This is a Mini Moke 1275 from California, and on a pound-for-pound basis, it just might be the most fun car in the world. Power is provided by a version of the 1,275 cc Mini Cooper S engine, which has kart-like handling, and weighs just 578 kg (1,274 lb).
The Moke was originally developed on the Mini platform for military use, but the low ground clearance and front-wheel drive design made it unsuitable. Instead, it found a home in Australia and several vacation destinations in tropical islands as the perfect summer “beach car”.
Fast Facts – Mini Moc 1275 California
- The Mini Moke is based directly on the classic Mini, using the same engine, transmission and suspension.
- “Moke” was an old British slang term for mules, and was considered the ideal name for the vehicle due to its design.
- The Moke uses a steel platform chassis with box sections on each side to aid in rigidity. The box on the left side holds the fuel tank (on most Mokes), while the box on the right contains the battery and a lockable storage compartment.
- Surprisingly, the Moke will remain in production from 1964 through 1993, and it was recently brought back with some design updates and an electric version.
- The Mini Moke 1275 Californian was the fastest version of the car, powered by the Mini Cooper S – one of the most successful British racing and rally cars of the 1960s.
In many respects, the Mini Moke was a successful failure. It was originally developed by Alec Isigonis and his team as a military vehicle to compete with Land Rover and Jeep, but it was front-wheel drive and had limited ground clearance, so no armies were particularly interested in it.
above film: This episode from Hand Built Cars focuses on Moke and tells the story of Johnny, his dad and Austin Mini Moke.
With their military ambitions in tatters, the British Motor Corporation turned instead to the civilian market, introducing the Mini Moke as a fun, low-cost summer car in Britain from 1964 to 1968 with a production of 14518.
Due to Britain’s propensity for bad weather, the car wasn’t particularly successful – until manufacturing was shipped to Australia.
The Australian climate was more suitable for Mini Moke ownership, the cars were built at the Nuffield Australia plant in Sydney from 1966 to 1981 with over 26,000 built in total. Cars were exported from Australia to all over the world.
Mini Mok 1275 California
The most desirable Australian Moke, and perhaps the most sought-after, is the Mini Moke Californian. It was outfitted with a 1,275cc Mini Cooper S engine, 13-inch wheels, and a few other modifications to make it legal for the US market where it was exported.
With 76 horsepower and 79 lb-ft of torque, the 1,275 cc engine turned the Moke into a compact sports car, especially when you remember that it weighed just 578 kg (1,274 lb) and had the control and suspension of the Mini – which was a small car. British auto racing and racing was dominant in the 1960s and 1970s.
There are no exact production numbers for the exact 1,275 Californians built and more than a few compelling replicas have been built over the years, so it’s important to carefully examine any example you’re considering purchasing. Using a guide like this.
After Australian production ended, the Moke was built in Portugal until 1993. There were plans to move production to Italy after that but they never materialized. This would have been the end of the Moke had it not been for the team of investors who brought the car back in 2012 – and are now developing 100% electric versions of the car.
Shown here is a 1979 Mini Mok 1275 California
The vehicle you see here is one of a California Mini Moke 1275 made in Australia since 1979, it was in the same family’s ownership until 2019 and was recently rebuilt.
As you’d expect, it’s powered by a 1,275cc A-series four-cylinder, with a 1.5-inch SU carburetor, mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox.
It also has California hood stickers, front and rear bull bars, 13-inch Sunraysia eight-spoke wheels, ‘Tombstone’ high-back seats, roll bars and 1275 decals.
This vehicle was sold outside of Fife in Scotland on Collecting Cars, if you would like to read more about it or register to bid. You can visit the list here.
Images courtesy of Car Assembly
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