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.
Which Moke to buy?
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 Portuguese 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.
In 2013 a Chinese company began producing the a modern version of the Moke, intended for the Australian market – where the original Moke remains popular. An electric version, as well as a modern petrol-powered alternative was offered. In 2017, a USA-based importer announced plans to bring both models to North America officially.
Performance and specs
1988 Mini Moke
||998cc four-cylinder A-series, OHV, single SU carburettor
||39bhp @ 4750rpm
||50lb ft @ 2500rpm
||Four-speed manual, front-wheel drive
|Price when new
Dimensions and weight
• 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.
• 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, and that means rust can be a big problem. 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, and even though the galvanising burned off where they were spot welded, it gave a considerable degree of protection against corrosion. Portuguese shells were given the full anti-corrosion dipping process, which are the models with the best chance of avoiding rust.
• 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 smoky exhaust is evidence of valve wear. There are plenty of specialists, and service parts are inexpensive and plentiful, so it’s not a great concern.
• 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.
• A lot of engines have been modified for use on unleaded fuel now, although you have to drive quite a bit before the unleaded petrol starts affecting the valve seats on unmodified cars. 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.
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
Owners’ clubs, forums and websites
• www.mokeclub.org – The Mini Moke Club
• www.runamoke.co.uk – UK-based Moke specialist
Summary and prices
Mokes used to represent quite a cheap way to have a bit of fun at the weekend, and while there are still many affordable options out there, a prime car now costs in excess of £25,000. Projects can be found from around £3000, although these will require substantial restoration work. Running cars start from around £8000, while £15,000 should get you a very good car car indeed. Extensively-rebuilt cars with fresh mechanicals are on the market for upwards of £20,000, although one of the more collectible UK-built cars in perfect condition could be worth even more.