By Robert Goldman
As Moss Motors enters its 70th year in business, we are buffeted by some basic facts of life. To have driven an MG TC at 16 years of age in 1948, one must be 86 years old today. Those folks, and the ones who came shortly behind, are leaving us. Back around the new year, we lost two long time stalwarts of their respective car hobbies.
In December, Herman van den Akker passed away. Herman was the five speed Triumph gearbox conversion guy. If I went to a British car meet, there was Herman, dispensing knowledge to a steady stream of curious enthusiasts.
In January, we lost Ken Smith, who was also known as Mr. MG, or Mr. MGB. Ken was a central figure in advancing interest in cars like the MGB LE. Although a following would grow organically, Ken’s involvement and enthusiasm advanced the cause.
Herman and Ken are by no means the only enthusiasts we have lost in recent years, but they were voices for Triumph and MG, pillars of their respective communities, and two individuals I counted among a small, and suddenly shrinking, circle of friends.
Herman and Ken held an incredible amount of knowledge, and knew where to go for the questions they themselves could not answer. Now they are gone. Who will replace them? We have young enthusiasts building their own networks and bases of knowledge, but they won’t be known as old time experts for a while yet.
Kevin Flint, our young whelp (he’s only like 50-something) Director of Marketing, asked me “what is the voice of Moss?” That’s not a topic on which I have much sense of meaning. He clarified by sending me a picture of a slammed Austin-Healey, with drag wheels, and undoubtedly a big V8 motor. “My voice is going to be like this!” he declared. Now I get it. No, you’re not.
Jokes aside, there is a slim trail of VoM (Voice of Moss) in our DNA. Whether it was the late Al Moss himself, or people like Kelvin Dodd, or the recently retired Michael Grant, there have been identifiable “voices” within the Moss organization. In reality, Kevin was asking, who is the presumptive in-house keeper of our collective knowledge.
In the case of British car knowledge, perhaps we will be moving away from lead singers, toward more of a chorus. As evidence of this, there was a time when we, as a matter of policy, would not look outside the company for technical knowledge. The argument was simply that we should know. We are the expert. Today, that is an outdated notion. We routinely work with people like Lawrie Alexander, Paul Dierschow at Sports Car Craftsmen in Colorado, or Eric Grunden at Absolutely British
So, Kevin, in answer to your question, going forward, the VoM will be a chorus. Individual members may pass, but the voice will remain the same (with a nod to Led Zeppelin).
Ken and Herman, they joined us from separate countries across the pond and shared their talent, wisdom, friendship…and love for British cars.