How an MG TC gave way to a worldwide British car enterprise

Photography by Tim Suddard

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Classic Motorsports]

Story by James Heine

Many vintage and historic cars come complete with interesting and entertaining backstories. Still, few can match the provenance–or the importance to British motoring–of a bronze-and-cream 1948 MG TC owned for more than 60 years by Al Moss, the founder of Moss Motors and a giant in our field.

Today, the TC is again part of Moss Motors. The company reacquired the car at RM’s Monterey auction in 2012, shortly before Mr. Moss’s death. In 1978, Moss sold his company to the family of its present owners, but he kept the TC for his own enjoyment. During those intervening years, he used it for numerous old car gatherings, long-distance road trips and vintage racing events.

But let’s start at the beginning.

A Boy and His Car

Al Moss acquired the TC from its original (and very short-term) owner in the fall of 1948. Within a year, he had founded Moss Motors, which began as a Los Angeles repair shop dedicated to servicing TCs and helping their owners keep the cars on the road.

But before all that, Moss was a 19-year-old, not-really-employed-yet kid just starting out in life. He was mesmerized by cars and captivated by Grand Prix racing in Europe.

“When the MG TC hit the U.S. shores, like with a lot of kids, he was just absolutely fascinated by it and determined that he had to have one,” says Robert Goldman, chairman of Moss Motors. His family connection with the company goes all the way back to 1949, when his grandparents acquired a TC from Moss and, in the process, forged a lifelong friendship with him. 

“TCs were a little bit hard to come by at that point,” Goldman continues. “But as it happened, Philco, the makers of televisions and various appliances in the day, was having a contest in Los Angeles. It was an essay contest–why you wanted a Philco television–and the grand prize was a brand-new MG TC.”

The contest winner was a young mother of two who, as it turned out, apparently valued the practicality of cash in the bank more than the splendor of a TC parked in her driveway. “As Al told the story, she drove it around the block once and promptly put it up for sale,” Goldman recalls.

Moss found an advertisement for the car in a newspaper, saw the asking price, and decamped to her doorstep. And just in time.

“There were apparently already two dealers there, and that, of course, caused a little bit of a bidding session to ensue,” Goldman continues. “And $2050 later, if I remember the exact total, Al bought an MG TC.”

When Al Moss purchased this MG TC, the concept of a sports car–never mind one from overseas–was still a rather foreign concept.

Now in possession of a genuine sports car, Moss determined, among other things, to use it by organizing a rally. “Al had been reading about various car rallies and car clubs on the East Coast and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to organize a rally on the West Coast?’” Goldman explains.

Moss proceeded to do just that, organizing a rally from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara.

“On that tour, all the TC owners were talking about how there was really nobody around who could maintain the cars and fix them. The dealers just wanted to sell the things, and then they wanted nothing more to do with them,” Goldman says. “So Al, in the aftermath of the rally, thought about all of that and realized there was a potential opportunity.”

And that “potential opportunity” became the Moss Motors empire we know today.

The Birth of a Business

When Moss bought the TC, he certainly had no plans to create a business from it. Although he’d had some basic alignment training before opening his shop, Goldman says that he “pretty much taught himself how to work on the cars over time and started to build a clientele.”

By early 1949, “it just kind of generated itself based on the fact that: A, he needed something to do; and B, there were a bunch of folks grumbling that they couldn’t get their cars fixed.”

As with any endeavor, the road to success was not an easy one for Moss. “He learned some pretty hard lessons going in,” says Goldman. “He was dealing with a number of car dealers who, in many instances, had control over access to factory parts. And, as he started to try to get involved in dealing cars and getting access to parts supplies, he got run around a little bit by a few people. So he learned from the school of hard knocks.”

The TC Lives On

As for Moss’s TC, after spending some two decades with a supercharged TF engine, today it once again features its original XPAG 1250cc OHV engine supplemented by a period-correct Shorrock supercharger.

The car also features an optional rear end. “Stock is 5.125:1, and the factory option of the day was 4.875. I’m assuming it’s a 4.875, unless Al managed to fit something else in there,” Goldman says.

“The odometer is on its second trip around. It’s got about 116,000 on it. It had about 114,000 when Al sold it to us,” Goldman adds. “This summer, I took it on about 1000-mile trip to Watkins Glen–actually, the Collier Brothers Memorial Trophy Race at the Watkins Glen vintage races. Beyond that, we’ve taken it to a few shows here and there. And I’ve been known to occasionally tootle around the valley where I live on the weekends in it. So it’s getting gentle miles still.”

And the original 114,000 miles that Moss put on it?

Al Moss’s MG is back in the Moss Motors fold, as company chairman Robert Goldman is the car’s current caretaker.

“Those were well-used miles,” Goldman says. “I mean, that thing was raced; it was rallied; it was used as a tow car. He would tow his three-wheel Morgan from [his retirement home in] Arizona to California to go to the Monterey automobile races. The car was very well used in its day, but of course Al, being a premier mechanic and very accomplished restoration mechanic, always kept it in great mechanical shape.”

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sfisher71 New Reader
7/6/22 8:11 p.m.

Moss TC Memory #1:

Laguna Seca Raceway, sometime in the mid-1980s, when Steve Earle was in charge of what were then called the Monterey Historics. I owned an M.G. of my own and had bought a few Moss parts for it, so when I saw that Al Moss had entered his TC, I was thrilled to see it. 

I found it in the paddock, leaned into the RHD cockpit (those cut-down doors made this easy), and laughed out loud when I saw the tachometer, right in front of the driver.

Moss (I presumed) had cut a picture of the crankshaft from a Moss Motors catalog, and taped it to the point on the tach face that acted as redline. 

(...Much later I'd learn that the Moss TC's 1250cc XPAG engine had been replaced by a 1500cc XPEG from a TF 1500. It was an eminently sensible move, like replacing the 948 in a Bugeye with a 1275 and rib-case gearbox.)

sfisher71 New Reader
7/6/22 8:24 p.m.

Moss TC Memory #2:

Technically, this is a Goldman TC memory. In June 1985, the American MGB Association held their national convention in Santa Barbara, California, just a short drive from Moss HQ in Goleta. At the time I owned my first LBC, a 1974 M.G. Midget (last year for chrome bumpers and dual SU carburetters), so we drove up from the San Fernando Valley to participate.

The bronze-and-cream TC of Al Moss was not present at the convention, but there was a beautiful Almond Green TC with green leather on display in the hotel parking lot. That one belonged to Howard Goldman, who had taken over the parts business from his longtime partner Al Moss some years before. (The third member of the original founders, Mike Goodman, still owned an M.G. shop in the Valley, where I had occasion to meet him when I was considering purchasing an MGB-GT in the late '80s, and Goodman inspected it for me. The odd noise I'd heard turned out to be a complete absence of oil in the engine. I passed.)

Goldman saw my shiny Blaze Red Midget and asked if he could try it on for size. His son Robert was interested in a Midget but Howard wasn't sure he could fit. (If you're over about 5' 8" tall, you don't get into a Spridget so much as put it on.)

I happily offered to swap test-fits, so when Howard lowered himself into my Midget and pronounced it good, I likewise slithered behind the huge wheel of his TC -- which not only required negotiating the suicide door, but it was on the opposite side of the car from my custom.

So if Robert is listening, and he ever actually got that Midget... I HELPED.

So many great memories of the convention, including the high-performance rubber mats I bought at the Moss Warehouse Sale. As I was slipping one into the driver's footwell of the Midget, I noticed some slack in the throttle pedal. I popped the hood and saw that the throttle linkage wasn't quite right; when the pedal was all the way down, there was still about 25-30 degrees of throttle plate opening left unused. I adjusted the linkage and immediately got a VERY noticeable boost in power, now that the carbs were opening all the way. I've chuckled about those high-performance floor mats ever since.


Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
7/7/22 12:19 p.m.

In reply to sfisher71 :

I know Robert well and have been out in his supercharged Midget. And I drove this TC as well. Great comments. Thanks for being part of our forum.

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