Prior to work on the Mini, Alec Issigonis had been involved with the design of a few military vehicles, mainly during the Second World War. The most successful of these was the Morris Light Reconnaissance Car, of which 2,200 were built. Issigonis also devised the 4WD Gutty, which was rejected by the army during the war, but later revised and developed into the Austin Champ.
So it was not surprising that Issigonis also saw potential for a military version of the Mini from even the earliest days.
Following the war the British Army sought a suitable lightweight, air-transportable, utility vehicle. A brief was formulated by the late 1950s, and prototypes called for trials. The Moke was BMC’s interpretation, and although Issigonis was responsible for the overall project, it was Jack Daniels and John Shepherd who were responsible for the production of all the various prototypes.
Some of the variants included long and short wheelbases, removable, folding and fixed windscreens, and two or four-wheel drive. In fact, Issigonis had applied for a patent for a 4WD version of the Mini as early as 22 September 1959.
Although it is not clear when the name was decided, even these first prototypes were called Mokes in all reports I have found.
Development of the 2WD and 4WD Mokes seem to have continued together, along diverging lines, with the 2WD becoming the production version, and the 4WD eventually culminating in the Austin Ant – more on that in a later issue.
Six prototypes were hand-built in mid-1959. In early 1960 they were supplied to the British Army’s Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (FVRDE) at Chertsy, Surrey.
The wheelbase on these first prototypes was 80 inches (203.2cm), the same as the Mini and the first production version of the Moke.
Apparently one or two of these went to North Africa for a three-month evaluation. At least three were tested by the Army (registrations 14BT17, 14BT18 and 20BT30), one was tested for helicopter lifts and drops by the Royal Marines (07RN49) and another tested by the RAF (27AE03).
In Army-speak, the Moke was designated as “BMC Light Inter-Communication Car” (although catalogued as Austin Mini-Moke).
While it is not known what became of the Mokes used by the Marines or the RAF, the three tested by the Army still exist.
14BT18 was apparently sold off fairly early, while the remains of 14BT17 and 20BT30 were sent to the School of Transport Vehicle Museum at Aldershot on 26 July 1963.
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 18 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>24</plumshop>