Mini Moke

Mini Moke
Mini Moke
Mini Moke
Manufacturer BMC,
British Leyland Portugal,
Also called Austin Mini Moke
Morris Mini Moke
Leyland Moke
Production 1964–1993
Assembly Setúbal, Portugal
Longbridge, Birmingham, England
Zetland, New South Wales, Australia
Umtali, Rhodesia [1]
Class Light truck/Beach buggy
Body style 4-door truck
4-door pickup
Layout FF layout
Engine 850 cc A-series, I4
998 cc I4
1275 cc I4
1098 cc I4
Transmission 4-speed manual
Wheelbase 2,020 mm (79.5 in)[2]
Length 3,050 mm (120.1 in)
Width 1,300 mm (51.2 in)
Height 1,400 mm (55.1 in)(with cloth roof and windshield raised)
Kerb weight 406 kg (896 lb) — Early models
578 kg (1275 lb) — Later models
Designer Sir Alec Issigonis

The Mini Moke is a vehicle based on the Mini and designed for the British Motor Corporation (BMC) by Sir Alec Issigonis.[3] The name comes from "Mini"—the car with which the Moke shares many parts—and "Moke", which is an archaic dialect term for donkey.[4][5][6] The Moke has been marketed under various names including Austin Mini Moke, Morris Mini Moke and Leyland Moke.

The initial design was a prototype for a light military vehicle in the style of the American Jeep, but its small wheels and low ground clearance made it impractical as an off-road vehicle. It was subsequently offered in a civilian version as a low-cost, easily maintained utility vehicle. The Moke finally achieved success as a beach buggy—becoming a popular 'cult' vehicle in the Seychelles, Australia, the United States and many tropical resorts in the Caribbean. The original Moke used identical engine, transmission and suspension parts to the basic Mini.[7][8]

Mokes were first built at the Morris factory in Oxford before production moved to BMC's Longbridge, Birmingham plant, and eventually overseas. 14,500 Mokes 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 when production of the Moke ended.[5]



When Issigonis designed the Mini, he planned another vehicle to share the Mini's mechanical parts, but with a more rugged body shell. This was an attempt to take a portion of the military vehicle business from Land Rover. Issigonis had previously designed the Nuffield Guppy in a failed attempt to break into that market. By 1959, BMC had working prototypes of what was codenamed "The Buckboard", later to become the Mini Moke. These prototypes were shown to the British Army as a parachute-droppable vehicle, but poor ground clearance and a low-powered engine did not meet the most basic requirements for an off-road vehicle. Only the Royal Navy showed any interest at all in the Buckboard—as a vehicle for use on the decks of aircraft carriers.[5]

Early promotional material made much of the lightness of the vehicle, showing four soldiers riding in the Moke off-road, then picking it up by its tubular bumpers and carrying it when (inevitably) its low ground clearance proved inadequate.

In a further attempt to make something for the army, a few four-wheel drive Mokes were made by the addition of a second engine and transmission at the back of the vehicle with linked clutches and gear shifters.[9] This did nothing for the ground-clearance problems, and mechanical complications discouraged development beyond the prototype stage.[7][8] This vehicle was called "The Twini" and was shown to the US Army—again with no success.[4]

Three of these vehicles were used by the Brazilian Army after being captured from the rebels Guyanese, the Rupununi Rebellion, who crossed the border into Brazil[10]

British Mokes

An early British Moke
1967 Austin Mini Moke (North America)

Eventually BMC gave up on the idea of selling the Moke to the military, and in 1963 the decision was made to build a civilian version, targeting farmers and light commercial applications. Several prototypes were built in 1963, one of which is still known to exist in Pinner just outside London, England. The Moke was launched onto the British market in 1964. The British Customs and Excise department decided that the Moke should be classified as a passenger car rather than as a commercial vehicle which meant that it attracted purchase tax, reducing sales in its intended commercial market.[11]

The Moke attracted attention as a 'cult' vehicle as a result of the unprecedented success of the Mini and through media exposure in the popular television series The Prisoner, as well as in the Traffic song "Berkshire Poppies." [12] Despite this, of the 14,500 British Mokes sold only about a tenth of them stayed in Britain.[5] Mokes continued to be made in Britain until 1968.

1967 Mini Moke

British-made Mokes were fitted with a low-end 850 cc I4 engine, detuned to use low-octane fuel. They used the same suspension, gearbox and 10 inch wheels as the standard Mini.[13] In the initial offering, passenger seats, grab handles, heater, windscreen washer and a removable canvas top were all optional equipment delivered separately from the vehicle. Owners had to bolt these optional extras onto the vehicle themselves.[7] The base price was GB£405.[14] The 'Mk I' Mokes had a single windscreen wiper and a floor-mounted headlight dip switch, and the only colour available was "Spruce Green". In 1967, the 'Mk II' Moke added a passenger-side wiper. Horn and headlight controls were moved onto the indicator stalk. These later British Mokes were also available in white.[15]

The John Player & Sons cigarette company ran a team of Mokes in autocross competitions on grass tracks through 1968.[6] These vehicles were equipped with rollover protection and used the Mini Cooper S 1275 cc engine.

Australian Mokes

The Moke was built in Australia from 1966 to 1981 where it was originally marketed as the Morris Mini Moke and from 1973 as the Leyland Moke.[16] Initially Australian Mokes had the same 10 inch wheels as British Mokes and Mini saloons, however these were soon replaced by 13 inch wheels with longer rear trailing arms, which made them more practical for gentle off-road or beach use than the British version. The solid metal seats of the British Mokes were replaced with tubular-framed 'deck-chair' seats.[15] This variant started with a 998 cc engine which was switched in mid-production to 1098 cc. In 1976, with the advent of new anti-pollution requirements (Australian Design Rule 27A), the locally manufactured 1098 cc motor was replaced by an imported version of the 998 cc motor with an air pump and exhaust gas recirculation, which had been developed to meet UK anti-pollution requirements.

For a brief period around 1972, Leyland Australia produced a variant referred to in Leyland literature as "Moke, special export", but commonly called a "Californian", which had a 1,275 cc engine and was fitted with side marker lamps and different rear lights to conform to US FMVSS standards. The fuel tank from the Austin Sprite or MG Midget was fitted beneath the rear load area, replacing the standard tank mounted in the left sidebox. The export Californian was readily recognisable by its roof and seats, trimmed in 'Op-pop verve' black and white tiger striped vinyl or 'Orange Bali' vinyl, which looked rather like a fruit salad,[17] and was briefly marketed to the 'flower power' culture in the United States.

The name "Californian" and the 1275 cc motor were resurrected in 1977 for Australian market Mokes with denim seat covers, more comfortable seats (which concealed the same basic frame within), spoked wheels[8] and complex tubular bumpers (known as 'roo bars').[15]

Australian Mokes were exported to many countries, and pioneered large-scale exports of Australian-made vehicles. Leyland Australia made much of these exports in its advertising. The use of Australian-made Mokes by the Israeli Army (complete with a machine gun tripod mounted in the rear) attracted controversy and media attention.[5][7]

From 1975, a pickup version of the Moke was produced, with a 1.45 x 1.50 metre (55 x 59 in) drop-sided bed which protruded behind the back of the vehicle, and a cloth top over the cab area.[8] At least two four-wheel drive Moke prototypes were manufactured by Leyland Australia in the late 1970s, but unlike the British version, these used just one engine. Leyland were planning to market this version, but Moke production in Australia ended in 1981 and all that remains of the project is one of the prototypes which is now owned by an enthusiast in Western Australia [7][8] and a modified differential crownwheel with gearteeth cut in the side to drive the rear tailshaft, in the personal collection of a Melbourne Mini specialist.

In 1977, a 1,275 cc Cooper S-engined Moke (sponsored by Coca-Cola) was entered into the Singapore Airlines London-Sydney Marathon. The car was driven over 30,000 kilometres (18,600 mi) over 30 days and finished in 35th place.[4]

Portuguese Mokes

1984 Portuguese Mini-Moke

As Australian Moke production wound down, manufacturing was transferred to British Leyland's subsidiary in Portugal, which made 8,500 of the 'Californian' Mokes in their Vendas Novas plant between 1980 and 1990. Initially these Mokes were identical to late model Australian Mokes; very soon, however, they were altered to use then-current British production Mini saloon components, including the standard-length Mini rear trailing arms and the 12 in wheels with modern low-profile tyres, which the saloon had acquired during the Moke's absence from Europe.

In 1990, British Leyland (by then called Rover Group) sold the "Moke" name to Cagiva—a motorcycle manufacturer in Bologna, Italy. Production continued in Portugal until 1993, when Cagiva transferred the tooling to their factory in Italy with the intention of restarting production in 1995—which they never did. Since Cagiva did not own the "Mini" name, the 1,500 cars they built were sold simply as "Mokes".[5][7] This brought the total production run of Mokes and Moke derivatives to about 50,000.

Construction and maintenance

Mokes retain their cult status, and there are many enthusiastic restorers.

The Moke's construction is simple. The body mainly consists of two box-section 'pontoons' or 'sideboxes' running from the back of the car all the way up to the firewall. These are connected by the floor pan, the firewall and a sturdy torque box that runs under the front seats and stiffens the body in torsion. The left-hand pontoon contains the fuel tank; the right-hand has a compartment for the battery and a small lockable storage area. The 1972 "Moke, Special Export", commonly referred to as a 'Californian' Moke, has an Austin Sprite/MG Midget type fuel tank fitted beneath the rear floor area to meet the American FMVSS safety requirements of the time. Standard Mokes of the same period and later Californian Mokes use the conventional tank mounted in the left sidebox. Later Portuguese Mokes have additional lockable storage space at the rear of the vehicle. The optional cloth canopy has plastic side windows, and is held up by a thin tubular structure that can easily be removed when not needed. In later versions this was replaced with a more solid roll cage. The windscreen can easily be unbolted and removed if not needed. There are just three curved panels in the Moke, the bonnet, the firewall and the floor, each of which is only curved in one direction. This makes it relatively straightforward to reproduce and replace Moke body components without access to sophisticated machine tools.[18]

Because the Moke's A-Series engine, manual gearbox and suspension are identical to those of a standard Mini (which was still in production up to October 2000), most spare parts are still readily available. The Moke has no chassis, so the wheels, brake assemblies and suspension are attached to front and rear subframes which are bolted straight onto the monocoque shell just as with a standard Mini. Mokes tend to require much structural maintenance if they are to stay in good running order.[18]

Kit cars and look-alikes

The true Mini Moke was never available as a 'kit car', but because the basic Mini parts are easily available, many companies have made copies of the vehicle: the Andersen Mini-Cub, the Del Tech Nomad, the Gecko, the Hobo, the Hustler, the Jimini, the Mini-Scout, the Mule, the Navajo, the Ranger, the Mini Scamp, the Stimson, the Warrior and the Yak.[15]

Island Mokes

The Mini Moke is a popular rental car in the Seychelles, Barbados, Mauritius and many other tropical countries.

The Moke gained much popularity as a beach buggy and was often rented to tourists in tropical island resorts such as Mauritius and Barbados.

The car also found a market in Macau, where it became the official transport for the local police, and the 'Happy-Rent-a-Car' company owned 43 of the vehicles which were made available for hire until February 2006, when they were outlawed by new car safety laws.[5][19] The Macau branch of the car rental company Avis ran a fleet of Moke look-alike "CUBs" until July 2007. The CUB, although it resembled the Moke, was designed by Charles Andersen of Liverpool, England and used a 1275cc version of the A-Series engine.[20]

On Magnetic Island, off Australia's Queensland coast, Moke Magnetic still operate a large fleet of Australian-made Mokes for hire to tourists.[21]

Mini Mokes can still be seen around the town of Victoria, Seychelles as it is still a popular mode of transport for tourists and can seat 4 people in relative comfort from island point to island point.

In the early 1970s, a Mini Moke became the first motor vehicle to be driven on Pitcairn Island and thereby became the most remote vehicle on earth. It was chosen because it was the only off-road vehicle that could be lifted by the island's only crane—there being no dock or airstrip at Pitcairn. However, the rough terrain and heavy rainfall proved too much for the Moke and it soon broke down. Eventually, a second and later a third Moke were sent to the island, and by cannibalising the three for spares, the island's sole vehicle remained running until at least 1988.[8]

Railway Mokes

The Moke was identified as an ideal conversion for use in railway service.

Two differing modifications were made; one using backing plates and spacers, the other a more conventional road-rail system.

Tasmanian Government Railways ran a fleet, estimated at 16,[22] of hard topped Mokes for inspection and maintenance service on its narrow gauge network. These Mokes had slightly modified suspension, and used spacers and backing plates so that the wheels sat on and tracked on 42" gauge track[23] Similarly, the Federal Government, through either its Commonwealth Railways or Australian National Railways Commission, ran at least two similarly set up Mokes on its Central Australia Railway. At least one of these Mokes also operated on the isolated Eyre Peninsula network.[24]

George E Moss and Co (trading as GEMCO) developed a road-rail system based on a Western Australian Government Railways design which was fitted to at least two Mokes - One used by the District Engineer, Perth, and the other by the District Engineer, Northam[25]

Future Mokes

BMW owned MINI has revealed a planned vehicle named after the Moke.[26] According to MotorTrend, the new Moke seems to possess Jeep and micro pickup truck like qualities and is aimed at the US buyers with the possibility of being assembled in Spartanburg, South Carolina, around 2010.[27]

On 16 December 2009 MINI revealed the Beachcomber Concept, which draws heavily on Moke styling, while being packed with modern equipment. The Beachcomber made its public debut at the Detroit auto show in January 2010.[28]


  1. ^ African Mokes Retrieved from on 5 February 2011
  2. ^ Mini-Moke Driver's Handbook Supplement. 
  3. ^ Wood, Jonathan (2005). Alec Issigonis: The Man Who Made the Mini. Breedon Books Publishing. ISBN 1-85983-449-3. 
  4. ^ a b c Tim Nuttall. Mini Moke 1964–1989. ISBN 1-870642-94-5. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Chris Rees. Complete Classic Mini 1959–2000. ISBN 1-899870-60-1. 
  6. ^ a b R.M.Clarke. Mini-Cooper 1961–1970. ISBN 0-907073-17-4. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f R. M. Clarke. Mini Moke Ultimate Portfolio. ISBN 1-855206-90-0. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f R. M. Clarke, Tim Nuttall. Mini Moke, 1964-1994. ISBN 1-855202-40-9. 
  9. ^ Motor Sport, February 1963, Page 102.
  10. ^ "Carlos Stephani Bastos". ["" ""Austin Mini-Moke No Exercito Brasileiro Um Desconhecido""]. "". Retrieved 2011-09-30. 
  11. ^ Rob Golding (1979). Mini. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-314-3. 
  12. ^ White, Matthew, and Jaffer Ali. The Official Prisoner Companion. ISBN 0-446387-44-4. 
  13. ^ All Time Greats Group 5 Number 109. International Masters Publishers AB. 1968. 
  14. ^ Chapman, Giles (2004-09-07). "MINI MOKE: The obstinate pony". The London Independent. Archived from the original on 2008-01-30. Retrieved 2007-02-02. 
  15. ^ a b c d The Mini Moke Club (1997). A Guide to Mini Mokes. Butterworth & Pilkington Ltd. 
  16. ^ Wheels magazine New Car Prices, 1966 to 1981
  17. ^ Sheather, Merv. "E-Series powered Marinas". Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  18. ^ a b William Norman Staton-Bevan. The book of the B.M.C. Minis: Austin and Morris Minis, Wolseley Hornet, Riley Elf, Cooper and Cooper "S" Models and the Mini-Moke. ISBN 0273406957. 
  19. ^ "No Moke". Macau Business. 2006-03-01. Retrieved 2007-02-02. 
  20. ^ "Andersen Cub". Mini Marcos Owners Club. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-02-02. 
  21. ^ "Moke Magnetic". Moke Magnetic. Retrieved 2007-02-02. 
  22. ^ Mokewerx - Tasmanian Railway Mokes Accessed 1 August 2010
  23. ^ Editorial Staff 1967 Mini-Mokes Converted for Rail Inspection Duties Railway Transportation October 1967 p21
  24. ^ Moke Page Accessed 1 August 2010
  25. ^ Editorial Staff 1970 Mini-Mokes Equipped for Rail/Road Operations Railway Transportation May 1970 p26
  26. ^ BMW Mini Moke concept car
  27. ^ "Future Shock: Future Vans & Minivans", Motor Trend
  28. ^ Clark, Andrew (12 January 2010). "BMW surfs on Mini's sporty image with new Beachcomber model at Detroit motor show". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 April 2010. 

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