Unusual Vehicles is a segment that looks at an unconventional vehicle. It’s no secret the Mini is one of the most popular classic cars of all time, and there have been a few variations over the years. The most unusual has to be the Mini Moke. The ‘Moke’ name is an old word for donkey. Initially designed as a light military vehicle, the Moke achieved cult status as a beach buggy. It was an example of how the Mini found success in another market, and we’re looking into the history of this quirky motor.
From military to civilian
When Sir Alec Issigonis designed the Mini, he planned on making a car with a more rugged body type. This was his attempt to break into the military vehicle business and take it away from Land Rover. In 1959, a prototype had been created called ‘The Buckboard,’ and it later became the Mini Moke. The prototypes were presented to the British Army as a parachute-droppable vehicle, but the low-powered engine didn’t meet the basic requirements for an off-road vehicle. Eventually, the Royal Navy took the Buckboard to be used on the decks of aircraft carriers.
Further attempts to make a military vehicle failed because of mechanical complications. By 1963, the British Motor Corporation (BMC) had given up trying to sell the Moke to the military and focused on a civilian version. The Moke was launched in Britain in 1964 and it was classified at a passenger car rather than a commercial vehicle. This meant it was subject to purchase tax and it didn’t sell as well as BMC hoped.
The Moke gained popularity after appearing on the TV series The Prisoner, as well as appearing in the Traffic song called ‘Berkshire Poppies.’ The car from The Prisoner has been recently restored by its owner. British Mokes featured a low-end 848 cc engine and the same suspension and gearbox as a standard Mini.
From 1966 to 1981, the Moke was built in Australia. The Australian Moke gained 13-inch wheels, which made it more practical for off-road and beach use than the British version. This led to Leyland Australia producing a variant called the ‘Californian’, which came with a 1275 cc engine and side marker lamps.
In places like Barbados and Mauritius, the Moke was used as a beach buggy. It had the kind of design that made it ideal for the tourist industry.
Although the Moke was never as popular as the original Mini, it’s a great example of a car that found a place in the world.
By Mick from England (Mini Moke) [CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons