Menacing

Looking at this photo of an unidentified racing driver Dan Gurney from 1960, it’s hard to believe that “The Intimidator” was still available when people were deciding on a nickname for Dale Earnhardt after his masterful 1987 season.

Thanks Gary for identifying Dan Gurney for us!

Even better! Captain Ned was curious about this image, so he emailed AAR Racing. Incredibly, he received a reply from Evi Gurney herself. Evi says that Dan was experimenting with face protection well before his contemporaries—which led to the first full face helmet for driving. “During the years that followed he worked with Bell Helmets in California where he helped to develop the first full face helmet. He had seen motorcycle racers wear similar ones at Ascot Raceway in California. Dan wore the first full face helmet at Indianapolis in 1968 and then also introduced it to Formula I racing at the British and German Grand Prix in 1968. He was at first a bit ridiculed but within months other drivers adopted the full face helmet and now we cannot imagine how they ever raced without them.”

Evi’s complete message is in the comments.

thanks, Captain Ned.

14 responses to “Menacing”

  1. Gary Jarlson says:

    The “unidentified” driver is Dan Girney.

  2. Gary Jarlson says:

    Great! I fat-finered that one. Gurney.

  3. Gary Jarlson says:

    I should just back away from the keyboard now.

  4. Heath says:

    Third time’s a charm Gary… well done!

  5. Jeff Downer says:

    Hey! I didn’t know Hannibal Lector drove race cars. I reckon the “Cannibal” would inspire more fear than the “Intimidator”.

  6. Captain Ned says:

    Again with the top half taped off. Maybe someone should ask Gurney why they did that.

    • Mark Briant says:

      Taping the top half of his goggles was simply to reduce glare. And, one of the motorcycle racers he would have seen at Ascot wearing a full-face helmet would have been his protege, Swede Savage.

  7. Captain Ned says:

    For giggles I e-mailed All American Racing and asked just this question.

  8. Captain Ned says:

    To my astonishment, a reply from Evi Gurney:

    Dan experimented with various helmet versions in his early racing days. This photo is probably taken as early as 1958 when he built a leather mask to cover his face. He got repeatedly hit by small stones bouncing off the surface of the track (look how dented the helmet is ! ) and at racing speeds the stones came at you like bullets. One almost took out one of his eyes. Dan wore the mask in some open wheel races in 1962 but never felt quite comfortable and gave up on it. During the years that followed he worked with Bell Helmets in California where he helped to develop the first full face helmet. He had seen motorcycle racers wear similar ones at Ascot Raceway in California. Dan wore the first full face helmet at Indianapolis in 1968 and then also introduced it to Formula I racing at the British and German Grand Prix in 1968. He was at first a bit ridiculed but within months other drivers adopted the full face helmet and now we cannot imagine how they ever raced without them. This first Bell helmet which played such a historic role in automobile racing is exhibited in a glass case at our company in Santa Ana.
    I hope this answers some of your questions.
    Evi (Mrs. Dan) Gurney
    AAR PR department

  9. Captain Ned says:

    Still never got the tape question answered, though. Won’t try for a second miracle. This was my original e-mail:

    Dear Sirs:
    Saw a picture claimed to be Dan here:
    http://thechicaneblog.com/2012/03/09/menacing/
    This blog has posted many other 60’s vintage pictures of racers of the day taping off the top half of their goggles. We’ve had some playful discussions over just why it was done, but I’m going out on a limb and hoping that we can get an answer from an authoritative source. Low probability I know, but nothing ventured nothing gained.
    Thanks in advance,

  10. JJ says:

    Same theory as modern visor strips really?

  11. […] According to Evi Gurney, “Dan experimented with various helmet versions in his early racing days. This photo is probably taken as early as 1958 when he built a leather mask to cover his face,” reports The Chicane. […]

Leave a Reply