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Robert Goldman: Moss Visionary

What does Robert Goldman, co-owner of Moss Motors, love about his job? “I like going down to R&D and taking out a company supercharged MG for a test drive, and pushing it until it breaks. I call it destructive testing; you can learn from it. And I enjoy the fact that I can make a living while keeping the cars I love on the road,” he says.

But British cars weren’t his first love, vintage airplanes and American muscle cars caught his fancy as a kid. And he never expected to be working in the automotive parts business, Goldman always thought he’d work in the family restaurant equipment manufacturing business.

His father, Howard, took him around the corner to Moss Motors at age 15 to start working weekends. Little did Goldman know that his dad was negotiating with longtime friend Al Moss to purchase the company. He soon learned that although the Dripcut syrup servers sold by his grandfather are fun to play with at the pancake house, an Austin-Healey on a mountain road is a lot more fun.

Now 48, Goldman oversees the niche automotive parts and accessories business serving British car, Miata, Mini, and Mustang owners. The company has facilities on both coasts, a robust research and development program for unique product offerings, a lineup of 30,000 active part SKUs, and over 200 employees worldwide.

Goldman began his career in the warehouse; started driving on his father’s right-hand-drive 1948 MGTC; and was initiated into the enthusiast scene at his first MG Gathering-of-the-Faithful in Dearborn in 1977. At his first competitive driving event, he beat Al Moss when Moss went off course.

“I developed curiosity about British cars; they all needed work,” explains Goldman. “I read shop manuals and catalogs, and did simple wrenching.” The first car he bought was an Austin-Healey 100 but he couldn’t afford to insure it (he still has it as a future project car). Instead he rebuilt a ’67 MGB GT to take to college.

Through the years Goldman picked orders, made kits, handled receiving, made upholstery, did sales, opened and ran the warehouse in New Jersey, and edited British Motoring magazine. When desktop publishing debuted, he went to work for a printing company for three years to learn state-of-the-art pre-press and printing, then returned to take over the art department. He handled the writing, photography, layout, color separations, and printing for the first color catalogs. As marketing manager, he developed the corporate style.

Moss grew steadily over the years with strategic industry acquisitions and then expanded beyond the British realm. The company introduced the first non-British accessories catalog in 1994 for the Mazda Miata. “We wanted to concentrate on an iconic nameplate,” explains Goldman. “The Miata is what every British car should have been by 1994. It was a bit of a culture shock for the company and our customer base. The cover of the first catalog featured my dad in his TC and me in a Miata, illustrating that we think this car is cool like the old British cars.”

When Howard decided retirement looked good after 20 years at the helm in 1998, he sold the company to Robert and Glen Adams, who had been with the company since 1972 and was president. Since then the company has doubled revenues; developed significant components like supercharger kits; added accessories catalogs for Classic Mini, BMW Mini, and Mustang; and bought back Moss Europe after it was sold and went into bankruptcy.

In recent years, the company has been investing in logistics to make work flow more efficient and customer delivery more rapid. The new Virginia facility took the operation to a new level. “Infrastructure and systems aren’t highly visible, but they improve service quality and make a difference in a down economy,” says Goldman.

As for future direction, Goldman says they intend to keep the product offering viable, look for areas of growth, and expand the existing product line. “Historically Moss products were geared to restoring cars to original condition,” says Goldman. “But there’s a more open attitude to modifications that make these cars more usable in daily traffic, like better brakes and five-speed transmissions. Products like gearbox and air conditioning conversions enhance the car and the driving experience.”

As original parts supplies dry up, Moss puts more emphasis on remanufacturing parts directly, explains Goldman. The Moss engineering team has designed, developed, and manufactured several thousand products over the past 35 years. Many of those parts were no longer available. The division has ramped up to ensure design, material, and manufacturing quality; often the part quality is better than the original.

The company also puts more emphasis on detailed installation instructions for parts, as well as technical videos and customer support. “As more British car shops close down, more of the mechanical work is being done by owners,” Goldman says. He adds that the hobby will have to work harder to generate enthusiasm for these classics with people who never saw them new on the road.

He sees the Miata, Mustang, and Mini following the same pattern as people who aspired to own one when young find the time and money to acquire one and personalize it. “They’re future classics. Engaging automobiles require an enthusiast base, good support, and steady parts supply. That’s where Moss comes in,” says Goldman.

So what does Goldman have in his personal classic car collection? A bit of everything—a 1935 MG PB, ’62 TR4, ’72 MG Midget, ’67 Morgan 4/4, 2000 Mini, ’64 Mustang convertible, plus a Bugeye Sprite shell and a ’54 Austin-Healey 100 in pieces. And he has access to the company fleet of R&D cars. He admits that if he could only have one, he’d choose his TR4: “It’s the best combination of classic and useable.” Of course, his sports a heavily modified engine and a Moss supercharger.

By Kathy Mangan

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