Debunking the most common old wives’ tales
1 IT NEVER ENTERED MILITARY SERVICE
This little open utility built by the British Motor Corporation was famously developed as an ultralightweight army patrol vehicle for which no military orders ever materialised. The Royal Navy showed the most interest, but only for use on the decks of aircraft carriers. However, a trio of Mokes did go into battle. During the 1969 Rupununi Rebellion in Guyana, three vehicles were captured from rebels by the Brazilian Army, after they were driven over the border. into Brazil. The Israeli Army also used Australian-built examples and Bond villains liked them.
2 IT WAS DESIGNED AS A PASSENGER CAR
Actually, the Moke was not a car at all. Well, at least at first. It was sold as a commercial vehicle through both Austin and Morris dealer networks. At £405, it was the cheapest four-wheeled vehicle on the British market, but it came with a single seat for a driver and, indeed, a single windscreen wiper because the target market was small businesses and other organisations that could make use of its open-topped utility. As such, there was no Purchase Tax payable on the basic Moke, which also came only in dark green. The cunning ruse, though, was to add the seats after the vehicle had been sold, with the other wiper and maybe some zip-up plastic side-screens attached to the flimsy canvas folding top – giving you a convertible fun car on the cheap. This is what happened to most Mokes, and by 1967 HM Customs & Excise had spotted the loophole, and deftly re-classified it as a passenger car, single seat or not. The price went up by £78, almost a fifth of its retail cost, and what few British sales there were to be had for BMC vanished overnight.
3 THEY WERE ALL TWO-WHEEL DRIVE
Well, most were. A few four-wheel drive examples were made, dubbed Twinis, and featuring a second engine and gearbox at the rear with linked clutches and shifters. Australia (where the Moke was built from 1966 to 1981) also made a few 4x4s, albeit with just the one engine. Alas, this project came to nothing when Oz production ended soon afterwards.
NO 5: MINI MOKE