The Mini Moke is like the French Bulldog of cars: the design is so ugly and weird that is stupidly cute. It's the car you want to drive around all summer, from bistro to beach to bistro all along the Côte d'Azur or New England or Cádiz and the Alentejo. It died in 1992, when the last car rolled out of its factory in Portugal, but now it's back made by Australians in China.
I've always liked that most of the iconic small cars of the last century all had a 'tough' version: the Beetle had the Thing (and Kubelwagen before that), the 2CV had the Mehari, even the Trabant had the Tramp. And one of the most famous of these, the Mini's Moke version, is now getting reborn. In China. By Australians.
The Moke has been out of production since 1992, when the last of these tiny Jeep-like Minis rolled off the line in Portugal. Ever since then, a group of Australians (the website suggests it was a family) have been pining for the Moke so fiercely that in 2005 they decided to do something about it. They started Moke Motors, and after seven years of development, they partnered with China's Chery Automotive and their subsidiary Sicar Engineering to resurrect the Moke.
The mechanicals for the new Moke are all Chery components. Chery's 1L inline 3, making a precise 69.4 HP will be powering the new Moke, which is just about twice what the original Moke's 850cc A-series engine was making. An five-speed manual is standard, but an automatic is promised as well.
There's also an eMoke electric version planned, with a fairly golf-cart like top speed of just under 40 MPH, and a range of 74 miles.
Really, though, for something like this the guts are less important than the overall look, and these new Moke-makers seem to have done it right. They got Hong Kong-based British Designer Michael Young to design the new Moke, and it seems to have been a good choice. As Young says of the job:
As a Moke enthusiast when the email came asking if I was interested to talk about the project it was more like a call for duty. I had recently rebuilt a Moke from the ground up out of old parts so I was fully aware of what was needed to be done. you must remember that this car is from the 70’s, I knew for a fact there was no way we could just replicate it, times have changed and the car needed enhancements, improved road holding, breaking, suspension and so on.
I was equally aware that I had to respect the past and make sure the over all visual aspect be kept intact. Lets say this is the first version, it was essential for find a balance in equal terms for the old enthusiast and also the new generation.
In many ways, Young appears to be acting more like a curator than a designer, as it seems every effort was made to preserve the original look of the Moke as opposed to making a modern, retro-version that was just inspired by the Moke. Aside from more modern lighting equipment, seating, and other details, the basic design is the same, albeit with dimensional changes to accommodate, say, the new longer engine up front and the increased width.
The company is planning to start selling these later this year in Australia, Thailand, and the Caribbean, where I imagine many will be put to use as resort vehicles, or maybe as security vehicles for luxurious island prisons. No mention yet about pricing, though Jalopnik has inquired and will update as soon as we know more.
I'm pretty sure this won't come anywhere close to meeting US emissions or safety requirements, which I think is a shame. Something like this priced around $12-$15K in the US would be a pretty fun option. As it is, in the US we can at least slake our Moke-lust with some kit-car based versions.