The Mini Moke – born in Britain, raised in the colonies, died in Portugal. And now, thanks to a company in Australia, the Moke is being resurrected, with more than a little help from the Chinese.
PetrolBlog doesn’t do new car news, but for the Moke we’ll make an exception. Groovy.
Has there ever been a more classless car than the Mini Moke? The diminutive lifestyle vehicle would look as much at home in Kensington as it would on the streets of Mumbai. Paint it pink and it’s a car for Barbie. Slap a Union Flag on it and it’s a car for Austin Powers. Give it a zebra-stripe livery and it can ply its trade on a safari park. A car for all reasons, if not a car for all seasons.
And yes, the ‘lifestyle vehicle’ tag does jar a little, but what else can you call it? Aside from a perfectly prepared fairway, the Moke isn’t going to venture too far off road. The safety credentials are questionable in the extreme and performance was never its strong point. So what exactly is it? Well, it’s just a Moke.
By rights, the Mini Moke should have been killed off at birth. Shunned by the armed forces for its lack of ground clearance, the Moke was destined to become something of a white elephant. A white elephant painted in Spruce Green.
But fortunately for Alec Issigonis, the Moke captured the hearts of the hip and trendy people of Carnaby Street. The Mini Moke became the must-have accessory for people wearing bell-bottom jeans, paisley shirts, frilly collars and mini skirts. Although not necessarily altogether.
Against all the odds, the crude, uncomfortable, unsafe and tediously slow Mini Moke became a global sensation. Over 14,500 of the things were built in Britain and exported to sunnier climes around the world. A further 26,000 were made by BMC Australia, where, let’s face it, the Moke makes a huge amount of sense. Remarkably, production continued in Portugal until 1993 and it’s estimated that, in all, a total of 50,000 Mokes were built since its launch in 1964.
Moke International is the company responsible for bringing the Moke back from the dead and it plans to launch the ‘Classic’ Moke in 2014. When people ask them why they’ve decided to bring it back, they simply respond with ‘why not?’. Which is as good a response as any.
As you’d expect, Moke International – a name which lends itself rather neatly to a 1960s-style F.A.B International Rescue – has had to work hard to catapult the Moke into the 21st century. Well we say hard, but they’ve actually taken a rather Australian approach to it. You can imagine them working on the Moke in between surfing and beer sessions. And that’s a very cool thing.
The new Moke is powered by a 1.0-litre Chery-sourced 3-cylinder engine, enough for 49hp and 93Nm of torque. Top speed isn’t quoted, but you’re not going to want to drive that fast in a Moke with no ABS, no airbags and no traction control.
But Moke International has improved the suspension and fitted 9-inch disc brakes at the front. Listen, if you want a car with a five-star Euro NCAP rating, the Moke isn’t for you. But if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t take life too seriously, the Moke must surely appeal.
This chilled out, relaxed attitude is reflected in the Moke’s brochure, where the front lamps, grille and bumper are actually seen as key features. It’s like flicking through a brochure for a ‘working vehicle’ you might buy for your child. ‘Look daddy, it has working headlights and a horn’. And that reference is made in an entirely affectionate way.
Although at this point it’s worth mentioning that, on a recent pre-launch event in Thailand, the demonstration Moke only appeared to have one dipped headlight working. ‘Don’t worry mate, stick another prawn on the barbie, we’ll fix the light tomorrow’.
Does the world need a new Mini Moke? Of course not. But does that mean a company shouldn’t set about re-creating the original? Not a bit of it. As Moke International points out, in what feels like a comment made by a contestant in a Miss World competition, ‘since Moke ceased production, the internet was born, Generation Y has grown up, countries have risen and fallen, wars have been won and lost’.
Now that’s something you won’t ever read in an Audi or BMW brochure.
The new Mokes will be available in Thailand, Australia and the Caribbean in 2014, with Moke International expecting to sell around 1,000 a year. There are plans to export it to Europe, although we’re not entirely sure what the team at Euro NCAP would make of it. That said, it’s unlikely to be travelling fast enough for pedestrian safety to be an issue.
The Moke is left-hand drive as standard, with ‘proper-hand drive’ offered as an option. Oh and those seats in the back are an option, too.
Brilliantly, Moke International is also planning on launching an electric version, cleverly called the eMoke. It’s likely to offer a range of 75 miles and a top speed of 90mph. Strewth! You’d need to be brave to travel at those speeds.
PetrolBlog reckons the eMoke could inspire similar special editions. How about a gadget-laden version, called the iMoke? Or a diesel-engined sMoke? Or, for the good people of Yorkshire, the t’Moke?
Of all the cars to be launched at motor shows around the world in 2013, none can claim more character and more charm than the new Moke. The basic ingredients from the original have been preserved and the team at Moke International clearly have a bright and positive approach to business. We wish them every success.
Now if you don’t mind, we’re off to a small village in Wales to do our best impression of Patrick McGoohan. Come in number six, your time is up…
Mini Moke © BMW, New Moke © Moke International.