MOKE

in Motoring Insight

The Morris and Austin Mini Moke were designed originally to be used by the military and go head-to-head against the likes of Land Rover and JEEP. The intention was good, but unfortunately it was a complete disaster for many reasons. The main, crucial one being it did not have enough ground clearance, plus was not originally available with four wheel drive. To overcome this inability to go across rough terrain the manufacturer added another engine in the rear. However, the dye was cast and the Moke very nearly got withdrawn.

Next up, BMC (the manufacturer) decided to try to market it as a utility vehicle to the farming fraternity, but this also failed. It was simply by chance, and maybe a run of good weather that the young up-and-comings in London (who were part of the Carnaby Street Brigade) took a liking to this unusual vehicle. And so the Moke went from being a useless off-roader to a must-have fashion accessory. With the best marketing brains in the industry, the marketing department at BMC did not see that one coming.

The Moke also made regular appearances on the TV programme ‘The Prisoner’ which helped with its popularity and product awareness. It was also seen in James Bond “The Spy Who Loved Me”, and “You Only Live Twice”, plus many more placed appearances in other films and TV.

The Moke first made its appearance in 1964, and went on to sell around 14,000 in the UK. After production stopped at the Longbridge factory, it was then built in Australia and Portugal up to 1993. The Moke is tricky to find in the UK, having either succumbed to rust or been a victim of build-quality. It definitely suits sunnier climes.

The best way to describe the Mini Moke is fun to drive, and I love driving one in Yorkshire, but would be a real joy to drive one here on The Rock…

The Moke is certainly not the best car to drive, it’s not particularly comfortable, it doesn’t have any modern features such as windows, heater, cigarette lighter, air conditioning, radio or Bluetooth, in fact the list of what it doesn’t have, is longer than the things it does.

John, one of my best friends-spent the early part of the 1970’s here in Gibraltar, working for a painting and decorating firm, mainly on Ministry of Defence properties. The company vehicles consisted of a couple of Transits, a Bedford and a Moke which had a flashing light on the bonnet, as they occasionally used it for road line painting. He lived in a workers’ hostel on DTR, and he has fond memories of driving the Mini around the Rock. I doubt that Moke is still in existence now? But would be great if it was.

Originally most Mokes were fitted with an 850cc engine, but many had the larger 998cc fitted later in life as the 850 didn’t have particular longevity. The 0-62mph or 0-100kph is best measured in weeks and not seconds. The fastest I have been in this car is 43mph, which is plenty fast enough for me. 

When the roof is up, there is hardly any wind in the car, your hair doesn’t get blown about and it’s all very calm. But put the roof down and it’s like sitting in a wind tunnel, and you get buffeted about it’s like being on a rollercoaster. I’m sure that when the designers took pencil to paper they didn’t deliberately make it so different with the roof up or down, it was purely by accident that no wind gets in the cabin when the roof is up, quite amazing.

The Moke is like all old cars going up in value year after year, they never seem to go down. There are many reasons for this, but as classic cars get less in numbers, they become more in demand, especially outside of Europe. But with such low interest rates, your money in a good old car could be a decent bet, or investment.

But, if you like the idea of a classic but with much less maintenance, the Moke is being relaunched in Q3 or Q4 2020 subject to regulatory approval. And to bring it bang up to the 21st Century, an electric version is also planned. The original Carnaby Street set would be proud. 

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