Beach Cruiser: 1971 Austin Mini Moke

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A recent fascination of mine as it relates to the types of automobiles I aspire to own is the cars and trucks that would look perfect parked in an island community, places like the Outer Banks and Nantucket, to name a few. This is a wide range, for sure, but there’s definitely a “type” and certain vehicles that don’t make the cut. A big prerequisite is that they are, by and large, slow. Island communities usually have low speed limits and are so damn crowed anyway that to have a muscle car is relatively pointless. That’s why I like this 1971 Austin Mini Moke, which is coincidentally listed for sale here on eBay in beautiful Saint Augustine, Florida, with bids to just over $6K and the reserve unmet.

I suppose that’s why I aspired to own the 1981 Toyota HiAce I have in the garage, and now two Isuzu Troopers. The only limiting factor to enjoying these vehicles is that because they are so low on horsepower, they don’t necessarily thrive in the everyday traffic of suburbia. Fact is, a base model Hyundai can absolutely roast my van in a stoplight grand prix, and while it’s not about winning drag races, you do start to think it’d be way more pleasant to own a vehicle with a 0-60 time north of 10 seconds in a small ocean-side community with limited open roads for justifying relentless accelerator pedal stomping. This Mini Moke will be in the same category for sure, but its appearance should ward off any expectations of speed.

I suspect people see my van and suspect it’s just some weird contractor’s vehicle with at least a six cylinder engine under the seats. Nope – it’s a four-cylinder diesel that makes about 6o horsepower on a good day. The Mini Moke’s drivetrain is based on the standard Mini’s running gear, but the engine doesn’t run despite its overall simplicity. The seller notes the engine turns over easily and that he’s confident it will come back to life without too much work. What’s intriguing about this Mini Moke is how it got here in the first place: the seller notes that this example is an Austalian-Leyand built Moke, so it’s certainly traveled around a bit before ending up in Florida.

The listing notes that there’s evidence of floor patch work done by a previous owner in the center of the chassis, but happily, the seller reports no accidents in the Moke’s history file. This example is quite barren inside, even by the Moke’s standard of luxury, as more features have been removed than have been replaced. At the very least, the canvas top should go back on so we can see the Moke in its full glory, and it’s also the kind of look that helps people envision seeing a Moke parked in their driveway while summering in some coastal community. A few of these have gone for good money at auction in restored condition, and it wouldn’t surprise me if this one ends up as marketing gimmick for a business or a shuttle vehicle for for in-town pickup and dropoff. Would you hail a ride in a Moke?

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    First unrestored rust free version of this I’ve ever seen. If you don’t like the 43hp of this engine plug in a modified 1275 version of these BMC A engines and you’d have at least 100hp. Wouldn’t do any spirited driving without a roll cage, which you could fasten your surry top and shoulder belts to.

    Like 1
    • Dan

      First diesel I have ever seen with spark plugs

      Like 4
      • don

        Its not the Moke with the diesel , the HighAce has it

        Like 1
  2. Joshua S

    I rented one of these cars on the island of St. Marten In the late 80’s. At the time I thought it was a neat car because I never saw one before. Driving one changed my opinion the steering wheel was a not centered with the drivers seat and the stick shifter was also not placed properly. The car also handled like a wet noodle even at low speed. Driving this car was like looking at a Picasso painting, it’s all over the place.

    Like 0
  3. Gaspumpchas

    Gotta be super rare! Good luck. looks solid, would look good in the garage next to the Original mini cooper!

    Like 0
  4. Poppapork

    I like it but 6 grand for a non running axample is pretty steep! Rather get a jeep a datsun or a corvette.

    Whats with all the diesel talk? Spark plugs, capacitor, carb? I dont think glow plugs need individual cables?
    Not to mention a 990cc naturaly aspirated diesel would not have 60hp! Not even close…

    Like 0
  5. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskeyMember

    I used to drive a ’79 [Portuguese made] Moke during the time I worked in Barbados. I had found another for spare parts, and seriously considered cutting the back section off my car, and cut the damaged front section of the parts car, then weld the 2 together to give me a 4 passenger long wheelbase, with a cargo area behind the back seat. Never had the time to create the LWB Moke.

    I was involved in running a $10 million rental villa, and soometimes needed to send 2 vehicles to pick up guests at Grantly airport because they had way too many pieces of luggage, and the LWB Moke would have made things a lot easier. And I might add that most of our guests really LOVED the Moke.

    Like 5
    • Pascal Hemery

      Hi, I’m French, I had few years ago a Portuguese to, it was a 4 seats, same body frame.

      Like 1
  6. Tin box

    The 60hp diesel he’s talking about is in his Hi-ace Van.
    As for the Moke, these can be an unbelievable amount of fun. I’ve had a early English version w 10” wheels and a stout 1275 for 30+ years, done several 4000+ mile road trips in it. Think classic mini with less weight and a lower centre of gravity.
    While big wheel cars don’t go for as much as little, this is also a lot cheaper, and if not horribly rusty a complete wouldn’t have you buried in it financially.

    Like 3
  7. Maestro1

    bobhess has it right, I would go the whole way with it including his upgrade suggestions, and use it to run around in. And when I move to an island I would take it with me and sell everything else.
    Good health to everybody, wash your hands and wear a mask.

    Like 3
  8. FastEddie/OldEddie: pick one

    The wheels look like 12″, and do not look out of place; this wouldn’t be an 1100 Moke, would it? Did they even make such a thing?

    Like 0
  9. FastEddie/OldEddie: pick one
  10. Chris LondishMember

    My art teacher had an early model with the 998 engine and ten inch wheels, and the green military colour, a friend of our family had a Moke with an aftermarket fibreglass cab to make it into a ute and I remember the Australian defence force a whole fleet with trailers to match and last but not least the Californian with the 12 in wheels and 1275 motor not the Cooper engine and funky bright colours

    Like 0
  11. PRA4SNW

    Every time I see a Moke, it reminds me of Hrach, the salesman who sold me a Mini.

    Like 2
  12. bobhess bobhessMember

    Wheels are the 13 inch used on Sprites, Morris Minors, etc. 10 inch tires were not easily available outside the UK and Europe, thus the change. The engines could be anything from 800cc to 948cc, which looks like what is in this car. Fun rides and worth the rebuild time.

    Like 1
  13. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

    I know nothing about these Mokes. But following Jeff’s theme of his write-up, they remind me of a grown-up version of the fancy golf carts in my subdivision, which adult residents (and teenagers) (and even pre-teens) use to run around the neighborhood. But it would need two more seats.

    Like 0
    • don

      It looks like it was an airports tow vehicle for luggage ! They do look a lot better fixed up of course. I’ve never sen a real one ,but they do turn up in a lot of 1960s British movies – several in James Bond films.

      Like 0
  14. Ward William

    We had lots of these in Australia back in the day and all the island resorts used them. We used to hire them and bush bash the crap out of them.

    The resorts always had these signs up all around the islands: “No Rental Mokes On The Dunes”. And they were right.

    Whenever we drove ours up onto the dunes, which was all the time, we were the only one there. ;-)

    Like 1

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