The Fastest Filter in the West (Country)

July 19, 2022

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Is it a bird, is it a plane… no, it’s a Pall filter hurtling through the hilly high street of Bideford! Please, let me elaborate... For the second year running the town of Bideford, North Devon (UK) hosted a Soapbox Derby challenge. The Soapbox Derby involves competitors getting super creative and designing gravity assisted vehicles, with three wheels or more and weighing less than 105 kg, to career down a dastardly course. The simple rule is that they have to get to the bottom as fast as they can, meandering around the route and trying to avoid crashing into hay bales.


As bonkers as it seems, it is all for a very worthy cause. Funds raised are donated to the charity ChemoHero, who support people suffering from cancer going through chemotherapy for the first time. The charity sends patients thoughtfully assembled boxes full of helpful products.


A team of employees from the Product Engineering department of our Pall Ilfracombe facility, competed in this year’s annual Soapbox Derby, and of course designed their vehicle in the shape of, you guessed it, a Pall filter.


The team started their preparations in January and worked evenings and weekends to complete their masterpiece. From the initial design and planning stage, the team got to work using their technical skills to bring their vehicle to life. They created a 3D model from their original plan, improvising and adapting the build as they worked with whatever recycled materials they could lay their hands on: old bike wheels, wood, cardboard, steel, excess filter membranes, and an abnormally large amount of zip ties! Re-used lengths of stainless steel were TIG welded together to form the base chassis. The required steerer rods and pivot points were then welded to bike forks. The shape of the filter and the bomb fin was made in a modular fashion from cardboard and Correx, which was destined for recycling. With creativity and perseverance our team created a fully functioning motorless vehicle with the help of a range of skilled people from across the manufacturing plant.


Competition day came on July 19th and although nerves were high (but settled slightly with bacon sandwiches), our team set out ready to take on the slalom. The course had been modified from last year to include a new jump called the ‘Bone Shaker’. But our team were prepared, especially as the car park at Pall Ilfracombe proved great for practice runs, with bumps included.


The challengers get to do two runs of the course if their vehicle can survive long enough! On the first run, our designated drivers, Jack Altham and Dan Hunter, made it to the very last corner, but the front wheel was damaged on the landing of the last jump. So, the team gallantly pushed the soapbox over the line to finish the run. The team then made some minor repairs ready for the second run, which turned out even more eventful. The vehicle crashed on the first corner of the course as part of the steering system broke free. Instead of turning, they drove straight into the hay bale corner at 20 mph. No one was injured but the cameras on their helmets had seen better days! No win this year for Pall Ilfracombe, but they did raise £748, which is a great accomplishment in itself.


This event has caused quite the buzz at the site and sparked interest and curiosity, bringing people who don’t usually cross paths, together. Further plans to compete next year are already brewing, with ideas for improvement, inventive creativity, and far better suspension!


So well done to Jack Altham, Dan Hunter, Elsie Kirby, Jamie Bright, Shahzeb Ali, Cai Clarke and Joe Hanlon-Penny. We look forward to seeing you compete in next year’s event.


The team’s JustGiving page remains open, so let’s join them in supporting ChemoHero and push the money raised beyond £1000.



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