Thursday, March 4, 2010

1965 Austin Mini Moke

"It looks like a golf cart." That's how a friend described her first encounter with a Mini Moke.

Believe it or not, the Moke was originally designed to be a military vehicle. However, it's lack of ground clearance and power made it impractical for that use. (I've seen, but can't find right now, a promotional photo of the Moke being lifted by 4 servicemen. The point was that in battle the vehicle was light enough for 4 guys to get it out of any situation. But it also seemed to make the point that it got stuck pretty easily, which is probably not something you want to have happen when there are bullets whizzing by your head. - There were a few prototype 4WD Mokes built. Instead of using a transfer case, it had a second engine and transmission in the back of the vehicle with linked clutches and gear shifters. Talk about a complex solution to a relatively simple problem...) Eventually, BMC unleashed these on the public and managed to sell over 14,000 of them.

With its low ground clearance the Moke was unsuitable for off-road use. With its 988cc engine, it wasn't a lot of fun on the highway. (60 MPH came in over 20 seconds.) Most Mokes found homes in beach communities where they were used to dawdle around town and take the umbrellas and coolers from the house or the hotel to the beach.

The Moke was motoring at its most basic and there's something to be said for that. There's something scary about that, too. Side impact protection is nil. In fact, the gas tank is located in the left "pontoon". In an accident you'll not only have to deal with broken bones, but the chance of a fire or explosion, too. Fortunately, being based on a Mini, it handles very well, making avoiding an accident easier than it is in many cars of similar vintage.

I don't know that a Moke was ever practical, but these days they are definitely just toys. Originality means nothing to the vast majority of Moke owners and when you see one it has often been "personalized". (The one my friend saw was painted pink.)

This Moke has been customized, but all the work done is practical and low-key. The seller has done an alternator conversion, installed a roll bar, heavy duty radiator, MOMO steering wheel and some Carmona wheels, among other things.

The seller describes this car as "in good shape for a 44 year old vehicle but not perfect". Some rusted areas have been cut out and replaced with new metal.

BMC exported most of the Mokes it built. Very few were sold in England. This is a rare British model but, ironically, it now resides in Florida.

I can't say that I have any real desire to own a Moke, but it's a piece of history and the type of vehicle that will most likely never be built again by a major auto manufacturer.

Located in Winter Park, Florida, click here to see the eBay listing.

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