After he broke both his arms in a drag racing crash at the San Fernando Dragway, when he was 18, Californian Bill Simpson started thinking about safety "This time, I was hurt bad enough to do a lot of thinking".
Bill's uncle owned a military surplus store and so he started to experiment with using the idea of using a parachute to slow down the car.
He attached his first prototype to the tow bar of a Chevy and he and his best friend, Mike Sorokin, drove down the street at 100mph.
The idea was a success even though the experiment wasn't; the parachute was too big, the car went airborne, crash landed in a tree nursery and not surprisingly the two intrepid inventors were jailed.
Simpson Drag Chutes introduced the first drag racing parachute in 1959.
Simpson continued to be at the forefront of developing safety equipment for racing drivers and in 1967 having been introduced by Astronaut Pete Conrad to DuPont's Nomex flame-resistant material they produced the first racing drivers fire suit.
In 1979 Simpson launched their first helmets; the RX-1 for automotive racing and the RXM-1 for motorcyclists, nicknamed the Star Wars helmet, these were renamed the Model 30 and with a few modifications are still in production today as the M30 Bandit.
Simpson have introduced many new styles of helmets over the years and in 2005 launched the Diamondback which was made famous as the Stig's helmet in the BBC's Top Gear.
Today Simpson Performance Products is headquartered in New Braunfels, Texas with a specific division designed to meet the demand for Simpson motorcycle helmets.
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