May 28, 2015
The Globe-Trekking Story of the MINI Moke.
When it comes to rare examples of classic MINI, the MINI Moke is up there with the most intriguing and unusual. Originally designed as a military vehicle for the British Army, the Moke really hit its stride as a practical, affordable and character-rich car that thrived in warmer climates. Having starred in a television series and often favoured for roaming tropical estates, the MINI Moke has a rich backstory worthy of its cult status.
Read on to learn more about this extraordinary classic MINI and to see where it is motoring on today with MINI fans around the world.
Alec Issigonis himself developed plans for the MINI Moke, right alongside the plans for the classic MINI in 1959. The intention was to use the MINI’s mechanics as a basis, creating a vehicle that would meet the military needs of the British Army. Even before the launch of the Austin Se7en and Morris MINI, prototypes of the vehicle that would become the MINI Moke called the ‘Buckboard’ already existed. They were built for the military as light vehicles that could withstand a parachute drop and be lifted by helicopter.
Low ground clearance due to the Buckboard’s 80-inch wheelbase sent the prototype back for adjustments and in 1962 the MINI Moke – named after a kind of packhorse - was born with a shortened 72.5-inch wheelbase. Unfortunately the ground clearance was something the military couldn’t reconcile with, and despite the Moke’s excellent traction and acceleration its military career was limited.
By 1963 the MINI Moke was ready to meet the public, this time as a civilian vehicle with the original 80” wheelbase and the standard 848cc MINI engine. Production would begin in 1964, though the motoring world was unsure of how this unusual vehicle would find its place – as hotel courtesy transport, a beach car, a golf cart, as factory transport? The final answer would come from the taxman, who classed the MINI Moke within the lower commercial vehicle rate, making it a hit with budget-conscious motorists. The Spruce Green Moke rolled onto the market as the cheapest four-wheeled car available – retailing at a mere £405.
The MINI Moke was not made for broad success throughout Britain, but that didn’t stop it from finding favour in select crowds. Though not suited for the average British commuter during the cooler and wetter months, it became a preferred partner for agricultural professionals and a badge of progressive taste amongst the Carnaby Street ‘in-crowd’ of 1960s Swinging London. By 1967 the Moke was a cult object garnering attention on a national level with trend-setters, thanks in part to its starring role in Patrick McGoohan’s classic thriller TV series The Prisoner. Throughout the later sixties a MINI Moke was a must-have in many cultured circles.
Following its hay day in Britain, production picked up in other parts of the world, particularly in more tropical climates. From 1968, Australia became the primary producer of MINI Mokes, and an Mk2 version was introduced with a 1098cc engine and new 13” wheels to increase ground clearance. The adjustments saw the model score some significant success in the Antipodean market – including the Australian Army, which bought over 500 of them in 1972.
The Australian climate saw the MINI Moke come into its own, and it thrived as a ‘rough and tumble’ vehicle for farmers, bush workers and intrepid off-road joy riders. Model variants were spawned, including ‘The Californian’ – a softer version of the Moke better suited to everyday drives with more comfortable seats and full weather gear as standard.
As the seventies became the eighties, production ceased in Australia but the MINI Moke story continued with the development of new models in Portugal – including the Moke Californian. They later rolled off other production lines to popular demand in France, Spain, Italy and even Japan. Today, there are MINI Mokes motoring everywhere from the Caribbean to southern Europe.
We went on the scout for some of the best #MINImokes of Instagram and are pleased to share some stand-outs.
Preecha Akkharaphimarn’s MINI Moke blossoms on the streets of Thailand.
Chamila Wewage’s Moke was hand-built by her father to drive around their home country of Sri Lanka – with extra comfortable seating for the family!
Olivier Genet and David De Oliveira spotted a colourful line-up of MINI Mokes on the sun-drenched isle of St. Barths. These road-ready motors look perfectly comfortable on the tropical Caribbean coastline, ready for island antics.
Over 55 years after it first took to the tarmac, the MINI Moke is still working. In Lisbon, Portugal, tour company Moke Buddy Tours bring a little fun and colour to tourism in the area.
Nisal Wijeratne’s father wanted a MINI Moke since he was a boy, and for the last year the whole family has been making memories all over the Sri Lankan countryside. Here’s to many more Moke memories to come!