James Mays 20th Century Mini Drop

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” a new scientific programme hosted by James May, hit the screen for the first time 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 NSG Group 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.

Tim Morgan, Technical Manager, Pilkington Architectural, 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 Architectural 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 2 m x 3.6 m Pilkington Planar™ laminate would easily take the strain. The glass laminate consisted of two layers of 10 mm Pilkington Optiwhite™ with a Sentry Glas® interlayer.”

Before the 15 year old, 640 kg Mini was dropped, the glazing underwent some vigorous 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 2 lb 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. The glass still remained totally undamaged after the second drop from five feet.

“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.”

Click here to view the Mini Drop Test featured in the BBC programme "James May's 20th Century ".