Australian Mokes

30 June 2020  |  Admin

Australian Moke Production

1966 - 1981

1. Design and Production

BMC Australia began assembling the Moke in March 1966 at the Sydney plant in Zetland and initially it was almost identical to the English Moke. It shared the same bodyshell and although neither the body nor the subframes were given additional strengthening, more thorough welding at gusssets, corners and joint areas made the car more robust.

The Moke was classed as a utility vehicle in Australia with no sales tax payable if you were a "primary producer".

In 1974 production was moved to the Pressed Metal Corporation in Enfield after the closure of the Zetland factory. By the mid 1970s, 35 per cent of Moke output was being exported to a total of 82 countries with customers including the Nigerian army, the Hong Kong police and even the Shah of Iran.  In 1975 the "Coke Moke" successfully completed the London to Sydney Marathon, finishing 35th overall.

The most common model that was manufactured was the Standard Moke. However an upmarket Californian Model was also produced between 1971 and 1973 (when it was also known as the Export model) and again from 1977. Changes in specification for the Californian usually found their way back into the Standard model.

By 1981 Moke sales were becoming harder and new Australian regulations were also posing problems. The Australian built Mini ceased production in October 1978 and the commercial viability of the Moke came under scrutiny. Total Australian production lasted 16 years with some 26,142 vehicles manufactured between February 1966 and November 1981, although cars continued to be sold well into 1982. Unfortunately production figures for individual models are incomplete as all BMC and Leyland Australia build records were destroyed when Rover Australia relocated to Parramatta

2. Specification

The specification of Australian Mokes changed considerably over the production period. The most noticeable difference from the English Mini Moke was the change to larger 13 inch wheels from 10 inch.

a) Morris Mini Moke

Morris Mini MokeThe Moke was initially launched as the Morris Mini Moke. Now known affectionately as "The Little Wheeler", it was practically identical to the English Moke but had a 998cc engine with a lower final drive of 4.133:1. There was also a second engine steady on the left hand side of the engine after several lower engine mounts had broken off whilst the car had been tested off road. It also had raised suspension and a standard fit sumpguard.

The English style steel seats were also replaced by vinyl covered canvas pads tied on to a tubular steel frame. It came with a parcel shelf, a passenger seat as standard along with rear grab handles, heater and twin wipers.

The hood was also widened to cover the full width of the body at the back and it had a bigger four pane window. The hood hoops were also repositioned to give a more sloping angle to rear panel of the hood.

b) BMC Mini Moke

Following bad press about the poor ground clearance from Australian farmers, motoring magazines and the armed forces (who were considering adopting the Moke), the Moke adopted 13 inch wheels in 1968. The wheels were the same as those used on the Australian built Austin A30. Along with this it received raised suspension and a wider four inch track at the front giving 8¼ inches of ground clearance. This was an improvement from the five inches quoted for the sumpguard-equipped Australian 10 inch wheeled cars.

The larger wheels necessitated longer rear radius arms and a modified steering rack which reduced the turning circle from 31 feet to 36 feet. The bodyshell also received a flared rear panel and the front bumper was also altered. It was now attached to the front subframe passing through two holes in the front panel. Other changes included the rear lights which were mounted horizontally, an improved sumpguard and a new differential with a slightly lower 4.27:1 ratio.

c) Mark 2 Moke

The move to bigger wheels was well received by the Australian press and the buying public and in April 1969 the Mark 2 Moke was introduced.
Engine size was now upgraded to 1098cc and with this came a better cooling system and synchromesh on all gears. The final drive was lowered to 4.2:1 along with the following changes:

  • Wheelarch extensions were added to the body to accommodate the wider track.
  • The introduction of Hella front and rear indicator, stop / tail and park lights with an incorporated rear reflector.
  • The brakes were upgraded to cope with the extra power.

In 1970 this Moke was rebadged yet again and became the "BMC Moke.

d) Export Moke

In December 1971 an attempt was made to target the American market with the arrival of the Export Moke. The origins of this derivative were from a cancelled order for the Virgin Islands, where cars had to meet US regulations. It offered a 1275cc engine, two speed wipers, a reversing light and a spare wheel cover. Other details included deeper section wheelarch extensions to allow the mounting of repeater sidelights and larger front indicators. It was also the only 1275cc Moke to have drum brakes all round.

Unfortunately this model suffered from concerns over safety in America with the result that none of these higher specification Mokes ever actually made it to America. Herein also lies the story of the name "Californian". The story goes that in an effort to sell the Mokes elsewhere, the sales teams began to refer to these Mokes as "Californian Mokes" and the name stuck.

An item of particular interest on this Moke was the fuel tank which came from the Austin Healey Sprite / MG Midget and was fitted under the rear floor with a filler cap in the rear panel. The original tank location in the side pontoon remained empty and remained inaccessible without any side panel covers. The only access was through the conventional undertank plate that covered the conventional tank. Another feature was of course the absence of a fuel filler cap on the top of the pannier.

This model also offered a choice of hood patterns; in addition to black there was also the option of "Verve" - a black and white swirly pattern or "Bali" - a yellow floral pattern. The seats were also fitted with integral headrests as required by Australian regulations,

It was discontinued in 1973 once stocks had been exhausted.

e) Leyland Moke

Although still badged only as "Moke", in April 1972 the Moke became known as the "Leyland Moke" following the name change of BMC to Leyland Australia.

In 1974 a new model was added to the range with the introduction of the Moke Utility or "Ute" to fill a gap in the small pick up market. The rear of this Moke had a flat bed 59 inches long and 55 inches wide enabling a payload of 219kg or roughly 4cwt. It had drop down sides with a hood that was truncated and which covered just the front seats.

Economics of scale meant that many locally made parts began to be sourced from mainstream UK Mini production. In 1973 the 1275cc engine was dropped because it did not meet the new emission regulations and two years later in 1975, the 1098cc engine suffered the same fate. All Mokes therefore used the 998cc engine and this itself was upgraded to an emission-controlled status in 1976 with an air pump and various filters to reduce pollution.

f) Moke Californian

In September 1977 the Californian was relaunched with a 998cc engine, upgraded switchgear, 8 spoke Sunraysia wheels, reversing light and a removable front grille. The rear lamps were now square and accommodated within a recessed section of the rear kick plates. A denim effect seat and hood option also became available. The bumpers were redesigned into "roo bars" but were still mounted through the front panel and much closer to the grille than on later Mokes. The standard Moke remained unchanged with a single bar bumper.

Over a period of time the front subframe was modified with extra fillets of steel around the suspension attachment points to strengthen them up for cross country work.

In 1977 the treatment of the steel panels prior to assembly was changed with the result that many 1977 Mokes have rusted at an alarming rate. In early 1978 this process was revised and from then until the advent of the galvanised Moke, rust was no worse than before.

g) 1979 Facelift

By this time Leyland had shrunk to little more than an import organisation with local assembly reduced to Minis, Mokes and Land Rovers. In an attempt to revitalise falling sales, Leyland gave the Moke what was to be its final facelift in November 1979. Galvabond was introduced on the bodyshell along with glass front deflector screens and side screens with zips to replace the previous turn studs. The fuel filler moved to the left side panel and fed a larger 8 gallon tank (filling all three boxes on the left hand side.) On the front was a larger "Moke" badge and at the rear, the word Moke was embossed onto the mud flaps in white.

There were also several improvements on the inside. The seats were now higher backed with tilting rear squabs. Inertia seatbelts also became standard with the roll cage. On the mechanical side, the Moke received an improved gear change and modified steering rack with spacers to prevent rubbing on the inner arches.

The 1275cc engine was reintroduced in emission controlled form with 8.4 inch disc brakes and a small red 1275 badge on the front of the grille.

3. Colours

The first ten inch Mokes were supplied in Empire Green and occasionally in Champion Red. New colours were added which were often very tongue in cheek and included:

  • Home on the Orange
  • Snow White
  • Country Cream
  • Crystal White
  • Scarlet O'Hara
  • Hairy Lime
  • Yellow Devil
  • Sahara Dust

4. Engines

Engine wise, Australian Mokes can be fitted with a UK or Australian built 998cc, 1098cc or 1275cc "A" series engine, depending on time of production. The most common is the 998cc and several versions of this were used to satisfy increasingly tough emission control regulations.

Engine numbers commence with 9 for a 998cc engine, 10 for a 1098cc and 12 for a 1275cc engine. Engines manufactured in England use a small engine number plate, while Australian ones have the number stamped into the block.

5. Identification

Little Wheelers: (1966-1968) 10 inch wheels, English body shape. Canvas seats, 998cc engine.

Standard Moke: (1968-1982) 13 inch steel wheels, wheel arch extensions, single tubular steel bumpers, canvas seats, 998cc or 1098cc engine. From 1980, galvanised body and side filler cap. All Californian extras were available as options.

Californian Export: (1971-1973) 13 inch wheels with thicker wheelarch extensions, rear fuel tank, repeater lights on wings, 1275cc engine. Verve or Bali hood.

Californian: (1977-1979) 13 inch white 8 spoke wheels, too bars, removable front grille, high back seats, optional roll cage, 998cc engine.

Californian: (1980-1982.) As '77 to '79 with addition of galvanised body, side filler cap, roll cage, steel framed quarterlights. 998cc engine (drum brakes) or 1275cc (disc brakes).

6. Identification Plate Coding for Australian Mokes

The chassis number prefix will enable precise model identification. There is insufficient space to detail them all here but they fall into 3 general categories:

YJBAB from 1966 to 1973

018 from 1973 to 1977

AK from 1977 to 1982 Assembly of the Moke began in Australia in February 1966 at the Sydney plant in Zetland and initially the design was almost identical to the English Moke.