Blog : Is the parts situation about to get a lot worse?

Rimmer Bros

Despite the fact that factory support for classic British Leyland sports cars ended decades ago here in the USA, it has never been difficult to own and drive a vintage MG or Triumph or to restore one to whatever level your budget allowed.

However, those days may finally be coming to an end – 43 years after the last new Triumph came to the USA and signalled the end of budget sports cars from Britain. A confluence of three issues has American MG and Triumph owners worried about the future viability of keeping their cars in good repair.

First, there have been major changes in the North American British sports car spares supplier hierarchy in recent months. After British Leyland withdrew MG and then Triumph in 1980 and 1981, the company supported the cars for at least a decade. BL dealers sold only Jaguar after 1981, but Jaguar dealers continued to offer service and parts for MG and Triumph until the early 1990s.

That’s when three key businesses began to take over the MG and Triumph spares business: Victoria British, a division of Long Motor Corporation of Lenexa, Kansas, Moss Motors, based in Goleta, California, and The Roadster Factory in Armagh, Pennsylvania. These companies could supply every nut and bolt, mechanical, and trim component for nearly every model of both brands.

Each seemed to fill in blanks their rivals were deficient in. Victoria British had the best stock of Triumph TR7 and TR8 parts in North America. At Moss and the Roadster Factory, these models were not prioritised. The Roadster Factory made its reputation as the top supplier for the Triumph TR2 to TR6 models. The company contracted with the original UK suppliers for countless numbers of spares, had many remanufactured here in America or in Taiwan with quality that matched or exceeded the originals.

The Roadster Factory’s parts catalogue was as good or better than BL’s microfiche diagrams. They became the assembly manuals for Triumph sports cars for tens of thousands of enthusiasts.

Meanwhile, Moss owned the MG spares business like no other. Combined, the three companies were just as if British Leyland never left. Instead of going to a dealer’s Parts Department for spares, you simply got them dropped onto your doorstep via UPS.

Moss Motors

However, in November 2020, Victoria British sold its inventory to Moss, and Long Motor Corporation ended its involvement in MG and Triumph spares, a business it had spent 30 years building. More recently, on Christmas Day 2023, a fire at The Roadster Factory burned its parts warehouse to the ground, a devastating loss for American British car owners.

And now comes news that a private equity company has bought up both Rimmer Bros and Moss and will combine them.

This, then, brings us to the parts situation, which is becoming more dire by the day. For years the quality of parts has been declining. Poorly made pattern parts from China and elsewhere have been taking the place of the original parts that are no longer being made because the original suppliers have discontinued making small runs, have themselves gone out of business, been combined with other companies, or the original tooling has worn out and is too expensive to replace.

Rimmers has seen its share of business in the USA increase as the turmoil in the American supplier base forced MG and Triumph owners to look elsewhere. But Rimmers is quickly gaining a poor reputation here because it often sells poor quality parts that don’t fit or work properly, or by selling completely different parts under the original factory parts numbers.

In the 42 years I have owned Triumph and MG sports cars, I never once gave a thought to obtaining quality replacement parts. They were plentiful, inexpensive compared with other brands of classic car spares, and of good quality. Now, I am worried about the future – and I am not the only one. The sentiment on MG and Triumph Facebook pages is overwhelmingly negative on the Rimmers-Moss deal.

When you think about it, the strong parts support for MG and Triumph has been nothing short of amazing over the last four decades. But now, the sun may finally be setting on these cars. From now on a classic MGB or Midget  or a Spitfire, TR4 or TR6 could be a lot more expensive to own and maintain, and it may be extremely difficult to restore an MGB or Triumph TR6 to factory condition.

Richard Truett

3 Comments

  1. To paraphrase the spaced-out air traffic controller in the Airplane films, looks like I picked the wrong year to restore an MGBGT V8. Should be all right with the Morris Minor, mind.

  2. Sounds like the issue with Veterinary services in the UK, where private hedge funds have bought up a large chunk of the market, prices go up and then government realises there may be a monopoly and call in the CMA. The private hedge fund has seen the classic car market go ballistic and want part of the action, so have gone all in to try and get the best return for their investors.

  3. It’s not just the old BL sports cars where part availability is getting interesting.

    JLR don’t really stock or support much in the way of parts for the 80s/90s/2000s Defender or Disco or Range Rover any more, even if they do offer parts support it can involve the likes of Britpart whose quality can be somewhat variable.

    Third party suppliers of parts are getting thinner too, Bearmach went under a couple of years back, and Adwest shut down their Defender/Discovery steering box production/remanufacture line some time back, so if you are using a Defender or older Disco as a daily driver / workhorse vehicle you could have problems. 200/300/TD5 replacement cylinder heads likewise, the days when your JLR dealership could get a fully built up head to replace yours if it failed a pressure test (and would keep the workshop open to work overnight to fit it so the vehicle was ready for business the next day) are long gone.

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