Product Development – Making Obsolete Parts Available Again

From Moss Motoring 1983

Product Development is one of the most important areas of any growing business. It is particularly important in the British sports car field, since these cars are now out of production and parts are becoming obsolete at an alarming rate. Parts used exclusively for pre-1970 cars are now almost totally unavailable through BL channels. Only where parts interchange with models produced during the seventies is availability significantly better, but even some parts for the 1980 MGB’s are starting to become scarce. Moss Motors has, for many years, made a major commitment to offer the widest possible range of factory original and quality reproduction components. We currently inventory over 12,000 different items, of which more than 4,000 are reproduction items. We also believe in reproducing low-demand and obscure items that may simply be lost in the course of a restoration, as well as reproducing the faster-moving items. Accordingly, Research and Development is one of our most important departments, encompassing not only new product development, but also quality control, catalog development, and providing technical direction for our in-house upholstery manufacturing division, machine shop, and chrome plating facilities.

New product decision making is the ultimate responsibility of Christopher Nowlan, our R&D Department Manager. Chris keeps a “wish box” which includes ‘new’ products as well as ‘existing’ product ideas. These cards contain historical product availability and sales information. The cards themselves are created based on input from other Moss departments, customer suggestions, observations made at club meetings, and through R & D’s combined vast knowledge of British sports cars.

Pg4Obsolete1As manufacturers under license from British Leyland and BL Heritage Ltd., Moss Motors makes every effort to keep the lines of communication open and, at the same time, obtain copies of original factory engineering drawings and technical input. Priorities for actual product development depend on a variety of factors including the availability of good, original samples and engineering drawings. Where factory drawings are no longer obtainable, new drawings are created by our own in-house staff. All dimensions are carefully checked against multiple original samples. Dimensions of mating components are checked at the same time to insure that the final product will fit and function as it was originally intended.

Actual product development is a function handled by Chris Nowlan and Wally Harraman. At any one time, Chris and Wally will be actively working on 200-300 different new products. This would include virtually any type of manufactured product from a small, stamped steel upholstery clip up to and including new forged steel MG-T Series crankshafts. (Incidentally, these new crankshafts will be available soon and are forged from the very best and most costly 4340 chrome-moly steel. These crankshafts are virtually unbreakable and will provide far greater journal life.)

Moss Motors utilizes the manufacturing services of over 250 independent companies located throughout the world, in addition to our own in-house facilities. All new product candidates are first sent out for bid (even our own machine shop must provide a competitive bid to get a “new product order”).

Our computerized drill-press in operation; quality.

Our computerized drill-press in operation; quality.

Complex components require extra special attention. As an example, Product Development has recently completed the reproduction of the complete MG-T Series front parking lamp assembly. This involved negotiating with a variety of independent manufacturers to produce chrome rimmed glass lenses; injection molded “King of the Road” medallions; deep drawn, stamped brass bodies as original, (the primary stamping alone required eleven progressive sets of dies!); bakelite and steel electrical socket assemblies; screw machined lens attaching screws, etc. Late model Lucas replacements, now obsolete, were made as a die casting, didn’t include “King of the Road” medallions and incorporated a non-original plastic lens. The actual chrome plating and polishing of our reproduction units, like so many of our best chrome plated items, was completed in our own automated chrome plating facility. Chris and Wally worked on the development of this project for nearly two years, making countless phone calls, letters, and trips to sort out developmental snags. “Moss made” parking lamp assemblies are now being distributed worldwide. Like many of our quality reproduction products, we are able to offer real value for the money. Our “original” parking lamp assemblies now retail for $44.75, whereas Lucas’ own “replacement” lamp had a last suggested retail price of $77.42!

Once all bids for a potential new product are received, they are analyzed, approved, and finally a purchase order is created. Chris, Wally, and the Purchasing Department then monitor progress to insure that previously set delivery schedules are met. All new products at Moss Motors require preproduction samples to be made from finished production tooling. All preproduction samples are installed on cars and tested and evaluated, to insure originality, serviceability, and overall quality. Where necessary, samples are sent out to independent testing laboratories, or to our own Classic Car Company for installation and testing. Metallurgical or chemical testing are both an integral part of our R&D program. Moss Motors is perhaps the only firm in our field that makes regular use of independent testing laboratories to determine chemical analysis of steels, irons, and rubber. Both original and reproduction parts are tested for hardness, corrosion resistance, etc., and we regularly check the tensile strength of all safety/critical and internal engine nuts and bolts. Once parts are approved for production and have been produced and received here at Moss Motors, they still require Chris’ and Wally’s final seal of approval before they are released for sale.

Quality control of our on-hand inventory is another full-time, ongoing program at Moss Motors. Craig Cody, of our R&D staff, takes special interest in these areas. His close work with Customer Service and Returns insures his ability to respond to quality problems quickly and efficiently. We keep carefully documented production control records for all reproduction items. If and when problems are found, this documentation insures that even minor problems are eliminated from future production runs. Craig also works with our suppliers to help them sort out problems relating to products we purchase outright.

Catalog Development at Moss Motors is an integral part of our Research and Development Department. Our philosophy regarding catalogs is to develop as complete and comprehensive a catalog as possible. When we develop a new catalog, such as our fully comprehensive 1963-1980 MGB catalog, which is now under development, we include all items for which there is even a limited demand, even if the product is currently obsolete. In this manner we can add new products later without having to issue new catalogs at frequent intervals. Customers are always encouraged to check current availability by referring to our current price list or, if in doubt, give us a call. Catalog development is under the direction of Chris Nowlan, but is largely carried out by our enthusiastic and hard working cataloging staff. Through a carefully developed program we are able to produce what we feel are the best and easiest to use catalogs available today.

Eric Bishop is our ace primary researcher. Eric’s steadfast determination is invaluable for sorting out years of not-necessarily well documented production changes, factory supercessions, and getting all pertinent information plugged into our computer system. We have recently transferred Eric Wilhelm from our Start Your Engines division in Beltsville, MD, to assist Eric Bishop. Eric Wilhelm has a very strong Triumph background. His in-depth knowledge of the TR250’s and TR6’s should be a tremendous asset when we start concentrating on our complete TR2-3-4, 250 and 6 catalog later this year.

The overall graphic design and the exploded view illustrations are the primary responsibility of our catalog staff artist Tom DiGenova. Tom handles everything from designing our cover shots, to creating new exploded artwork where factory illustrations never existed. Tom is currently being assisted by Hal Arneson, on temporary loan from our Art & Advertising Department. Hal is a veteran of our earlier catalog efforts and, like Tom, Eric and Eric, is totally devoted to doing the job right. Our new MGB catalogs will incorporate many new concepts to keep Moss Motors at the forefront of the MGB marketplace for many years to come.

'Product Development – Making Obsolete Parts Available Again' has no comments

Be the first to comment this post!

Would you like to share your thoughts?

Please note: technical questions about the above article may go unanswered. Questions related to Moss parts should be emailed to

Your email address will not be published.

© Copyright 2022 Moss Motors, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.