This is a vintage Bell Formula 1 helmet that was worn by legendary driver and two-time F1 Drivers’ Championship winner Graham Hill. It’s believed he wore the helmet for several races in the 1970s and it still carries his famous helmet livery.
The helmet itself is a 1970 Bell full face with a matching 1970 Snell safety certification sticker on the inside. Hill would be one of the first drivers to make the switch over from open face to full face helmets, long before it was mandated on safety grounds.
Hill was born in London, he graduated from the Hendon Technical College, then go to work with Smiths Instruments as an apprentice engineer before bering conscripted into the Royal Navy where he served as an Engine Room Artificer (ERA) on the light cruiser HMS Swiftsure.
Funnily enough, he didn’t pass his driving test until he was 24 years old. It would be during an open day at the Brands Hatch circuit when he was able to do a few laps in a Cooper 500 Formula 3 car that the racing bug bit. Before long he was a race mechanic for Lotus, not long after this he talked his way into a driving role.
Hill showed great promise and made his Formula 1 debut at the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix. In an era when multiple drivers were often killed in accidents each season he somehow managed to survive and race from 1958 to 1975.
In all he would tally 179 race entries, 14 wins, two World Drivers’ Championship wins, a win at the 1966 Indianapolis 500, and at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1972. This record made him one of the most successful drivers in history, and to this day he remains the only person to have won the Triple Crown of Motorsport – typically defined as an F1 World Championship win, a win at the Indianapolis 500, and a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The helmet livery used by Hill was borrowed from the London Rowing Club, rowing was one of his other great passions and he’d been a very successful competitive rower earlier in life. The pain scheme consists of a dark blue base with a spiral of white oar-shaped tabs on the top. It became the best-known helmet in Formula 1 during his active years as a driver.
Above Video: This full-length documentary about the life and racing career of Graham Hill its presented by Jeremy Irons, and it includes footage of Hill’s F1 Championship-winning son Damon Hill discussing his Dad.
The helmet you see in this article is one of Hill’s originals from 1970. As mentioned in the introduction it’s believed he wore it for a few races in the 1970s and importantly, it has been retained by the Hill family since it was worn – so there can be no argument about authenticity.
It’s now due to be offered by RM Sotheby’s at their London auction on the 4th of November with a price guide of $24,500 – $36,500 USD and no reserve. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images: Neil Fraser ©2023 Courtesy of RM Sotheby’s
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