BBC Show How Gets Into Gear With Pilkington

26 July 2007
Pilkington Planar™ has been heralded by the BBC as one of the most important innovations of the last 100 years in a new television programme. “James May’s 20th Century” hit our screens in July on BBC2 and puts to the test some of the biggest developments in industry over the years. In one episode, Top Gear presenter, James, travels to the Pilkington research and development centre in Lathom to discover just how far glazing technology has progressed. For the show’s car mad presenter, there was only one way to test the strength of the glass; to drop one of the most iconic cars of the 20th century, a Mini, on to it.
James Mays 20th Century Mini Drop Test

Tim Morgan, Technical Manager, Pilkington, was involved with the production of the show, he explains: “The episode demonstrated how the strength and flexibility of glass has developed over the past 100 years by the use of ever improving toughening and laminating technologies. At Pilkington we are now making glass designed to withstand earthquakes, hurricanes and fire as well as man-made hazards such as bombs. Such levels of extreme performance would have been considered virtually impossible at the beginning of the 20th century.”

“As far as the car drop test was concerned, after calculating the kerb weight and the height from which it was going to be dropped, we were confident that a sheet of 2m x 3.6m Pilkington Planar™ laminate would easily take the strain. The glass laminate consisted of two layers of 10mm Pilkington Optiwhite™ with a Sentry Glas Plus® interlayer.”

Before the 15 year old, 640kg Mini was dropped, the glazing underwent some vigourous and unusual methods of testing. Tim continues: “One of our development engineers hit the glass with a hammer, and then we asked James May to attack it with a mallet and a 2lb steel engineering hammer - there wasn’t a scratch. Then James decided to jump on it, he invited about ten other people to join him, and still the glass stood firm.

“For the Mini drop, the car was first hoisted to a height of three feet, from which it was dropped, and the glass remained unscathed. For the second drop from five feet, James bet our team £5 that the glass would break. When the Mini came down, the glass was completely fine and James had to pay up. We have since decided to laminate our winnings between two pieces of glass and send it back to James to remind him of the smashing time he had. The programme illustrates that Pilkington is at the forefront of glazing technology and innovation. The glass was not specially formulated for the programme, it can be specified and bought by anyone who chooses it.”

For more information visit the Pilkington website at www.pilkington.com/planar