Anyone who has seen the 1960's TV series The Prisoner will have seen a Mini Moke, although they may not be aware of what they were looking at - they were the box-like buggies used as taxis in The Village.
The British Motor Company (BMC) provided vehicles to the armed forces, and when they released the Mini, a new concept was born. A small vehicle capable of being airlifted, carrying 4 people with weapons and supplies, and also which could easily be manhandled if, for example, it should end up in a muddy ditch.
Several of the world's armies showed initial interest, but like its parent - the Mini - the ground clearance was not good. While the Mini was intended for road use, the Moke did not pass requirements for off-road use, and was not seen as a viable project for military use. Citroën 2CV pickups were chosen by the British Army instead.
Despite its early problems, the Moke was seen as a useful utility vehicle and production began with an 848cc engine in January 1964 at BMC's Longbridge plant in Birmingham, UK. An Australian production line was started in Syndney in 1966, producing 998cc, 1100cc and eventually 1275cc vehicles. 13" wheels were fitted to improve ground clearance.
Production in the UK stopped in October 1968 while the Australian plant continued for many years until 1982 at which point the tooling was moved to British Leyland's plant in Portugal where Mokes were built under BL, and then Austin Rover until mid 1989. The Italian company Cagiva then bought the rights to produce the Portuguese specification vehicle, which they did from 1990 until 1993.
During its 27 years in production, a total of 48,975 units were built, making it one of the rarer members of the Mini family. Only 1,467 of the original English Mokes were actually sold in England.
Various accessories came as standard, or were available as extras during the production run. The earliest Mokes had a truly minimal set of standard features - one seat and one windscreen wiper. Other accessories, such as a heater and even passenger seats were optional extras. Roll bars and seat belts were important safety features fitted as standard on the Portuguese model.
People experimented with Mokes - being so simple they were ideal for the purpose. At least two experimental 4WD vehicles were created - the notable point being that they had two engines, one for the front wheels and one for the rear. Although they were practical and quick, the reduction of luggage space on the already small vehicle, coupled with the confusion of two manual gearshifts meant that the Twini Mokes never took off.
In the UK, a Moke is considered a classic vehicle, and is welcomed at Mini shows and classic car shows alike. An example in moderate condition can easily set you back £6000 in mid 2002, and it's quite rare to find unrestored examples. Owners are very proud of their vehicles, but easily become annoyed if asked "Did you build it yourself?" - the reason being that many copy cat kit cars were available at various times.