The Moke Pickup
Back in late 1981 I was looking for a good Moke to buy. At the time, Mokes were still available new and there was plenty of choice second-hand. A Moke was still a reasonable proposition for a daily driver, at least to me.
Our local council had three Moke Pick-ups that it was in the process of selling, one each in blue, white and yellow. The idea of a Moke Pick-up appealed to me, so I duly sent in an offer on the blue one for $900.
Sadly it wasn’t to be, as one of the local car dealerships offered the same price on all three Mokes, traded in on new light utility vehicles (Suzuki Carry if my memory serves me correctly), but on the proviso that they got all three Mokes.
Council accepted their deal and, as I couldn’t afford the $2,000 selling price for the Moke from the dealership, I missed out on a great opportunity. I still got a Moke, the one I still have (albeit in a much changed form), early in 1982, for which I paid $1,500.
I have always been a fan of the Moke Pick-up, though, and came across the immaculate pictured example at the National Moke Muster in Wagga Wagga at Easter this year.
In Issue 26 of this magazine we featured the Mini ute of Barry Luff, and explained its connection with the development of the Moke Pick-up.
That got me thinking about the model’s history, but finding info has been the usual black hole.
This is the story as far as we know it, with some very interesting newly discovered pieces to the puzzle.
The story of the Moke Pick-up really goes back almost to the birth of the Moke and the parallel development of the Austin Ant.
When the Moke was originally being developed by Issigonis and his team, the idea of four-wheel drive was developed. Two trains of thought were investigated at the same time. The most famous of these is the Twini Moke, which featured two engines, but which had very little cargo space as a result of the second engine in the back of the Moke. Although there were a number of variants of the Twini Moke, none were found to be viable.
The alternative was a more conventional four-wheel-drive arrangement from a single front-mounted engine. Issigonis actually applied for a patent on the design, which utilized the Mini’s A-series engine and a modified version of the Mini gearbox, on 22 September 1959.
The 4WD Moke evolved through a number of designs to become the ADO19 Austin Ant in the mid-1960s. We will have the full history on that in a later issue, but suffice to say that one of the features of the car was that it was to be a pick-up, or ute, type vehicle.
By then, however, the Moke had already been released in its now famous Mini-based configuration, but the idea of making the Moke into a “proper” pick-up had not entirely been abandoned.
As soon as the Moke was released there were a number of companies in the UK that began to market accessory hard-top roofs for it. One such company was Barton Accessories, who boasted in 1967 to produce “over 100 accessories for the Mini Moke”. Included was their version of a pick-up, called the Mini Truk, which featured a half cab with raised sides for the rear cargo area.
A similar front-only fibreglass cabin was available in Australia from the earliest days of the Moke’s local production in 1966.
A colour photo from a launch demonstration in 1966 at Marcus Oldham Agricultural College, near Geelong, Victoria (taken by Ken Rickard) shows a group of people standing around the three demonstration Mokes. One of these, although mostly obscured by the group, appears to have a fibreglass half canopy identical to that shown in the 1968 brochure as an available option.
However, in all these cases the rear load area did not extend beyond the normal back of the Moke. Although load carrying was increased in some cases with the extended height of the sides of the Moke, the length was unchanged.
As we showed in Issue 26, it was also around the time of the Moke’s release that Joe and Barry Luff in Gundagai, NSW, built their Mini pick-up from a crashed Mini sedan. A year or so later they built a similar pick-up on a Moke, after one of their customers saw the Mini and asked them to do the same to his Moke. Requests from a number of local farmers saw a further seven Moke pick-ups built – only the first one being on a “little-wheeler”, the remainder all being on “big-wheelers”.
As Barry recently explained; “To get the tray centred over the rear wheels we bent the back of the seats forward, so they were more upright, and straightened the hood frame up. We shifted the back of the roof forward, cut it off, and put a row of self tappers over the top (to attach it to the front of the tray).”
To support the front of the tray there were simply two small pieces of angle iron acting as legs between the tray and the Moke body.
Although the frame of the tray was steel, the load deck was timber. To prevent the load from moving forward onto the driver and passenger there was a steel hoop frame with a wire mesh. The spare tyre was simply put under the tray in the back of the Moke. Steel hoops at each corner provided anchor points for tying down a load.
Only one Moke, built in 1972, had sideboards made of timber. It was this Moke that Barry reported was seen by one of the BMC sales reps a couple of years later, when the Moke was at their workshop for a service or some repair work. “I can picture the rep but I can’t think of his name, and he liked the look of these things, so he took a photo to Sydney and asked us to give him a rough idea on price. At the time we were charging about $100. There was very little to it.”
However, the Luffs found that it was beyond their means to build the numbers that would be required by the factory, so they let the idea go. “We considered taking a patent out on it, but that was more trouble than it was worth”, Barry reveals.
Meanwhile, a prototype Moke Pick-up was built by at the BMC factory in Waterloo, based on the photos of the Luff Moke. There were a few changes, but it clearly is based on the same design.
The tray features hinged sideboards, about twice the height of those on the Luff Moke, that could be easily removed. An additional vertical steel bar is on the passenger side of the cargo barrier, on which is mounted the spare tyre, standing upright.
Most importantly, though, the tray was much further back than the Luff’s, which meant the seating position and the front hood bows were not changed.
This meant changes to the standard Moke to fit the load tray were kept to a minimum. The rear hood bows and their mounting brackets were deleted, a new hood, reshaped from behind the middle hood bow, was fitted and the taillight assemblies were relocated to under the rear of the tray.
There were also small triangular filler panels on each side, that acted as support for the front of the tray, while keeping wind, dirt and water out of the back of the Moke.
Former Road Proving Manager from the Experimental Department, Roger Foy, doesn’t recall any road testing of the Moke Pick-Up, and was unaware of the prototype vehicle. “The Experimental Department was closed down in about May 1974, and in June 1974 I was transferred to the PR Department, so I’m not aware of the Moke Pick-up being built at the Waterloo plant”, Roger explained.
However, former Service Training School manager Bruce Elson reports that the prototype was built in the Service Workshop at Waterloo, and confirmed that the photos of it were taken outside the showroom in the administration building.
At this time the 1098cc engine was still standard across the Mini range, but this would change shortly afterwards when the Zetland factory closed at the end of 1974 and all Mini and Moke production moved to the Enfield factory.
By the time the production model appeared the main change seems to have been with the shape of the cargo barrier.
This now featured square tube, with the sides bent inwards instead of being vertical, then continuing slightly past the top rail to provide side supports for ladders etc to be carried.
If you would like to read the rest of this story, order your copy of Issue 28 of The Mini Experience. <plumshop>50</plumshop> <plumshop>51</plumshop>