A comment to yesterday's article about the M16 rifle reminded me of a funny - but true - story from the 1970's in South Africa. I was told this by a friend who was an engineer at BMW South Africa.
BMW was about to introduce its new 7 Series luxury cars. South Africa was to assemble them for the right-hand-drive market. As part of pre-production testing, and to allow local engineers to plan ahead, two of the new 7 Series prototypes were sent to South Africa to be wrung out on local roads.
In due course a detailed report was sent back to Germany, giving local impressions of the car. Most were very favorable, except for one comment that the dust-proofing needed improvement.
A rather stiff query came back from Germany, asking what on earth the South African engineers meant. After all, the pre-production prototypes had been tested on almost every continent, and nobody else had complained about their dust-proofing.
Samples of dust from South African dirt roads (in Natal province, IIRC) were duly gathered, and sent back to Germany to illustrate the point.
A few days later, a telex was received in the engineering department of BMW South Africa - one that was duly framed and hung on the wall of the design room. In it, the engineers at BMW Germany stiffly informed their local colleagues:
DUST THIS FINE DOES NOT OCCUR IN NATURE!
They were convinced their South African counterparts were trying to pull a fast one on them.
BMW South Africa stuck to its guns. In due course, a couple of disbelieving emissaries from Germany came out to investigate, and were shown the exact locations where the dust samples had been collected. They took their own samples, still disbelieving, and carried them back to Germany for analysis.
In due course, reluctantly, Germany conceded the point; and the dust-proofing on the new 7 Series was duly improved before production commenced.