THE MOKE

The Mini Moke was devised by Alec Issigonis at the same time as he created the Mini itself. The Moke is in fact a variant of the revolutionary Mini - so it shares the Mini’s lively and responsive road manners. Much of this is thanks to the Mini’s compact and robust Front Wheel Drive (FWD) power unit, which was mounted transversely across the engine bay.

The Mini wasn’t the first car to use this layout, but it was the Mini that proved the virtues of this layout in mass-market cars. It is probable that this layout is used by most modern cars today.

Gearbox in Engine Sump

An unusual aspect of the Mini’s power unit is the positioning of its gearbox underneath the engine. This meant the gearbox was in fact in the engine’s sump, sharing the same oil. Any worries that the oil would be suitable for both purposes has been proved unfounded, given the Mini’s success over a long period of production and of course its success in rigorous competition. The gearbox-in-sump arrangement was also used in other FWD cars made by BMC (the British Motor Corporation).

'Modular' Construction

Issigonis devised the Mini so that its running gear was mounted on subframes.

The front subframe carried the engine/gearbox combination, the driveshafts, the front wheels, suspension and brakes. The complete front subframe was then mounted at just 6 points to the body shell. The rear subframe carried the rear suspension, wheels and brakes; and that was mounted to the body at 4 points.

So in effect the Mini is made of 3 ‘modules’: the front subframe assembly, the rear subframe assembly, and the body shell in between.

Alternative Bodies

This modular construction meant it was straightforward to create related cars with different body styles, as long as those 6 mounting points for the front subframe and 4 mounting points for the rear subframe were in matching positions.

So the Mini appeared not only as a saloon, but also as an estate, van and pick-up. Other versions included the up-market Wolseley Hornet and Riley Elf (both had extended luggage boots), also the ‘square nosed’ Clubman, and the convertible.

Those variants were all visibly related to the Mini, as they shared several body panels. But the Mini Moke was surely the most radical Mini variant produced - a utility car with a unique open-top body.

Not a Kit Car

The modular construction of the Mini range also made Mini running gear an ideal base for kit cars. Several kit car manufacturers chose to imitate the fashionable yet simple Moke. Ses Moke Imitators for more on this topic. The real Moke was never offered as a kit car.

A Minimalist Open Car

The Moke has no roof; nor even sides, in the way that ordinary cars do. It consists basically of front end structure built around the front subframe and power unit, then behind that a open ‘tray’ area for the passengers’ seats or for loads to be carried. This area is given strength by two large box-section ‘pontoons’, one on each side.

The rearmost part of this open area is higher than the rest of floor - the rear subframe mounts under here. The battery and some enclosed storage is in one pontoon, the fuel tank is in the other. These pontoons make it quite a step to get on board (they’re about 25cms or 10” wide), but they made the Moke remarkably rigid for a car with such a light and simple body.

To keep the worst of the weather off, the Moke has a folding fabric hood (canopy).

Military Moke turns Civilian

Issigonis conceived the Moke as multipurpose lightweight car for the military, which would give soldiers multi-purpose [easy/basic/everyday/day to day] transport in a vehicle which was lighter (and less expensive) 4x4s like the Land Rover. The Moke was also successfully tested as a car which could be dropped by parachute.

Although conceived around the same time as the Mini, the Mini Moke didn’t make production until 1964 - five years after the Mini saloon went on sale. Although the Moke had the advantage of being built around running gear it shared with the Mini, it had the disadvantage (for military applications) of the Mini’s small 10 inch wheels and a low ground clearance.

Under tests for the British Military, it was found that the Moke got bogged down too easily when venturing off road. Although it was felt that the Moke was light enough to be ‘picked up’ and lifted out of trouble (its straight tubular bumbers made convenient handles!), this was not very practical. (4x4 Mini Mokes, using a pair power units, were tried but didn’t make production.)

So the Moke’s military ambitions were not realised. Nevertheless, it was decided to put the Moke in production, and to offer it as a civilian utility car or leisure vehicle. And from this start, Moke production continued in various forms until 1993.



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Moke Production - England 1964 - 1968

The English Mini Mokes were the most basic of all the Mokes. All were supplied with 10 inch wheels and a simple hood which folded right down to the back of the car (like a convertible), leaving the Moke fully open behind the windscreen. More details of the features that identify an English Moke can be found on the English Mokes page. A ‘Mark 2’ upgrade of the English Moke was introduced during 1967; the most noticeable changes affected the switchgear and wipers.

Owning an English Moke

The ‘back-to-basics’ character of the English Moke contributes to much of its appeal and driving pleasure. You could say this is the ‘classic’ Moke which embodies the minimalist concept of the original design. The few years of production and the fact that the English Mokes are the oldest of the breed (so fewer survive), gives the car significant rarity value. They are also classified as ‘Historic vehicles’ in the UK, meaning they are exempt from road tax.

All this means the most basic Moke will be the priciest! Properly restored English Mokes are not easy to find - expect prices over £15000. Delightful though an English Moke will be, remember it will lack many of the features of a modern car. For example, there was no roll cage fitted, so 3-point ‘inertia reel’ seatbelts cannot be installed. Nevertheless, the Moke can be fitted with lap belts, or the front seat occupants can have 3-point ‘static’ belts.

Thanks to the enduring popularity of the Mini - with which the Moke shared most mechanical parts - the availability of spares is good.

However, be prepared for a car which lacks the equipment, ride and effortless performance of a modern car. But the Moke offers true ‘classic car’ driving experience (plus the agile handling of the Mini) that enthusiasts will appreciate.

Moke Production - Australia 1966 - 1981

Production of the Moke started two years before it finished in England. In the early years, Australian Mokes were very much like the English Mokes - 10 inch wheels, fold-down hoods and very basic specification.

However, over the years, the Australians made many major changes to the Moke - most notably 13 inch wheels were introduced, with the bodywork widened slightly and lengthened at the rear to accommodate them. With these wheels had higher ground clearance, the Moke gained better off road performance. Importantly, the Australian Moke was adopted by the Australian Military, among others.

Bigger engines were offered, front disc brakes came too, plus there were roll cages (the shape of the cages still allowed the hoods to fold right down). Hoods were also enlarged and, with side screens, weather protection was improved.

Brief details of the features that identify an Australian Moke can be found in the Australian Mokes section on this website. The production changes made to the Moke in Australia makes quite a complicated story - consider the notes on this website a guide, rather than a historical record!

Owning an Australian Moke

Australia had the longest production run and (not surprisingly) produced the most Mokes. Possibly the Australian climate was a little kinder to the body shells, (though not ‘steel friendly’ - what weather is?). So there’s more to choose from, but they may well be many miles away!

Late Australian Mokes benefited from being made with zinc galvanised steel. Although not as good as having the body shell galvanised when assembly was complete, the bodies of these Mokes are often remarkably sound.

The bigger 13 inch wheels help to give the Australian Mokes a tougher appearance, which may appeal to you. Having a roll cage while still retaining a ‘convertible-style’ fold-down hood is quite a bonus. (English Mokes had fold-down hoods, but no roll cages; later Portuguese Mokes had roll cages but a non-folding hood.) The roll cage usefully makes ‘inertia reel’ 3-point seat belts possible for the front seats occupants. A point to note, however, is that the Australian Mokes have some parts which are not found on European Minis. But even if you need replacement parts and you cannot find the ‘correct’ Australian parts, it’s usually possible to devise a ‘fix’ using alternatives which are easier to find.

Australian Mokes built up to 1973 are classified ‘Historic Vehicles’ (exempt from road tax).

Moke Production - Portugal 1980 - 1993

Moke production moved to Portugal in 1980. Once again, there was an overlap and the early Portuguese Mokes were very much like the late Australian Mokes (in fact they were built from Australian ‘kits’).

In 1986, the Moke was given a major redesign to bring it back into line with contemporary Mini practice. So the 13 inch wheels went, so did the longer rear suspension arms and flared extensions to the rear panel. 12 inch wheels were the norm for the Mini, with disc brakes up front and drums at the rear; so the identical set-up appeared on the Moke. The small extensions to the width of the wheel arches were retained, however.

These Mokes introduced the distinctive ‘Portuguese-style’ of Moke, which lasted with only minor revisions to the end of Moke production in 1993.

The various features are summarised in [insert x-ref], but here are the mains things that identify these Mokes: in addition to the switch to 12 inch wheels, you’ll a full height roll cage covering all four seats, making inertia-reel seat belts possible for all occupants. The hood is stretched over the cage and, although it can be removed from the Moke, it doesn’t have separate support bars and so it can’t be folded back like on previous Mokes.

The hood comes with full zipped-in sidescreen panels, which incorporate zipped ‘doors’ which could be rolled up. See [inset x-ref] for more on the factory hoods and the new hoods Runamoke supplies for Portuguese Mokes.

Inside you will find a new design of comfortably shaped seats, in a cabin which feels altogether more civilised and up-to-date.

There was a brief break in production in 1990, when Rover Portugal sold the rights to build the Moke to Cagiva, the Italian Motorcycle manufacturer. The plan was to move the tooling in due course to an Italian factory, but production was restarted in Portugal and continued until 1993. These ‘Cagiva’ Mokes incorporated some revisions- see [insert x-ref]. The move to Italy never happened and Moke production came to an end in 1993.

Owning a Portuguese Moke

If the English Moke was the ‘minimalist’ Moke and Australian was the ‘tough’ Moke, then the Portuguese was the ‘civilised’ Moke. By bringing the car in line with contemporary Minis, this type of Moke is less of an ‘oddball’. From the point of view of maintenance, you have the mechanicals of a Mini of the same year and, bearing in mind the continued interest the Mini and its healthy spares availability, this is good news for Portuguese Moke owners.

But Australia’s use of galvanised steel was dropped in Portugal unfortunately, so be prepared to check carefully for rust although, late in 1988, improved anti-rust treatment was introduced.

To summarise, the Portuguese Moke can be considered the Moke that is easiest to live with. It is also the newest of the Mokes and, in Europe at least, you should find one closer to home.