TUMBY BAY - I had my first prang in a Mini Moke, and I can’t quite remember how it happened.
I was coming around a bend on a slippery orange clay road just out Mount Hagen in 1968 and somehow slid into the barat (ditch) that ran alongside it.
The windscreen of the Moke shattered and I ended up in the back seat with a few cuts on my right arm and leg.
It was easy enough to lift the Moke out of the barat with the help of a couple of passers-by and I sheepishly drove it to Hagen’s Transport Department workshop.
Years later the scar on my leg erupted into a sore and out popped a tiny piece of the Moke’s windscreen.
On another occasion I can recall driving a Moke across the log bearers of a bridge under construction before the decking had been added.
Three or four blokes walking on the logs on either side hung on to it to stop it slipping between the gaps.
I also discovered Mokes could float. Crossing what I assessed as a shallow creek, at some point the water got just a bit deep and picked the Moke up.
The Moke and I lodged on a gravel bar 50 metres or so downstream. It was easy enough to tow it back to the crossing by hand and continue on our way.
Mokes were versatile vehicles and fun to drive. They were ideal runabouts in the Highlands as long as it wasn’t too wet.
You still see old Mokes on the road, notably in North Queensland. There’s a whole fleet of them on Magnetic Island off Townsville, which was where I last drove one.
Now I hear they are to make a comeback.
The original Moke was designed in the early 1960s by Sir Alec Issigonis from the British Motor Corporation (BMC) as a lightweight, air-transportable, utility vehicle for the British Army.
Moke is British slang for donkey.
The vehicle was rejected by the Army because of its low ground clearance and weak 848cc engine, although the Royal Navy considered using it on the decks of aircraft carriers.
BMC went back to the drawing board and in 1962 introduced it as the Mini Moke.
The army remained unimpressed so the company decided to commercialise the design and produce a civilian version, which first appeared in 1964.
Unfortunately the vehicle didn’t sell well and production ceased in 1968.
In Australia, however, a new version of the Moke had been created in 1966.
It was fitted with 13-inch wheels (larger than the 10-inch British version) and a bigger 998cc (40HP) engine, which allowed it to reach a top speed of 130 km/h.
That’s the version that I managed to tip into a barat in 1968.
In 1976 the Moke gained a larger 1098 cc engine and a year later a more powerful 1275 cc version. This model was dubbed the Moke Californian. By 1981, when it ceased production, it had gained cult status.
In 1980 BMC’s Portuguese subsidiary began manufacturing the Moke. About 10,000 units were built before production ceased after 13 years.
In its 30’s years of production in various countries; a total of 49,937 Mini Mokes were produced.
25 years later Moke International is bringing back this iconic car.
British designer Michael Young has completely redesigned and re-engineered it for the 21st century.
While the new model remains faithful to its origins and classic look it integrates modern automotive technology.
And there is a whisper that an electric version will be manufactured.