When Porsche designed a motorcycle helmet

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While I was at Garage Company on Saturday for the Born Free Bike Night, I was captivated by one of the helmets in Yoshi’s huge display wall. This Porsche Design motorcycle helmet — clearly influenced by that of an astronaut — was designed by Ferdinand Porsche and actually went into limited production in the late ‘70s.

Porsche Design isn’t Porsche. Instead it’s a separate design consultancy that was founded by Ferdinand, designer of the original 911 and grandson of the car company’s founder. It looks like he actually penned this helmet himself.

Yoshi’s helmet.

Of this “CP 4” Porsche design says, “the integrated visor performs a unique function: unlike other helmets, it ensures safe riding even when partly or fully raised. The frontal outer shell protects the raised visor from damage and creates a distinctive two-tone look.”

So that astronaut’s helmet look isn’t just an affectation, it’s there to encapsulate the visor when open. What’s not clear is how doing so “ensures safe riding.” The only thing that comes to mind is the potential for added visor retention. Was that a problem in 1976, the year the helmet was designed?

Porsche says it designed the helmet for Kiwi, but it ended up being produced by tiny German label Romer. As you can see in this ad, which ran in a 1981 edition of American Motorcyclist, the Porsche Design helmet was sold in America, where it was DOT approved. Selling points appear to have been the Porsche name and integrated ventilation which employed the low pressure area behind the helmet to pull air through, similar to the way virtually every helmet ventilation system works today.

Long past their sell-by dates, these helmets apparently enjoy some limited collectibility. They occasionally pop up on eBay for anything from $75 to $200.

  • Myles

    How unsafe would these be to wear? Scale of 1-10, with 10 being a current snell full face, 0 being no helmet, and 1 being this:

    http://t1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSZRGjCsLalImTb1aWQol2ALwpAOhK-ETvgapMOFujmGlqO9vHdMQ

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      1.001

      • RocketSled

        This sounds like a good idea for an article. Skidlid vs. Auto Helmet vs. Modular vs. Kilobuck helmet

  • Archer

    Was the shroud removable for cleaning? How much clearance between visor and shroud?

    Looks like a great opportunity to get bug crust/sand/pebbles smeared/scratching across the visor. A couple of the used helmet photos show evidence of exactly that.

    • Jens

      You nail, that was the problem of the concept. Special with that non scratch rsistant materials of that time…

  • http://www.thisblueheaven.com Mark D

    I’m trying to think of a bike this would look cool with. Maybe this Kawasaki?

  • http://www.muthalovin.com the_doctor

    Dude, I really like the green and orange. In a way, it reminds me of Pac-Man.

  • http://theprojectbeta.com/ Anders

    Would look perfect with a silver R100RS

    • eric

      OH JA!

    • Thom

      ….. or a BMW K1

  • http://www.tripleclamp.net Sasha Pave

    Back when I worked at a m/c shop in high school (Racecrafters), there were a bunch of these in stock. Even in 1986 you couldn’t give these things away.

    Very Kubrick, 2001.

  • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

    That is the only dome shaped visor I’ve ever seen. Every other visor still has single axis curvature. I wonder what affect it had on optics. It may also have the most thickly padded forehead of all time. I’d love one with a white shell and a black chrome outer shell with matching visor. I’d throw on my white leathers, get a white backpack, and walk on tip toes all day.

    • HammSammich

      Have you never seen a bubble visor? :) The glittery 3/4 helmet circa 1974, that I used on my Honda Scooter in High School had a massive, snap-on fishbowl bubble visor that was actually pretty clear optically, except towards the periphery. Another example of the shape you describe would probably include the visors on the Roof Boxer V8…

      • http://www.cdavisdesigns.com Chris Davis

        Man, I didn’t even consider those things. Good reference to the Roof though.

  • John

    Ventilation system doesn’t look like it makes any sense on these things. Seems to only wind through the outer perimeter of the visor and shell. Am I missing something here?

  • Roemer

    I had one of these when they were new to the market and nad no ventilation system.

    Trapping dirt between the visor and its shroud was never a problem and neither as optical distortion.

    It gave safer riding than a conventional helmet because a partly or fully opened visor didn’t have any adverse aerodynamic effects buffeting your head around as was the case with everything else.

    This helmet was just about perfect if you preferred a modern look.

    It included a seat belt-type lock at a time when double D-rings were the standard, it had very good sound proofing because it had a thin layer of very soft inner padding and a corduroy lining, it included two flaps attached to the lower rim of the helmet that were positioned around your neck and closed using velcro. This effectively sealed the underside of the helmet and enormously reduced the amount of noise during high speed drives.

    They were terribly expensive and therefore never sold well.

    I had the advantage of living in the town where Römer-Britax made these helmets and their employees could get very interesting special prices, so there were quite a lot of these to be seen on the roads of that particular town.

  • geff

    can we find replacement visor for them today?
    i have one here and love it,light,no hot like tody helmet
    thanks

  • Terry Grant

    I had one of these in 1982, white and red. The visor slid up into the helmet. I had a white with red accent Yamaha Seca 650. Nobody could tell me I wasn’t cool. LOL

  • Walter Groschopp

    my red and siver one is with me in Thailand for the last 25 years, and nearly every day on the road,,,,,,,,,perfect.