The Mini-Moke – the ultimative French Riviera ride
A great looking and fun little classic – fabulous fun to blast around the roads of the French Riviera.
The Mini Moke is a vehicle based on the Mini designed for the British Motor Corporation (BMC) by Sir Alec Issigonis and John Sheppard.
The name comes from „Mini“—the car with which the Moke shares many parts—and „Moke“, which is an archaic dialect term for donkey. 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 Algarve, Seychelles, Australia, the United States and many tropical resorts in the Caribbean. The original Moke used identical engine, transmission and suspension parts from the Mini Van.
The first Mokes were only built at BMC’s Longbridge, Birmingham plant. 14,518 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.
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.
Early promotional material made much of the lightness of the vehicle, showing four soldiers travelling 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. This did nothing for the ground-clearance problems, and mechanical complications discouraged development beyond the prototype stage. This vehicle was called „The Twini“ and was shown to the US Army—again with no success. Three of these vehicles were used by the Brazilian Army after being captured during the 1969 Rupununi Rebellion from Guyanese rebels, who had crossed the border into Brazil.
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; 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 1275 cc version of the A-Series engine.
On Magnetic Island, off Australia’s Queensland coast, Moke Magnetic still operate a large fleet of Australian-made Mokes for hire to tourists. 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 four people in relative comfort from island point to island point.
In the early 1970s, a Mini Moke was 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 leas 1988.
In 2012 Moke International teamed up with designer Michael Young, Chery Automotive and Sicar Engineering to release a new version of the moke. The new Moke has kept its old look but features modern-day comforts and improved components. The New Moke featured in the Thai Motor Expo in December 2014 and is expected to release in Thailand, Australia, the Caribbean, the Seychelles & Mauritius, Egypt, Greece, and New Zealand in early to mid-2015.