Up Close and Personal with Customer Jim Alcorn

From Moss Motoring 1983

A native Californian, Del Mar resident Jim Alcorn has yet to suppress the “Automotive Urge” which first manifested itself some four decades ago. As a boy, Jim built CO-2 powered balsa-wood race cars, progressing to the excitement of constructing official Soap Box Derby racers for the annual hill challenge in San Francisco in the early fifties. (With a sponsor no less!)

In 1952, Jim talked his parents into letting him acquire a “California Street Rod”. This marvelous assembly had a 4-carb Ford V-8 in a ’32 Ford chassis (with a chrome front axle!) under a 1929 Ford Model A Roadster body. After a 2-year rebuild it provided interesting and exciting transportation for the mid-fifties “American Graffiti” set.

Jim1Leaving high school for college signaled growth in more ways than one for Jim. The envelope-bodied MGA made its debut in 1956 and Jim was hooked! Encouraged by his future wife and by several friends who owned Morris Minors, he located a red MGA. 1500 with but 1,700 miles on the clock and bought it. Thus, two life-long romances began that summer—one with MG.

Then followed 5 years of Architecture school at Berkeley, one at Yale, 6 household moves, 2 Pontiacs, 2 Chevrolets, 2 Fords, 1 Anglia, 1 Oldsmobile, 4 Morris Minors, 5 Austin’s and 4 children! It was not until 1968 that the MG love affair began again in earnest, when Jim watched Gert Jensen, a Danish architect colleague, rebuild a beautiful, duo-blue PA Airline Coupe. From an ad in “Motorsport”, Jim found an MG VA Tickford drop-head coupe, had it shipped over to San Francisco, and began what became a 10-year restoration. (See “Abingdon Classics” June 1983 issue for that story.) As parts for pre-war MG’s are not generally available in the U.S., Jim spent a lot of time on overseas correspondence and developed a wide circle of contacts for these parts. His goal was a perfect restoration, so he went so far as to have some parts made to order, and the commercial possibilities were obvious. One example was the rubber tool trays that the big pre-war MG’s were fitted with. These he had made in Los Angeles from molds he provided, and the resultant parts now grace many cars around the world.

Remembering the joy his first MGA gave him, Jim decided a few years ago to renew his involvement with these roadsters. The VA had taught him that obscure models were not to be feared, so he picked the Twin-Cam as the model of MGA to pursue. Soon he found himself becoming a specialist in this model and he has bought and sold, restored, driven and enjoyed numerous examples in recent years. He is now known both in this country and overseas as quite an expert on this rare and exciting model.

As many of the parts for the Twin-Cam are the same as on the pushrod cars, the Moss catalog has been a useful tool in this enterprise. However, when it came to unique engine and chassis parts, Jim had, again, to develop foreign sources and now he can supply most of these hard-to-find parts. With patience, Jim reports, it is possible to come up with everything you need for a Twin-Cam MGA. Even the rubber pedal draught excluder will be available later this summer, to the delight of many Twin-Cam and Mkll DeLuxe owners. (This product has been developed in co-operation with Moss Motors.)

Jim’s enjoyment of the MGA Twin-Cam matches the enthusiasm expressed for it by Bob Vitrikas and Graham Robson in their recent MGA anthologies. It is the model famous Abingdon mechanic, Henry Stone, claimed as his favorite from the fifty years he worked on MG’s. Watching John Dormer drive his beautiful example in West Coast historic races is proof of the legend “Safety Fast”! Thanks to Jim’s enthusiasm and entrepreneurial skills, many more examples of this fine British sports car will be saved from the wrecking yard or from being “modified” to work with non-stock parts!

Footnote: James L. Alcorn, AIA, is the design architect of the Oakland Alameda Coliseum Complex; Laney College, Oakland; the Ventura County Government Center, Ventura, Ca, the Brea Civic and Cultural Center, Brea, Ca. He maintains an architectural practice at 7734 Herschel Ave., Suite L, La Jolla, Ca 92037, from which address he also conducts his MGA Twin-Cam sales and parts business under the name of “Auto Vintagery”.

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