worldwide.
BELL Racing engineers operate a Racing Service and a Research & Development program with the best drivers in Formula One and other top professional drivers, thus ensuring that BELL remains the undisputed world leader in automobile racing helmets.