Lord Vader, your helmet is ready. No, wait, you already have one…

In 1979, the original Battlestar Galactica was on TV and George Lucas was about to show us all how much striking back the Empire could do. Simpson Race Products, of drag parachute and nomex suit fame, capitalized on the fashion and introduced the RX-1, which everybody pretty much went ga-ga over. At the 1979 Indy 500, 70% of the starting drivers wore the RX-1. Now, to be fair the new helmet was a functional step ahead of the ubiquitous Bell Star of the day. It had vents for better air flow through the chinbar, and a raised notch in the eye port, which helped prevent broken noses when the helmet shifted during extreme impact. But what really made the helmet was the looks.
Faceless, expressionless Cylon Centurian/Storm-trooper/Darth Vader-ish faces were all the rage, and soon the RX-1, and its motorcycle version, the RXM-1, were everywhere. For about 18 months, every minion, drone, hired assassin, cyber-zombie and alien on network TV was just a RXM-1 and a spandex suit away from camera-readiness. In 1983, Lou Reed, who at the time was still more cutting-edge cool than rock heritage cool, featured an RXM-1 on front of his latest album. Or should I say, as the front — it takes up nearly the whole album cover.
The RXM-1 was soon renamed the Simpson Model 30. Several other less extreme helmets joined the Simpson lineup, but “the Darth Vader helmet” remained the runaway favorite.
The RXM-1/Model 30’s popularity among motorcyclists was in spite of a whopping $200 price tag. That might not seem like much today, but as the ’80s dawned, it was the most expensive helmet on the market. I was taken in by the alure of becoming a faceless, technoid Mr. Roboto on my CL125S, and I plunked down my hard-earned Dairy-Queen paycheck for a silver RXM-1.
The Model 30/RXM-1 had some limitations. Like many helmets of the era, the shield didn’t ratchet, but stayed open by friction (hopefully) when stopped, and would open and/or shut on its own when you turned your head underway, unless you snapped the two securing snaps on either side of the shield. That wasn’t as bad as you might think, because so much air came through the slotted vents and between the not-too-well-matched edges of the shield and eyeport that you were still getting enough fresh, cooling air. The problem was that it came in LOUDLY. Earplugs were the mandatory cost you paid for the Darth look.
The original model was replaced by the Model 32, which lost the center nose notch in the shield in favor of a straight-across eye port and had a smoothed profile around the lower helmet edge. While many erroneously refer to all Darth-y Simpson models as “Bandits,” that moniker didn’t show up until the slightly boring Model 32 was replaced with a third generation model which regained the nose-notch, but dropped the majority of vents. Production of this new Bandit model was infamously farmed out by Simpson to the less-than-respected Helmtech Industries, a bargain-basement Canadian company that licensed the Simpson design and name. By that time, too many other helmets were functionally superior to the Bandit for its looks to matter much, and the look had been around long enough to get stale, anyway.

Today, you can still buy a Simpson Bandit, although the motorcycle version is pretty tough to find. While modern Bandits still have a vestigal version of the pentagonal pig-nose, the rest of original’s wild appearance — its zillions of slots and dramatically notched collarbone cutouts — are gone for good.

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  1. Shaun willson Avatar
    Shaun willson

    I have a mint RX! simpson [ Black ] , A simpson super bandit [ alien Air brushed ] and a simpson bandit- [Grim Reaper – Air bruhed].
    I have just managed to get a brand new black visor for the rx1 which i got the other year new in the box for £ 70.00 .
    My old simpson monza sold for £180 after i had used it daily for over 16 years … NOw thats value hahahhaha.
    Lastinlive [ you tube ] , and bloodrunnerjacko on photobucket.