Back in the bright and sunny days of 1948, a young man bought himself a sports car. An insignificant event in itself perhaps, but the man was Al Moss, and the car was a brand new MG TC. Some forty years later, we’re celebrating this fateful event.
Many a business has been started by an individual who has become fed up with trying to find a specific product or service. Moss Motors is an example of just such a situation. In that summer of ’48, Al read about road rallies being held on the East Coast and decided to run one himself in Los Angeles. The route ran from LA. to Santa Barbara (another coincidence), and of the friends Al made during this time, every one had the same problem. There was not a single shop in Los Angeles that was willing and able to fix the funny English sports cars.
Al was “living on the dole” at that time. He was out of school, but didn’t have a real job and wanted to do something more than just live off the good graces of his parents. He had done an apprenticeship in front end alignment, had some equipment, and ultimately decided to have a go at starting a business. Al rented some space at 3200 Olympic Boulevard in LA., moved in his alignment equipment and called the place Moss Motors. He figured that between front end alignment work and the occasional MG TC there should be enough repair work to keep things going.
Business was far more relaxed in those early days. Al mentions a habit of closing up shop and going for a tour if that’s what “the group”wanted to do. He started a club called the Foreign Car Group. Apparently, a lawyer among the group felt that if it wasn’t called a car club there would be no worry about insurance. Times have changed a bit since then. The Foreign Car Group eventually faded away, but not before spawning the Long Beach MG Club, which still exists, even if there are few or no MGs left on the club roster.
Around March of 1950, Moss Motors expanded into the car selling business. Al became the west coast distributor for Allard and brought in the first of the famous (infamous to to most anyone who has ever driven one of these cars) Cadillac Allards. He also gained the Los Angeles distributorship for the Rootes Group. This package included Humber, Hillman, and Sunbeam/Talbot. Al fondly remembers selling one of the fabled Humber Super Snipes, but has a rather different view of new car sales as a whole.
Allards are fast and extremely difficult cars to drive. Al had some success racing one, but experienced a nasty crash in January of 1951.This incident was enough to convince Al his future lay in other pursuits. Shortly after the crash he dropped the distributorships and returned to the service work that he preferred. He also moved to a new location on Pico and then to Venice a couple years later.
Service business during the late fifties remained strong for Al, but there were changes in the wind. The TC had gone out of production in 1949 and parts were starting to dry up. As more people started to ask for parts in addition to service, Al angled toward manufacturing and buy-outs of original factory stocks. The first Moss Motors parts catalog was published somewhere around 1960 while Al was still located on Venice.
Backing up for just a moment, we should mention one of Al’s early customers. It seems Al Moss wasn’t the only young man who took a fancy to the TC in that summer of ’48. A teenager named Howard Goldman badgered his father until he relented and sent his son to a little foreign car place on Olympic to buy a TC of his own. This was the beginning of a relationship which ultimately led to Moss’ move from LA. to Santa Barbara and the sale of Moss Motors to Mr. Goldman in 1978.
Howard Goldman moved to Santa Barbara in the late fifties and eventually talked Al into following in 1963. Al used the opportunity to drop his repair business and concentrate on the rapidly growing mail order activities. Moss Motors continued to expand. A machine shop was opened at Dawson Avenue in Goleta to produce a number of small items in-house, a second story was added to the Dawson Ave. property, and extra space was rented in a series of storage warehouses and garages around the area. But there just wasn’t enough room available. By the 1970s, catalogs had been added for Triumph, Healey, and Jaguar. These new catalogs, combined with the ever growing MG market eventually became more of a burden than Al was willing to handle. His inclinations are more in keeping with a one-man shop and having fun. Managing a big business wasn’t on his agenda at the time.
Mr. Goldman re-entered the picture at this stage. A deal was worked out between the two and Moss Motors transferred from one car enthusiast to another. Soon after the sale, Moss moved into its current headquarters on Hollister Ave. in Goleta. The growth, which had slowly changed the face of Moss Motors, continued at an accelerated pace. By 1980, sales of upholstery products had reached a level where we felt it was best to start producing the kits ourselves. An upholstery manufacturing shop was established in Lompoc, about 45 miles north of Goleta. Moss Motors’ reputation for producing the highest quality interior kits in the Industry is entirely due to their efforts.
Moss Motors returned to the new car business in late 1982 and opened a Jaguar dealership in Santa Barbara. At the time, Jaguar was suffering from a poor reputation and many folks told us we were nuts. Our faith in Jaguar proved well founded as Jaguar is now enjoying its best reputation ever. We have since added Peugeot, Saab, and most recently Range Rover to the Moss Jaguar stable.
Two months after opening the dealership, we established our eastern distribution point in New Jersey. Early in 1983 the addition of Start Your Engines and its rebuilding facilities rounded out our line of products and services. The rebuilding department has since moved to South Carolina, but SYE still exists in the form of a retail parts outlet in Beltsville, Maryland. From 1983 to the present we have continued to expand. New Jersey has seen two moves to bigger quarters, we’ve added an additional 12,000 feet to our California warehouse, and most recently took over an operation in England.
Moss is celebrating a happy and healthy fortieth birthday thanks to all of you who have supported us through the years. The staff and management of Moss Motors would like to take this opportunity to thank you for that support. We’re no longer a mom & pop operation, but remember that every time you call Moss Motors you help insure the future of your cherished sports car. The stronger we are, the more parts we can recreate for your car, and the more likely it is that we’ll be here for you in another forty years.