Al Moss, known to almost everyone who reads this journal, died peacefully on September 25 at his home in Sedona, Arizona, of pneumonia following removal of a malignant brain tumor. Typically, two days after surgery Al joked, “Some will be surprised I had a tumor on an organ they thought I didn’t possess.” E. Alan Moss closely guarded the name for which the E stood. Friends would often propose a name, Ethelred perhaps, or Engelbert, but Al only smiled. Al’s humor was as famous among his exceptional number of friends as were his accomplishments to those—no doubt few—in our field who didn’t know him personally.
The founder of Moss Motors, sports car racer the first time around (1949-’51), vintage racer from 1973 to 2008, restorer of many cars, as well as official, organizer, mover and shaker of the California Sports Car Club nearly from its inception through the 1960s. MG aficionado extraordinaire, Al owned the same TC from 1948 to this year, and was in large part responsible for keeping MGs on the road, and for providing venues to exercise them from the earliest West Coast Gathering of the Faithful to his recent High Country Tours at Sedona. Those who read his autobiography, The Other Moss, are aware he spent two decades doing much for equine enthusiasts near his then hometown of Santa Barbara as well.
Al ran his TC at time trials and rallies in 1948-’49, but when racing really started in Southern California in 1950, at Palm Springs, he persuaded associate Tom Frisbey to drive his new K2 Allard, a marque for which he had just become distributor. He did the same at Pebble Beach later that year with his new J2. Elsewhere he entered other cars he sold (Sunbeam Talbot, Hillman) long before Moss Motors became purely a parts house.
When he got behind the wheel of his Cad-powered J2 at Carrell Speedway’s dirt oval in ’51, he managed to roll the car, bringing his early racing career to an end, though he was not seriously hurt. Later he would be one of the first to push for roll bars. If you look at any CSCC program from the 1950s you will see Al was Clerk of the Course, or Head Race Judge, or Chief Scrutineer. He instituted early scrutineering during the week at various sports car shops around L.A., sometimes at his own.
Al began racing his TC at the Monterey Historics in the mid-1970s. A few years later he bought and restored the ex-John von Neumann MG TD. My father, who knew him well from racing in the ’50s, saw him for the first time in over 25 years when he brought that car to a 1986 MG meet in San Diego; on seeing Al, Dad exclaimed “You’re Al Moss!” Al’s characteristic reply was, “I knew that!” Al has been an integral part of the vintage racing scene on the West Coast, especially in the Pre-War group, with which Al raced both his TC and his Morgan Trike. He also raced my Dad’s old MG NB and Ken Miles’ R1 Special. While he last raced at Buttonwillow and Monterey in 2009, he continued to come to those two events, the last being this year’s Buttonwillow British Extravaganza, where as always, he was full of cheer, good stories and universally helpful.
Al never stinted with his mechanical expertise even after his retirement in 1976, as many will attest. He rebuilt my TC gearbox in exchange for the dirty job (somebody’s got to do it) of looking at his Fabulous Fifties DVD before the voiceover to help identify cars and drivers appearing in it. He leaves his companion of 26 years, Linda McEvoy, daughters Juli and Cindy by his first wife Joan, plus four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. I can think of no one whose absence will be more lamented than Al’s.
By Michael Jacobsen