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slefain
slefain SuperDork
7/26/12 8:23 a.m.

I used to work in the product side of the automotive industry. Luckily I have escaped, but my friends are in awe every time I start to tell them stories. My friends in the industry have their own stories, so I thought maybe some of you people do as well. So here are some of my stories:

Our supplier for early Mustang arm rest pads started cheapening out on us. What started as a molded pad with a stamped steel core devolved into a metal bar core with two nuts welded on it, and finally just no metal core and two hex nuts molded into the rubber.

Our supplier for Jeep front brake lines decided to make the lines out of copper pipe. Sent over a whole crate full of them, beautifully flared with the right flare nuts, but totally useless.

I got in an order of early Mustang control arm shafts that were ribbed instead of threaded. The manufacturer didn't even care why I refused them, just if I wanted to order again.

Front fenders stamped from sheet metal so thin and shallow you could pick them up and go "wubba wubba wubba" with them. We labeled those as "economy" and sold them anyway.

Another arm rest pad story. We busted our supplier sending us "premium restoration quality" and "value quality" parts that were the same item. Different box, different part number, exact same product.

Mustang restoration parts stamped "MoFoCo" were fun. Ford wasn't amused either.

GTO quarter panel skins that were stamped wrong, but we couldn't afford to have the tooling remade, so we sold them with a disclaimer that you had to hack it apart to make it look right.

Replacement parking, turn signal, marker and tail light lenses all stamped "For Off Road Use Only" to get around being certified by the DOT.

I'll think of more I'm sure, but if anyone else has stories (doesn't have to be automotive) I'd love to hear them.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH PowerDork
7/26/12 8:31 a.m.
slefain wrote: Front fenders stamped from sheet metal so thin and shallow you could pick them up and go "wubba wubba wubba" with them. We labeled those as "economy" and sold them anyway.

Should have sold them as lightweight performance panels and marked them up

Not physical product related but I once received a website with a custom CMS that would place SQLdumps in a publicly accessible directory

slefain
slefain SuperDork
7/26/12 8:34 a.m.
GameboyRMH wrote:
slefain wrote: Front fenders stamped from sheet metal so thin and shallow you could pick them up and go "wubba wubba wubba" with them. We labeled those as "economy" and sold them anyway.
Should have sold them as lightweight performance panels and marked them up

Actually, the Jeep fender flares we got that were made from the wrong plastic, and thus very flexible, I marketed at "trail resistant" and less prone to cracking like the stock units. Lemons = lemonade.

GameboyRMH wrote: Not physical product related but I once received a website with a custom CMS that would place SQLdumps in a publicly accessible directory

You worked at LinkedIn?

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH PowerDork
7/26/12 8:37 a.m.

Hahaha no. Luckily I caught it the first time the SQLdump was used and deleted it right away.

alfadriver
alfadriver PowerDork
7/26/12 8:42 a.m.

In reply to slefain:

That's why it's called development.

Farther up stream, we call it research, where failure is a lot more common.

slefain
slefain SuperDork
7/26/12 9:45 a.m.
alfadriver wrote: In reply to slefain: That's why it's called development. Farther up stream, we call it research, where failure is a lot more common.

So gimme some good research failure stories.

DustoffDave
DustoffDave HalfDork
7/26/12 12:36 p.m.

"MoFoCo" ... classic!

alfadriver
alfadriver PowerDork
7/26/12 12:43 p.m.
slefain wrote:
alfadriver wrote: In reply to slefain: That's why it's called development. Farther up stream, we call it research, where failure is a lot more common.
So gimme some good research failure stories.

LOL- that ain't gunna happen.

The only 'failure' story I like to tell- I worked on the Indigo Show car a long time ago (it was introduced at the '96 NAIAS) for the V12. So one summer afternoon, I was allowed to drive the one driving car (there are 2)- got probably 15-20 min on the handling course, good time.

Come in, and my chief was there wanting to drive it. He gets in, pushes the "start" button, and the whole thing locks up.

While we try, and try, and try, the dead batteries just won't let anyone do anything- and it's not for a while that we take it apart enough so that it can go again. But the chief never drove the car, AFAIK. I did, a few times.

fun.

(on a related project, I drove the first ever V12 Aston Martin- IIRC, I was the second person ever to do that)

slefain
slefain SuperDork
7/26/12 2:09 p.m.

Alright, a few more stories:

We sent a name brand diff shield overseas as a sample to make our own piece. Pretty much told the manufacturer to use the same measurements, just make it generic. We get back three crates of diff covers that were perfectly made, right down to the name brand logo.

Had to buy a Rockwell meter to test hardware packaged in some of our suspension kits. Just because it is stamped Grade-8 doesn't always mean it really is sometimes.

It wasn't uncommon for "rare" parts to come from the local dealership. We regularly got shipments in of various hardware for classic cars that were readily available at the parts counter for a fraction of the price.

Our carpet underlay was hand cut by a drunk guy who worked under the warehouse stairs.

Quite often a new product release had to go out for a part that wasn't even in the building yet. Using all my Photoshop powers I had to fabricate an image of the product for the press release and hope it looked like what I imagined. I got pretty good at this.

Sometimes the product "development" cycle consisted of merely ordering a part, putting it in a box, shipping to a manufacturer and telling them to make you 10,000 of them.

Had a whole run of AMC V8 valve coves made with the "Jeep" name cast upside down.

Another supplier swapped out our cut pile carpet kits with the lightest stuff I've ever seen. It felt like fuzzy window screen and you could see through it.

mndsm
mndsm PowerDork
7/26/12 2:25 p.m.

Whoa, do those upside down jeep logo parts still exist? I kinda want one for lulz.

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH PowerDork
7/26/12 2:29 p.m.
slefain wrote: We sent a name brand diff shield overseas as a sample to make our own piece. Pretty much told the manufacturer to use the same measurements, just make it generic. We get back three crates of diff covers that were perfectly made, right down to the name brand logo.
slefain wrote: Sometimes the product "development" cycle consisted of merely ordering a part, putting it in a box, shipping to a manufacturer and telling them to make you 10,000 of them.

The place you worked at is starting to sound pretty sketchy...

slefain
slefain SuperDork
7/26/12 2:33 p.m.
GameboyRMH wrote:
slefain wrote: We sent a name brand diff shield overseas as a sample to make our own piece. Pretty much told the manufacturer to use the same measurements, just make it generic. We get back three crates of diff covers that were perfectly made, right down to the name brand logo.
slefain wrote: Sometimes the product "development" cycle consisted of merely ordering a part, putting it in a box, shipping to a manufacturer and telling them to make you 10,000 of them.
The place you work at is starting to sound pretty sketchy...

They were sketchy, that is why I don't work there anymore, or in the parts business. Said that in my first post. Our jobs were to do what the owners and general managers wanted, so we did. We handled the parts, they handled the lawyers. The aftermarket parts business is ugly and cut throat. Your overseas suppliers will happily sell parts to your competitor made off the tooling you paid for if the money is right. Spend time to develop a hit product and someone else will have it copied in six months or less. I've walked tradeshows where booth workers have to chase off people measuring and photographing their samples.

Duke
Duke PowerDork
7/26/12 2:34 p.m.
GameboyRMH wrote: The place you worked at is starting to sound pretty sketchy...

I was really starting to think the same thing.

slefain
slefain SuperDork
7/26/12 2:42 p.m.
Duke wrote:
GameboyRMH wrote: The place you worked at is starting to sound pretty sketchy...
I was really starting to think the same thing.

You should hear the customer service stories...

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt SuperDork
7/26/12 2:49 p.m.

Had a former wiring supplier that would randomly change the color of the ink they were printing on our pre-printed wire because they were having trouble keeping the colors we specified in stock. IIRC, we usually found out about this when the wire showed up at our shop.

We once looked at an inexpensive Chinese made racing fuel filter. I asked someone who claimed to be a manufacturer's representative what micron size it could filter to. They responded by suggesting we order a batch and test them ourselves. This is surprisingly common - some Chinese copy made a knock off of a racing part, now are trying to sell them on their own, and have no idea what its specifications are.

chaparral
chaparral Reader
7/26/12 4:38 p.m.

In reply to alfadriver:

Wait, YOU DROVE THE INDIGO?

Was it the "Missing Link" I think it was? Half Lotus Elise, half McLaren F1?

93EXCivic
93EXCivic UltimaDork
7/26/12 5:18 p.m.

All I will say is that working with South Africa some of the ethics and quality of the parts we got from there were sketchy at best.

Zomby Woof
Zomby Woof UltraDork
7/26/12 5:38 p.m.

When I was in the composite business, the current crop of composite hockey and lacrosse sticks were breaking too easily. We knew we had a far superior material, so we started development, and had a few professional teams to work with. When we delivered our first batch of sticks to the lacrosse team, the players loved them. In the first game, one of the players delivered a wicked check that would normally have broken the stick. The stick was fine, but the player broke his wrist. We had to design a little more flex into them.

alfadriver
alfadriver PowerDork
7/26/12 7:10 p.m.
chaparral wrote: In reply to alfadriver: Wait, YOU DROVE THE INDIGO? Was it the "Missing Link" I think it was? Half Lotus Elise, half McLaren F1?

Not sure what you mean by missing link. The chassis was all Reynard (carbon fiber like an Indy car), body by Ford, and the V12 engine is what I worked on.

Remember, this was back when all CART cars were Reynard Ford for the most part.

Loud as heck.

This is the runner- most of the other pictures from google are the non runner.

chaparral
chaparral HalfDork
7/26/12 8:20 p.m.

"Missing link" - little car agility, big car speed.

Datsun310Guy
Datsun310Guy UltraDork
7/26/12 8:24 p.m.

We sell an expansion compensator for piping systems that are made in China. A new vendor made us a whole batch of them that were supposed to have "female copper sweat" ends.

Instead they made them out of carbon steel and we found out when a bunch of mechanical contractors called complaining that their pipe fitters were having problems sweating the "copper" ends. Then we stuck a magnet to one......doh!

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt SuperDork
7/26/12 8:39 p.m.

Another one - unlike Alfadriver, I've got a research story gone wrong that I can spill the beans on. Was trying out an experimental cutting technique on an industrial laser. It turned out this had a nasty side effect that I found out when I tried to make a quick release nozzle pop off and the mechanism jammed. I disassembled the cutting head and found that somehow enough of the beam had bounced off the material and onto the inside of the cutting head, leaving several burned spots.

Oh, and this was the first machine of its sort imported to America. We didn't have a supply of backup parts for it. I looked up the damaged parts in a service manual. It said it was not rebuildable and should be replaced as an assembly. Turns out it was, in this case, rebuildable, but it took a few days to figure out just how.

Toyman01
Toyman01 PowerDork
7/26/12 8:48 p.m.

I don't have any, but my BIL used to be the engineer for the exterior of the MB SUV built in Alabama. Some of the phone calls he got were unbelievable. The most memorable was the batch of Hela lights that came in with bugs in them. Apparently imported mosquitoes from Mexico.

Another good one was the thirty rear windows that shattered in the lot. All within 24 hours of being built. Naturally they didn't stop the line, so the windows were steadily shattering while he figured out what the problem was.

Or the time the side mirror supplier that changed the glue they were using. They wanted to use a lower temp glue. So low it would melt in the sun.

Even with the discount he could get on a MB car, he drove a Honda.

PHeller
PHeller SuperDork
7/26/12 9:40 p.m.
Toyman01 wrote: Another good one was the thirty rear windows that shattered in the lot. All within 24 hours of being built. Naturally they didn't stop the line, so the windows were steadily shattering while he figured out what the problem was.

That sounds like a fun one.

93EXCivic
93EXCivic UltimaDork
7/26/12 9:43 p.m.
Toyman01 wrote: Another good one was the thirty rear windows that shattered in the lot. All within 24 hours of being built. Naturally they didn't stop the line, so the windows were steadily shattering while he figured out what the problem was.

I know that feeling a little to well...

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