In its time, many variations of the Mini were created, providing simple and affordable transport. One variation, though not promoted as part of the Mini range, was the MOKE. Designed in the 1960s by Sir Alec Issigonis, the father of the original Mini, it shared components (suspension and chassis) with the Mini.
Perhaps it was not promoted commercially initially because it was first intended for military use. So it was engineered to be robust enough for deployment behind enemy lines after being transported by aeroplane. However, the armed forces found the small wheels and low ground clearance to be unsuitable in the sort of terrain they would operate in. Although its exceptionally light weight may have been advantageous on soft ground, it didn’t even have 4×4 to help it in more difficult areas.
A cult car of the 1960s
Instead, the MOKE, as it came to be known, was then promoted as a civilian vehicle and it became a cult car like the dune buggy of the 1960s. It was popular transport for the inhabitants of the most exclusive coastal resorts in Europe, the Caribbean, USA and Asia. Many are still in use up till today at seaside resort and recreational facilities.
Some 50,000 units were produced at factories in the UK (1964 – 1968), Australia (1966 – 1981) and Portugal (1980 – 1993). The final production in Portugal was done by Cagiva, the Italian motorcycle manufacturer, which had acquired the ‘MOKE’ name.
Bringing back the MOKE
Now a company known as MOKE International Limited, which has owned the original ‘MOKE’ trademark since 2015, is offering – only to the UK market – a strictly limited run of 56 cars. The number has significance: it refers to the number of years since the original Mini MOKE was launched.
Customers have a choice of 14 body colours and the Limited Edition ‘MOKE 56’ comes with the front grille and windscreen rails in chrome, a discrete Union Jack badge on the front wings, and a numbered plaque on the bonnet. Indicative ex-factory pricing starts at £20,000 (about RM107,000) and the company says that interest is high from resorts and private buyers.
MOKE International will also be making the vehicles for the Caribbean market and will launch additional models across Europe, the USA and other markets in 2021. All MOKE bodies will be engineered and sub-assembled in Britain and then shipped to a factory in France for final assembly.
Naturally, the engineering has been updated to meet regulations that never existed in the 1960s. Besides a new 4-cylinder, EFI DOHC 1083 cc engine, there is uprated suspension, an updated brake system and the option for either automatic or manual transmission.
The modern MOKE is also slightly larger to provide more cabin space. Features previously viewed as a luxury like power steering and heated windscreen will come as standard.