Too much time...and another obsessive idea: USN inspired motorcycle helmet


Well-Known Member
Hi guys,

after having equipped and taped a HGU-26 helmet during lock-down, I came up with the "What if...?" idea of getting a motorcycle helmet and mod it into a USN HGU-55 lookalike helmet.

My wife and kid were away for the last two days. So I started yesterday and came as far as you can see on the photos.

The basic helmet is a Biltwell Bonanza open face helmet in "storm grey". The color was secondary, I just wanted something in a glossy finish: My old Caberg helmet was matte black....and the finish ended just like all these cheap Chinese USB-sticks. The matte finish turned into a gooey, sticky mess.

This was the helmet yesterday at 8pm:


The snaps on this size M are fixed. A size L would have had the snaps bolted-on, which would have made the following tape job sooo much easier!

As the original HGU-55 features nappa leather applications, known as "elephant ears", I wanted to copy them, too.

What a clever idea!
I ran into walls at each and every corner:

- find the correct shape and size
- modify the shape and size to the bike helmet
- get some thin and flexible, but durable nappa leather
- get the leather attached to the helmet



Usually, one would opt for a lighter color or dark grey, but due to the fact that the helmet's interior was black, I chose the black leather.

I have used contact cement for the leather underside, fitted it to the rubber edge of the helmet and fixed everything with plastic wrap from the kitchen drawer....Worked perfectly:


Then came the "fun" part....and some lessons learned...

The standard one inch wide reflective tape works just fine for proper Gentex HGU helmet shells. The Biltwell bike helmet on the other hand has a completely different handling due to the curvature.

The attached "elephant ears" didn't help much either.

Nevertheless, I started with splitting the helmet into "halfs". Find the mistake here:


As I tried to avoid the front snaps and the leather, I started with an arrow-shape. WRONG! When taping a helmet with elephant ears, make a perfect cross...from front left edge to back right nape area, and vice versa....

I did not follow this advice, covered the helmet "somehow", and went to bed at 3am.

Today, I was so unhappy with the results that I stripped the complete front area again, and re-taped it from left to right.


Much better!


I am quite happy with the result:



Nobody would mistake the helmet for a proper HGU, but with some velcro and squadron markings...?

I am thinking VF-31 or VF-103...

At least it's a one-of-a-kind motorcycle helmet.



Well-Known Member
What are the leather area for ?

No doubt it will be a nice helmet with decoration.
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Greg Gale

Well-Known Member
Awesome, I always wanted to do something like this in Bali with my helmet. What tape did you use?


Well-Known Member

This helmet is covered with Oralite 5600E reflective tape in white. You need roughly 6-8 strips of 2.5 cm width and 100 cm length. Costs you maybe 20 Euros... It's professional stuff, can be bought in various colors.

I will add some squadron markings for VF-111, soon.

My original HGU-26 was finished with 3M series 680 tape. It's an American product and used for original Navy helmets. Hard to get in Europe, but available from an Ebay shop from Manchester.

The 3M tape is slightly tougher to apply (bubbles) but it sticks better than the Oralite...


Greg Gale

Well-Known Member
Awesome. Now I have to find some. How do you apply the squad markings? Will you have some stickers made?


Well-Known Member
Awesome. Now I have to find some. How do you apply the squad markings? Will you have some stickers made?

if you are looking for the squadron markings, these are the guys to go to:

They have an Ebay shop for "raw materials" (3M Scotchlite Series 680 reflective tape in 1 and 2 inches width - Pricy!!) and some ready-made sticker sets. If you contact them off-Ebay, they will most likely give you a better price.

You might think that their sticker sets are kind of expensive, but they are not. Just imagine how many different sheets and colours you might need to replicate them....most sellers will only sell you sheets by m².

Most of Cockpit Cowboy's stickers are multi-layered...plenty of room to screw-up your work with bubbles and loose ends, if not done properly.

As they say: This is "real Top Gun" stuff...sea water and oil proof, with an average life-span of 8 years.

My 3M tape came from here:
Very helpful guys, the make sure that the tape leaves their shop on the same day you bought it. So that would be my first address to get the material for basic tape job!

Best regards,


Greg Gale

Well-Known Member
Damn it's pricey...problem is: I'd put it on a cheap helmet in Bali, that may be stolen any day :/


Well-Known Member
Damn it's pricey...problem is: I'd put it on a cheap helmet in Bali, that may be stolen any day :/
With a cool design it might get stolen any minute... ;-)

If you can live with less than the "Top Gun" stuff, take the Orafol stuff. That's the one I have used for this helmet here as well. The cheapest I can find is this:

If you cut it by yourself, you will have 12 strips of one inch width. Definitely enough for a helmet.



Well-Known Member
Update and probably final stage:





The VF-111 Sundowners design was made with Oralite 5600 reflective tape from a local sign / advertising company ... 10 Euros went into the tip box.

So, @Greg Gale , there IS a cheaper possibility than Cockpit Cowboys...