Mini Moke buying guide (1964–1993)http://www.classicandperformancecar.comClassic and Performance CarClassic and Performance Car
In its own way, the Mini Moke makes perfect sense. Cruising down the seafront on the Costa del Sol, wind in your hair – it’s the perfect complement to that second home by the sea. That’s as true today as it was back in the 1960s: the charming Mini-based Moke has been warming the hearts of beach-going folk for years, yet it all came about by way of a happy accident.
Originally conceived by Sir Alec Issigonis as a means of mobilising the British Army on and around overseas outposts, the Moke wasn’t quite up to the job. Although its flatpack styling made it easy to transport, the inherent lack of ground clearance dictated by the Mini’s subframes didn’t impress the Army bosses. And so the Moke became destined to live a life of civilian fun.
It was launched in 1964 and, over the next couple of decades, became something of a fashion icon around the world. It even reached stardom, appearing in a number of television shows, most notably Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner, shot on location in Portmeirion, Wales. It really makes no sense in the real world – but it never fails to leave anybody with a smile.
What to look out for
The Moke’s production run spanned four decades and in that time almost 50,000 rolled off factory lines around the world, so there’s a good selection on the market. We spoke with Ron Smith, founder and manager of Essex-based Moke specialist Runamoke, who has been supplying and looking after Mokes since 1965.
It’s important to understand the differences between all the different models out there before you buy. Early cars are spartan in comparison with the Australian and Portugese models and, as the Moke evolved, a better choice of A-series engines became available.
‘All models have something to offer,’ says Ron, though he warns of one important factor that might sway your decision. ‘There’s no roll-over bar on the English models, which you will need if you want to fit seat belts.’ Post-1986 (Portuguese-built) cars featured a full rollcage, with integrated inertia-reel seat belts.
Although much changed over the years, the basic monocoque structure is almost identical on all models, making parts quite easy to source. ‘Most of the body parts are still available, either from original UK or Portuguese stock, and a lot of the body panels are common between all the versions. It’s a problem getting a complete bodyshell, but we’re looking into that. Trim, side-screens and the hood are all available off-the-shelf, either original or reproduction, and there’s great availability for any parts shared with the Mini.’
Top of the inspection list is bodywork condition. ‘The English Mokes didn’t have any protection against corrosion at all,’ says Ron. That means rot can be rife. ‘The most common area is where the rear subframe mounts to the heelboard, which often suffers. The side panels and floorpan are also prone to rust, as is anywhere underneath really – so it’s best to get it on a ramp if possible. Some have been patched up over the years, which can make proper repair more difficult.’
Australian versions were largely produced from galvanised sheet metal – ‘even though the galvanising burned off where they were spot welded, it gave a considerable degree of protection against corrosion’ – and Portuguese shells were given the full anti-corrosion dipping process. ‘They probably have the best chance of avoiding rust,’ confirms Ron.
Engine, transmission and running gear are all shared with the Mini, and are generally the last thing to worry about. That’s mainly because Mokes don’t tend to see heavy or high-speed use. A smokey exhaust is evidence of valve wear but, while the Moke is rare-groove, the A-series certainly isn’t. There are plenty of specialists, and service parts are inexpensive and plentiful.
The whiney manual gearbox is shared with the Mini too. An automatic Moke was never offered from the factory, but it’s now quite a popular conversion. Engine transplants are also relatively common, with an upgrade to the 1275cc A-series one of the best choices.
‘We modify the head for unleaded fuel if carrying out engine work, although you have to drive quite a bit before the unleaded petrol starts affecting the valve seats,’ says Ron. ‘Stage 1 and Stage 2 cylinder head tuning kits offer a useful upgrade in performance.’
The rubber cone suspension gives very little trouble, but replacement is easy and, because the Moke shares the Mini’s subframes, the rubber cones are all available.
Why buy a Mini Moke?
Well, it’s simple, distinctive and fun, with a unique appeal. Some models might seem expensive for what they offer, but there’s always the option of buying an import. They’re in demand but easy to look after. The right car could prove to be a worthwhile investment.
1964 First Austin Mini Moke rolls off the production line at BMC’s Longbridge factory in Birmingham, UK. Both Austin and Morris models go on sale for £405 1966 Production starts in BMC’s Australian plant in Sydney 1968 Longbridge production ends 1982 Australian production ends 1983 Tooling is shipped to Portugal, where production restarts 1986 Specification changes made by Austin Rover Portugal 1989 Portuguese production comes to an end, and manufacturing rights are sold to Italian motorcycle manufacturer Cagiva 1991 Production restarted under the ‘Moke’ name 1993 Production is suspended again and transferred to Italy, but doesn’t resume
Specification - 1988 Mini Moke
Engine 998cc four-cylinder A-series, OHV, single SU carburettor Power 39bhp @ 4750rpm Torque 50lb ft @ 2500rpm Transmission Four-speed manual, front-wheel drive Steering Rack and pinion Suspension Front and rear: rubber cones, telescopic dampers Brakes Discs front, drums rear Weight 630kg