Monday, May 18, 2009
Jim Deist 1928-2009
Well we've lost yet another one of our original hot rod pioneers with the passing of Jim Deist on March 9th of this year. Jim was 80 years of age.
For anyone who follows auto racing, especially drag and land speed events, the name Deist is one of those industry standards that you end up taking for granted. But the truth is, it took the vision of this one southern California hot rodder to develop the first commercially available parachutes for use in drag racing when he founded Deist Safety in 1958. And thanks to Jim Deist's vision, countless lives have been saved in racing since he started his company through the use of both his parachutes and his other lines of driver safety products.
Jim learned his trade while working for Irving Air Chute during the late 1940s and soon took the concept of air-foil deceleration and combined it with his passion for drag racing. Thanks to the support and encouragement from friend and racing pioneer Mickey Thompson, Deist was able to expand his product line during the early 1960s to include the harness style race belts and fire suits that can be seen in use across the entire range of motorsport still to this day.
Although Jim Deist was honored with many industry awards throughout his successful career, I think it can be safely said that his greatest pleasure must have come from the countless lives that his products saved through the years and will continue to save long after his passing.
Another example of a person from our greatest generation who spent his life developing better and safer ways of doing things and, in turn, shaped and effected our existence for the better... and in ways we could never quantify.