Everitt W Vero & Co Ltd was founded in 1878 by Bill Vero's grandfather making pith helmets and 'skidlids' for despatch riders, but it was post 1945 with the increasing demand for motorcycle helmets that saw the company firmly established as a leading helmet manufacturer.
"We made helmets for Les Leston and Herbert Johnson of New Bond Street, and they supplied all the leading drivers, including Stirling Moss."
Bill's father joined the British Standards committee to improve helmet safety, and following the research done by Sir Hugh Cairns (who attended Lawrence of Arabia when he was fatally thrown from his Brough Superior in 1935), started fitting cork lining to helmets as a layer of protection. The Everoak 'Corker' was born.
In the 1950s Everoak introduced a helmet shell made from glassfibre and in 1957 it was one of these that Mike Hawthorn chose (with extra long chin straps to accommodate his lantern jaw), using it in his 1958 Championship winning season. For 1959 a revised design, with added temple protection, based on the lines of USAF fighter pilot lids, was introduced. Vero named it the Racemaster.
In those days, Formula 1 drivers chose their own apparel, and Racemasters quickly became the helmet of choice in top-level racing. Innes Ireland's example was famous for its bold chequered band.
"The order came in from Herbert Johnson, Innes told them exactly what he wanted, so I sat down at my kitchen table and marked it all out, it was a labour of love, it took me all day, but it was terrific to see in photographs."
Racemasters proved enormously successful throughout the 1960s and with the introduction of polystyrene and the development of a full face helmet in the 1970s the family company continued well into the 1990s before Bill moved on to form his own company working with Kevlar and carbonfibre, making carbon-composite riding hats.
Retired since 2012, Bill started making Racemasters again, initially as a hobby. Individually handmade, Bill employs Madge Gage who worked at the Vero factory to produce all the leather parts.
"There's no way these could be worn today for historic racing, they're display pieces, but you could wear one in your Mini-Cooper to go down the pub."
Bill makes every helmet by hand, using tooling from the factory, you can choose your headband diameter within the shell, and of course the design on the shell. To emulate your boyhood hero you can have a Hawthorn, a Brabham or a Moss, what you can be certain of is the exclusivity and quality of a product made by the most experienced helmet maker in the world.
Thanks to Bill Vero and Giles Chapman for the text and photograph
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Bill meets Sir Stirling Moss at the 'Lunch with Legends' event
BETA Lifetime Achievement
We are thrilled to report that Bill has been recognised for his achievements, specifically in the field of safety, particularly for his work in the equestrian sector.
Bill was presented with the BETA Lifetime Achievement Award for his commitment to rider safety as a pioneer of protective headwear. Indirectly, Bill's work in this field has probably saved more lives than any other individual in the equestrian industry. Facebook link