The First 50 Years

1948-1998 —When we say we have experience, we mean it!

Moss Motors Ltd. is known as the world’s largest and oldest supplier of parts for classic British sports cars, but it didn’t start out that way. As a matter of fact, it really didn’t start out as a parts business at all.

If Alan Moss had bought a Ford instead of an MG TC back in 1948, things might have turned out differently. But Al was a young man living in Los Angeles, and the post-war MG TC was irresistible. Al had read about the rallies being held back in England, and organized one of the first held on the west coast in 1948. The rally (which ended in Santa Barbara) introduced Al to a group of fellow enthusiasts. Aside from a passion for sports cars, they shared a common problem—parts and service. British sports cars were not welcome at the corner service station, and parts usually had to be specially ordered. Al helped this loose association become the Foreign Car Group, one of the first sports car clubs in California. (An attorney in the group suggested they avoid the word “club” to bypass insurance problems!)

Al sensed an opportunity to combine his love for sports cars with the chance to make a living. He had completed an apprenticeship in front end alignment, and he had some equipment. Figuring that a shop working on front ends and the occasional TC might work out, he rented a shop at 3200 Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, and hung out the first MOSS MOTORS sign. The shop came to be a hangout for his sports car owning friends, and more than once the shop closed for an afternoon because the group wanted to drive somewhere interesting. Another collection of sports car enthusiasts gathered at Al’s shop every Saturday; they called themselves The Moss Motors Luncheon and Bench Racing Society.

Moss Motors was by now doing a good deal more than just front end work, and Al also bought and sold a few cars. In 1949, Al sold a TC (for $1,100!) to a teenager named Howard Goldman. Two years later, Howard bought a second TC through Al, which he still has. They became close friends, and this friendship was to have far-reaching implications.

As a logical expansion of the business, Al decided to start selling new cars. In the spring of 1950, he became the west coast distributor for Allard, bringing the first Cadillac-powered Allards to the west coast. He also became the Los Angeles dealer for the Rootes Group, selling Humbers, Hillmans, and the Sunbeam/Talbot line. The Allards were fast, and had a richly deserved reputation for being extremely difficult to drive. Al raced one with some success, but a serious racing accident in January of 1951 convinced him that his future lay in other pursuits.

He hadn’t really enjoyed the new car sales end of the business, so he closed the sales agency and refocused his attention on the service work he really enjoyed. Moss Motors then moved to a new facility on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles; then, a couple of years later, it moved to new shop on Venice Boulevard, Los Angeles. Throughout the late 1950s, service work was the primary function of Moss Motors. However, since the TC had gone out of production in 1949, parts availability was becoming a problem. Al began to buy up lots of “obsolete” parts, and ventured into manufacturing. With a supply of parts to support his own service needs, Al became known as a source of parts for people doing their own work. With more and more people calling for parts, it seemed logical to put together a catalog, and the first MG T-Series catalog appeared in 1962.

Howard Goldman, Al’s friend, had relocated 100 miles north of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara in the late ’50s, and eventually Al moved into the same area in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara, upon leaving the Los Angeles area in 1963. Here he dropped the service portion of his business, as the mail order parts business was expanding rapidly. So rapidly that Moss quickly outgrew the original building on Dawson Avenue in Goleta. A second story was added, but it was not enough. Al found room to squeeze in a machine shop to produce items in-house, but space had to be rented in several storage facilities and warehouses around town. By now, Al was also busy making trips to England, looking for sources of the discontinued parts his customers needed.

The business continued to grow as Moss Motors expanded by adding parts and catalogs for MGA, early MGB, Austin-Healey, and Jaguar XK120-140-150. In 1977 Al purchased 48 tons of “obsolete” inventory directly from Standard Triumph in England. The shipment filled four 40-foot containers, and it was the single largest factory buy-out of factory TR2-3-4 spares. A load of Jaguar parts was also obtained with the same shipment. In 1978, Moss published the world’s first comprehensive TR2-3-4 catalog. It also represented a new philosophy. The catalog illustrated and listed virtually all the parts that were likely to be required, even if the parts were not available at press time. This made the catalog a valuable restoration aid and reference guide. It set the standard for all future Moss catalogs.

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