Tax disc abolition opens door to history of the windscreen

On 1st October almost 100 years of UK motoring history came to an end with the abolition of the paper road tax disc, changing the face of windscreens forever.

Leading windscreen repair and replacement specialist, National Windscreens, has marked this change by taking a look at the evolution of the windscreen to document how glazing technology has developed since the tax disc was first introduced in 1921.

National Windscreens’ Commercial Director, Pete Marsden, comments, “As motorists in the 21st century, we tend to take it for granted that the windscreen in our vehicle is constructed to offer maximum vision whilst minimising injury in the event of an accident. It's interestingto look back at just how much automotive glass has changed over the past 100 years or so."

Early 1900s

Car windscreens were initially introduced in the early 1900s, however at this time they were manufactured from plate glass that shattered on impact resulting in severe injuries when collisions occurred.

This matter was first addressed in 1905 with an invention by British man, John C Wood. Laminated glass, made by sandwiching a layer of celluloid between two glass sheets to prevent easy breakage, was specifically developed to reduce the number of fatalities caused by broken glass.

The first operational windscreen wipers were invented by Mary Anderson in 1903 and patented in the US, whilst an Irish man by the name of James Henry Apjohn patented a similar design in the UK in the same year.


The invention of laminated glass, widely known as ‘Triplex’, formed the foundations of the Triplex Glass Company founded in 1923 and now wholly owned by Pilkington.

1930s & 40s

During the 1930s, manufacturers continued to improve the safety of the windscreen and started to develop tempered glass which involved the use of a special heat treatment to make the glass harder, stronger and shatter resistant.
However it wasn’t long until multi-layered laminated glass was invented, offering the strength of tempered glass, with the ability to bend slightly on impact. The curved windscreen was introduced in 1947, leading to the first wraparound, panoramic windscreen designed to reduce blind spots.

1950s & 60s

By 1957 most cars had curved windscreens and in 1959 glass production became significantly cheaper due to Pilkington’s development of the float process, which significantly improved both the quality and clarity of the glass.
Automotive safety became more high profile during the 1960s, and as a result cars were equipped with more sophisticated laminated windscreens that could withstand nearly three times the impact of earlier versions.

1970s & 80s

In recent years, manufacturers have advanced windscreens even further with a host of new technologies including a range of sensors, UV filters and acoustic interlayers.

Pete continues, “We are currently witnessing significant changes in relation both to technologies contained within the glass, as well as safety initiatives directly mounted onto vehicle glazing. From autonomous emergency braking sensors, to the impending introduction of driverless cars – the latest innovations will see windscreens change a lot more.

“No doubt in another 100 years, the windscreens we use today will have changed beyond all recognition!”

The rise of repairs and replacements

As the volume of cars on the road continued to increase, so did the need for quality automotive glazing repairs and replacements which resulted in the introduction of resin based repair products and dedicated service companies.

National Windscreens was formed in 1982 by a number of independent businesses recognising the opportunity to join together to capitalise on economies of scale. Regional Directors David Quarterman, David Pugh and George Douglas, and Board Director, Keith Huggins have more than 100 years’ combined experience in the automotive glazing industry.

The company now operates the largest fitting centre network in its field, boasting 108 centres and over 800 mobile glazing technicians that service the whole of the UK.

Pete comments, “Arguably, National Windscreens is not only the largest independently owned windscreen repair and replacement specialist in the UK, but also the most experienced. We are very proud of our heritage and the expertise that helped to shape National Windscreens into the successful organisation it is today.”

Safety improvements and ongoing training

Improving safety standards which saw the introduction of compulsory front seatbelts in 1983, also led to significant changes to windscreens with laminate glass being used far more frequently. This led to the introduction of ‘direct glazing’ – a method of fitting the windscreen into the vehicle by chemically bonding it into the prepared space using special sealant.

Direct glazing replaced the previous method of fixing the glass to the car using a rubber strip, and resulted in a far stronger and weather proof finish. Glazing technology has developed to such an extent in recent years that the glass can now be responsible for as much as 30% of the structural integrity of the vehicle.

“Major car manufacturers are constantly developing the technology contained in their products, as well as the volumes of glass used in new vehicles. We encourage all of our vehicle glazing technicians to undertake ongoing training to ensure they are aware of any changes to the replacement glazing products we use and any potential implications this may have on replacements or repairs.

“The entrepreneurial spirit that the founding companies of National Windscreens were built on is as important today as it was back in the early 1900s, and we are looking forward to the next chapter in the evolution of the windscreen.” concludes Pete.  

Details of Pilkington’s extensive history can be found by visiting and a History of Windscreen Development infographic can be downloaded here:

National Windscreens 2014 windscreen timeline.pdf (120.91 kb)

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