Top Gear safety item – photos from Andy Woodhouse

The photos are from a Top Gear shoot about potential damage to a person’s head if involved in a high speed accident when not wearing a seat belt. The melon seen on some of the pictures was, medical specialists said, a good representation of the human skull. This segment used a high-speed film camera, with the principal photographer being John Williams, and Nigel Davey operating the camera. The item was recorded in the grounds of Pebble Mill.

Photos by Andy Woodhouse, no reproduction without permission.

Picture shows a rehearsal for capturing the moving head/melon. John Williams is second from left, Nigel Davey on camera.

Picture shows the fall of the melon from a two storey roof being recorded. Note the use of the coat to ensure the same melon could be used throughout until allowed to hit the ground.

Picture shows a discussion about the shoot process. John Williams is second from left, Keith Ackrill is fourth from left

Picture illustrates the impact of the melon on a hard object!

Wrong Car, Right Car

Copyright resides with the original holder, no reproduction without permission











This screen grab is from the series, Wrong Car, Right Car, which was transmitted in 2002-3. Here is the entry from the Radio Times, courtesy of the BBC Genome project:

“A six-part guide to buying the right car, presented by Top Gear’s Jason Barlow and used-car merchant Dominic Littlewood.
In the first programme the duo advise a man on finding the perfect replacement for his ageing sports car.
Director Nicola Silk ; Series producer Abigail Harvey”

Oliver Clark was the assistant producer and Russell Peers was the researcher.

Thanks to Ian Collins for making the screen grab available.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Paul Vanezis: ‘I believe it was originally called ‘Carjacked’. But then several more sensible people pointed out the folly of such a name, especially after a very recent and fatal carjacking.’

Nicola Silk: ‘yes originally the misjudged, but snappier Carjack as Paul says. Dominic Littlewood’s big break alongside Jason Barlow (Top Gear) Involved secret filming, earpieces and lots of chat about buying cars. Think there were two series? I directed on the first.’

Oliver Clark: ‘I went to meet Dom on his car lot in Essex to persuade him to shoot a taster with us for the series – he regaled me with all sorts of dodgy dealing in the car industry. In addition to me, the other AP was a guy called Steve. We both were sent on advanced driving courses by the Beeb. Subsequently I wrote off an Impreza (ended up backwards in a hedge driving it to location (sorry Nicola) but more spectacularly Steve drove a Lambo of some type out of a carpark and straight into the central barrier of Park Lane – caused at 3 hour traffic jam. Made the national news.’

Fiona Stennett: ‘Thats was a brill little programme. A resultant phase of car purchases asking for a full tank of fuel and mats and flaps thrown in to seal the deal.’

Fifth Gear

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This photo shows Vicki Butler-Henderson presenting on Fifth Gear. Female racing driver, Vicki, was a presenter on Top Gear, until the show was cancelled by the BBC in its original form in 2001, when she, Tiff Needell and Quentin Wilson went on to present Fifth Gear for Channel 5 in 2001. The series was made by ex-BBC Birmingham staff, and hired some of the facilities, such as post production.

Thanks to Ian Collins for making this screen grab available.

The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook Page:

Jonathan Relf: ‘Did a Motor Show shoot with Vicki, assisting the camera crew. The press day and the first day of opening.
Also remember the opening shot of one series at Goodwood racing circuit where they attempted to get one of every car available on the UK forecourts but can’t remember if she was there for that. Top Gear was fun to work on as a change from the studio stuff.’

Darren Cox: ‘I wasn’t BBC staff and I think I shot that actual item. It’s at Brands and Tiff was driving. To be fair I was a BBC contractor for a while.’

Murray Clarke: ‘Vicki B-H was an excellent presenter on Top Gear. Great to work with. She was bit of a ‘lad’, but at the same time, managed to be very feminine!’





The day the Pebble Mill studio opened

This link is to a clip from Nationwide on 15th June 1971. Midlands Today presenter, Tom Coyne gives a guided tour of the brand new Pebble Mill studios. Included in the tour are Studio B, the home of Midlands Today; Studio A, where many dramas were produced; and the Radio studios, home to The Archers, we also see Radio WM in action. There is no mention of Pebble Mill at One, because the programme had not yet been planned.

Thanks to Malcolm Hickman for sharing the link.

Still from Tom Coyne’s piece on Nationwide. Copyright BBC.











The following comments were left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Keith Warrender:’The EMI cameras were still going in 1983 when they were replaced with Link 125s. Link are long gone but the old factory is still standing unused in Andover.’

Sue Astle: ‘Such an amazing exciting time for us then, we were privileged to have worked there. Susie Bancroft. Ex make up’

Sarah Tongue: ‘My mom ran the Library!’

Helen Smith: ‘Loved watching that, my Dad was the cameraman at the beginning of the clip.’

Michael Fisher: ‘Radio Birmingham as it was at the start!’

Andy Marriott: ‘What was the little mini cart system they were using for spot effects, called?’

Malcolm Hickman: ‘It was a device called a P.E.G. Programme effects generator. They used a spool of tape in a case with a metal loop fitted at one end. When you inserted the cartridge, the machine grabbed the tab and cued the effect. It had loads of slots so a sequence of effects could be built up. A BBC designs department product, IIRC.’

Sue Welch: ‘Actually remember Tom Coyne from Tyne Tees Television. A very long time ago.’

Malcolm Adcock: ‘Happy memories, joined Top Gear in 1988 and our production office was later in the old Pebble Mill at One studio area.’




Top Gear team – late 1980s

Photograph from Tom Ross, no reproduction without permission.


The Top Gear team proudly showing off their new electronic camera kit – complete with Top Gear sticker, late 1980s. Included are Dave Wilkins, cameraman; Tom Ross, producer/director; and it looks like Dave Baumber on sound.

The following comment was left on the Pebble Mill Facebook page:

Andy Frizzell: ‘I think that may have been the Top Gear Special in Spain, Hispano Suiza Rally. Could have been me taking the picture.’