The Mini Moke - Misplaced Military Aspirations
By James Grahame
Oh, the Mini. Released in 1959 as Britain's answer to the ubiquitous VW Beetle, it was a capable and affordable everyday runabout that could even be turned into a respectable rally car. It remained in production for four decades, becoming the most popular British car in history.
In the early 1960s, Sir Alec Issigonis took the basic design of the Mini and attempted to militarize it. The result was the Mini Moke - a lightweight miniature utility vehicle intended for parachute drops. Unfortunately, its diminutive size and 848 cc straight-4 engine proved less than ideal in the field, where its poor ground clearance, 10 inch wheels and pokey performance didn't fare well. I suspect the Army was none too happy about driving around in vehicles that looked like khaki green clown cars, either.
In the end, the British Motor Corporation decided to release the Mini Moke as a civilian vehicle. It debuted in 1964 and quickly became a cult hit. The Moke took a leisurely 22 seconds to reach 60 mph and had a top speed of 65 mph, hardly qualifying it as the idea vehicle for the Autobahn.
It was too quirky to see widespread adoption, as urban commuters and young families opted for more practical Mini Saloon and Estate cars instead. Less than 15,000 were built before UK production ceased in 1968, although tens of thousands more were manufactured in Australia until 1981 and in Portugal through the early 1990s.
These days you're most likely to see a classic Moke bombing around a resort area or driving its last few miles as a quirky student car. They're definitely worth taking for a quick spin, if only as a reminder of how far the automotive industry has progressed in a few short decades.
Motoring Memories: Mini Moke, 1964-1992 [Canadian Driver]