JLF Designs are celebrating 20 years of helmet paintwork this year and so far our anniversary year is proving to be the busiest one yet with May probably being the busiest month of all. Special one-off designs for Dan Wheldon and EJ Viso for the Indy 500 and a special design for Lewis Hamilton for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix have kept us burning the midnight oil to get everything out on time!
Everyone here at JLF Designs was really happy with the news that long-time JLF driver Dan Wheldon was back racing with a deal for the Indy 500, and as soon as the box of helmets arrived from Bell we set to work on some new designs for Dan. 2 helmets were painted in the team colors for testing and qualifying, and another was painted for the race itself.
The Indy 500 race helmet has mostly white and orange coloring to match the colors of Dan’s car, with a black and gold flake Indy 500 logo and pinstriping detail. Dan wanted a clean, classic design for the centennial race but with the kind of detailed touches that his helmets have become renowned for. Dan’s Indy helmets always feature a themed cartoon on the back and this year the Lionheart Knight is shown driving a version of the car Ray Harroun drove to win the very first Indy 500 race. Everything on the helmet is hand-painted with around 30 hours taken to produce the paint scheme.
Also shown here is an exclusive peek of the helmet 2008 F1 champion Lewis Hamilton will be wearing at this weekends’ Monaco F1 race. Every colour on the helmet has a fine metalflake effect laid over it – even the sponsor logos, and again the paintwork was completely hand-airbrushed before the shell was sent back to Arai in Japan for Lewis’s custom-made internals to be fitted before being sent back to the McLaren F1 team in the UK.
With the Indy and Monaco helmets done and delivered we’ve just about got time to catch our breath and then it’s back to work on new designs. The helmet paintwork order book is full until August and the artwork and prints side of the business (www.artbyjlf.com) has taken off, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed the next 20 years will be just as busy as the last 20!
As we get started on 2011, a lot of things have happened over the last 12 months at JLF Designs. The helmet painting industry has been moving at an amazing pace and lots of new styles have emerged and even though I’ve been painting for 20 years, I have enjoyed my work more than ever thanks to some great projects with drivers such as Lewis Hamilton, Dan Wheldon and E.J. Viso who always brings us designs that are a challenge – and I love a challenge!
Welcome to my first blog post! The past couple of weeks have been pretty hectic with some special designs being produced for some of our drivers. Here are some pictures of Lewis Hamilton’s helmet for the British F1 GP which featured Union Jack flags and a Grenada flag to celebrate his family’s Caribbean heritage.
The iconic Lotus yellow stripes atop the helmet worn by Takuma Sato in the Indianapolis 500 accentuated the side panel images of his No. 5 Lotus-KV Racing Technology car and the ’65 Indy-winning Lotus 38 driven by Jim Clark.
Jason Fowler of England devoted 45 hours to creating the one-off piece with the aid of a computer and steady hand with an air brush. Obviously, as the corresponding video details, there’s a lot more that goes into it.
“I was really pleased with how the helmet looked as it was a challenge fitting the detailed airbrush pictures into such a small area,” Fowler said in a phone interview from his London headquarters. “We were also working against the clock as the helmet was only commissioned a few weeks before the race so there were quite a few late nights worked to make sure it was finished in time.”
“The helmet seemed to work well from both angles; the airbrushed pictures gave it the ‘Wow!’ factor and the classic Lotus stripes were still visible from a distance.”
Fowler, who used to customize his helmets with stickers and paint while racing motorcross in the early ‘80s and paint helmets for friends, left his day job to start his own business customizing helmets. Dan Wheldon, E.J. Viso and Lewis Hamilton are among his longtime clients.
“I had wanted to go to the Indy 500 for many years and finally got to go this year,” he said. “It was the best motor racing experience I have ever had, and I was amazed at the scale of the event. More than anything, I was impressed with the atmosphere and the accessibility of the whole event and the way the fans were encouraged to be integral to the race.”
“I had three drivers wearing our helmets in the race (Wheldon, Viso and Sato) and it was a really proud feeling to be just a small part of such an iconic race. I’m definitely coming back next year.”