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Mini Moke - Sixties City
Mini Moke - Sixties City

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Sixties City Transport

     The Mini Moke

Mini Moke - Sixties City
Mini Moke - The Prisoner
Mini Moke - The Avengers
Mini Moke - Emma Peel
Mini Moke - Sixties City
Mini Moke - Sixties City

One of the more unlikely production vehicles to surface during the Sixties, but one which achieved cult status, and was also something of a fashion, was the Mini Moke. When Alec Issigonis originally designed the Mini, he also had in planning an additional vehicle that would share a number of its mechanical parts but be a quite different end product. Based on the design of the American military Jeep, it was a second attempt by Issigonis to attract some of the military vehicle business away from Land Rover, an ambition that had previously failed with the Nuffield Guppy. Code-named 'The Buckboard', the British Motor Corporation (BMC) had produced prototype versions as early as 1959.

Using the same engine, transmission and suspension as the basic Mini, the Mini Moke was presented to the British Army in 1963 as a potential general purpose vehicle that could be dropped by parachute but its small wheels, poor ground clearance, low-powered engine and lack of four-wheel drive made it unsuitable as an off-road vehicle. The only military interest raised was from the Royal Navy who thought it might have a use in carrying personnel around the decks of aircraft carriers. 
The design was modified to include four-wheel drive and power was increased with the introduction of a second engine (almost predictably leading it to be called the 'Twini') but nothing financially viable could be done about the low ground clearance inherited from its 'Mini' lineage. The modified designs were again rejected by both the British and American armies and the vehicle never made it beyond the prototype stage as a military vehicle.

Mini Moke - Sixties City

Eventually BMC abandoned hopes for any military application, but not the basic concept. It was decided to market a low-cost, easily maintained civilian version for light commercial applications such as farming and further modified prototypes were produced, one or some of which are still in existence. Not all the endeavour for a military application went to waste as some early promo material focussed on the vehicle's lightness by showing four soldiers off-roading in a Moke and lifting it up and carrying it by its tubular bumpers when the terrain became too much for its (naturally downplayed) low ground clearance.

Morris Mini Moke Advert The strange name 'Mini Moke' is made up of two parts. The 'Mini' obviously alludes to its Mini heritage and the alliterative 'Moke' is a slang term for a donkey, which was probably hoped that it would be thought of as a kind of 'workhorse'. The American brochures actually read:
"Own a four-passenger donkey! The Austin Mini Moke is as tough and versatile as its namesake, but not half so obstinate. The rugged transverse-mounted BMC engine, combined with front wheel drive, makes it sure-footed on the roughest terrain. Carrying a load, caddying around the golf course or coursing over back roads and beaches, the Austin Mini Moke is the real 'can do' vehicle. A lot more economical than a donkey, too!"

The Moke was launched on the British market in 1964, first being built at the Morris factory in Oxford before moving to BMC's Longbridge plant in Birmingham. Mokes made in Britain were powered by a single 848cc (later 1098cc then 1275cc) engine, detuned to use low-octane fuel, and the same wheels (10 inch), suspension and gearbox as a standard Mini.

It took nearly 22 seconds to reach 60mph with a top speed of around 65. Original 'Mark 1' Mokes were fitted with a floor-mounted headlight dip switch and a single windscreen wiper (which was not necessarily vital as the windscreen could easily be unbolted and removed if not needed!). Optional 'extras' included passenger seats, grab handles, heater, windscreen washer and a removable canvas top, all of which had to be fitted by the owner. The only colour option was a dark 'Spruce Green'.

At a price of just 405 it cost less than any other four-wheeled car on the market. The bizarre reason for this was that it wasn't actually viewed as a 'car' by Customs & Excise, who classified it as a commercial vehicle, therefore no purchase tax was payable! Of course, once you'd purchased the Moke, you could easily 'convert' it into a car by adding passenger seats and other 'extras'. A conversion company, Crayford Engineering, produced about 20 Mokes fitted with four seats, striped upholstery and a fringed Surrey top for export. One remained in the UK and was used as a taxi in the TV series 'The Prisoner'. A variety of other Mini-based vehicles were also subject to modification and conversion inside Crayford's workshops including the Cooper, Wolseley Hornet and Clubman.

Ultimately, about 90% of the 14,518 Longbridge-made Mokes were exported to hot countries for use as 'beach buggies', hotel 'tourist taxis' and even police cars! With the bad winters of 63 and 64 the original idea of four-wheel drive by way of 'adding an engine' was resurrected. This initially proved to be a bit of a problem as it was difficult to synchronise both engines and the dual gear-changes but a compromise solution was reached by fitting an automatic power unit in the back. A 'Mark 2' was announced in 1967 to include changes that had been made to the Mini (the horn and headlight controls now mounted on the indicator stalk), plus a second windscreen wiper as standard and a choice of two colours - the original 'Spruce Green' or a new 'Old English White'. This resurrected Customs interest in the vehicle, ending its 'tax dodging' by reclassifying it as a car. This raised the UK price by 78 and severely damaged sales when the marque was already under threat as the mergers within the British automotive industry had brought Land Rover into the same stable.

British manufacture ended in October 1968 after 14,518 had been built, of which all but 1,467 had been exported. A team of Mokes equipped with roll bars and the Mini Cooper S 1275 cc engine were entered in autocross grass track competitions in 1968 by the John Player cigarette company but full 'cult' status was mainly achieved as a result of its appearance in film and television productions, particularly the ATV series 'The Prisoner', James Bond movies, notably 'The Man With The Golden Gun' and 'Pop' movies such as the DC5's 'Catch Us If You Can'.

Australian Moke production started in 1966 and continued right up until 1981. To start with they were built exactly like the British larger 13 inch wheels were fitted after a few months as this made them a more practical prospect for beach and off-road use with the slight increase in ground clearance. At the end of UK production in 1968 all the remaining tooling was transferred to the Sydney production site. A later version called 'The Californian' was made more attractive by sporting a 1275 cc engine and vastly improved seating. A pick-up version with a cloth top and drop sides was introduced in 1975. As in the U.K. a four-wheel drive version also became available, but this was achieved with a single engine that applied power to the rear via a transfer box.

In 1981 production (now British Leyland) was transferred to the Portuguese subsidiary where a further 8,500 'Californians' were produced in the ten years to 1991. Now called the Rover Group, manufacturing rights were sold to motorcycle manufacturer Cagiva, who continued production in Portugal for a further two years, making a further 1,500 Mokes before deciding to transfer work to Italy, but it was effectively the end of the line for the Moke. In all, about 50,000 Mokes were produced. 14,500 were produced in the UK between 1964 and 1968, 26,000 in Australia between 1966 and 1981 and 10,000 in Portugal between 1980 and 1993.

Crayford Minis             Heritage Motor Centre             The Mini Moke Club

BMC Morris Mini Moke Advert

The Prisoner 'Surrey' Moke

Sammy Davis and 'souped up' Moke


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