A Life Well Lived

A group of us bench racers club members were at Al Moss’ house one day. Somewhere during the conversation he casually asked if anyone wanted a sure fire way to win a bet with other car club members. Who wouldn’t want an iron-clad bet winner?

Al-in-MG-copy-1Al proceeded to claim he could bend an MG-T engine block with his bare hands. Suffice it to say, we group of experts immediately concluded such a thing was impossible. With his “bet” made, Al produced a bore micrometer, which he set lengthwise into the top of cylinder number two or three in a bare block. He then placed a towel under the block.

This was the Al Moss. Surely, he had to be planning some form of trick or joke on all of us. Al interlaced the tips of his fingers, placed the heel of his palms on either side of the block, and squeezed. The micrometer fell out of the bore into the towel. Bet won.

After much hearty discussion and accusations of cheating, the fact was clearly established one only had to distort the block casting a couple thousandths of an inch to cause the micrometer to drop. He never said how much he could bend the block, only that it could be done. This was the nature of Al Moss, prankster and all around sharp guy.

One other Moss-ism, which has always stayed with me, was a question on one of his gimmick rallies.

How many lights are on

on top of the wall?

Virtually everyone got it wrong. They either missed the double word, or assumed it was a simple typo. The line break was there on purpose, to help the confusion. The question was not about how many light units were there, but rather how many of them were turned on. A more correct sentence would read, “How many lights are on, on top of the wall?” However, adding a comma would have exposed the trick.

The same internal wiring, which made Al such a brilliant joker, also contributed to the business acumen, which ultimately set Al and Moss Motors on the path to where we are today. Al Moss looked deeper into the confluence of business and hobby than most of his contemporaries. While there are many folks who have worked to preserve the history of British sports cars, Al took that history to mean including the personalities, and the left over parts.

Here in the States, Al Moss was an early advocate of introducing the leading lights from the MG factory to later generations of MG enthusiasts. Equally as important, he was an early exponent of preserving obsolete parts. While most folks think in terms of regalia and NOS spares for personal consumption, Al was also calculating the business potential in stacks of dusty old parts. Sixty plus years on, all the effort to trace and obtain obsolete British parts inventories from around the world looks to have been a pretty sharp idea.

Shortly after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, Al told me at 85 years of age he had accomplished most everything he ever hoped to do, and was at peace with whatever was to come. A short time later he was gone. Although as a kid I was always somewhat afraid of Al Moss, as an adult I can appreciate the accomplishments of a man who’s life and times were extremely well spent.

By Robert Goldman

'A Life Well Lived' have 2 comments

  1. February 19, 2013 @ 2:42 pm Robert Fitton

    The picture of Al Moss’ MG on the cover of the current issues of MGT Parts and Accessories (MGT-139) catalog and Moss Motoring is striking. Please tell me what color it’s painted and if it is a standard paint available through MossMotors.com.


  2. February 21, 2013 @ 10:09 am Robert Goldman

    The car was last painted back in the 1980s or 90s. I’m afraid we do not have a paint code for the color. What is more, because of inconsistencies in the printing process, there’s no guarantee the catalog cover in front of me is even the exact same color as the copy you received. Your best bet would be to take the cover to a reputable automotive paint supplier and try to work with them to create a match.

    Al’s original concept with the colors was a take on the “Cream Crackers” paint scheme employed by the MG factory, but he chose to go with a metallic brown. I’m not sure if Al made any effort to match the factory colors, or just chose a brown and cream combination he found personally appealing.

    One interesting difference between the TC and most of Al’s other British cars was the degree of personalization on the TC. If he was restoring a car with the expectation of selling it eventually, he stayed closer to factory original. (Yes, for those who know it, the TC van was an exception as well).


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