This is a Mini Moke 1275 Californian, and on a pound-for-pound basis, it might just be the most fun car in the world. Power is provided by a version of the 1,275cc Mini Cooper S engine, it has go kart-like handling, and it weighs just 578 kgs (1,274 lbs).
The Moke was originally developed on the Mini platform for military use, however its low ground clearance and front wheel drive layout made it unsuitable. It instead found a home in Australia and many tropical island holiday destinations as the perfect summer “beach car.”
Fast Facts – The Mini Moke 1275 Californian
- The Mini Moke is directly based on the classic Mini, using the same engine, transmission, and suspension.
- “Moke” was an old British slang term for a mule, and it was deemed the perfect name for the vehicle given its design.
- The Moke uses a steel platform chassis with box sections on each side to help with rigidity. The left side box contains the fuel tank (on most Mokes), and the right side box contains the battery and a lockable storage compartment.
- Amazingly the Moke would remain in production from 1964 until 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, with the engine from the Mini Cooper S – one of the most successful British rally and circuit racing cars of the 1960s.
The Mini Moke
In many respects the Mini Moke was a successful failure. It had originally been developed by Alec Issigonis and his team as a military vehicle to compete with the Land Rover and Jeep, but it was front-wheel drive and had limited ground clearance, and so no militaries were particularly interested in it.
Above Film: This episode from Hand Built Cars focusses on the Moke and tells the story of Jonny, his Dad, and their Austin Mini Moke.
With their military ambitions in tatters the British Motor Corporation turned instead to the civilian market, offering the Mini Moke as a fun, low-cost summer car in Britain from 1964 to 1968 with 14,518 produced.
Given Britain’s propensity for inclement weather the car wasn’t particularly successful – until manufacturing was shipped off to Australia.
Australia’s climate was far more conducive to Mini Moke ownership, the cars were made in the Nuffield Australia factory in Sydney from 1966 to 1981 with over 26,000 built in total. Cars were exported from Australia all over the world.
The Mini Moke 1275 Californian
The most desirable Australian built Moke, and perhaps the most desirable of them all, is the Mini Moke Californian. It was equipped with the 1,275cc engine from the Mini Cooper S, 13″ wheels, and some other modifications to make it legal for the US market where it was exported.
With 76 bhp and 79 lb ft of torque the 1,275cc engine turned the Moke into a little sports car, particularly when you remember it only weighed in at 578 kgs (1,274 lbs) and that it had the handling and suspension of the Mini – which had been a dominant British rally and circuit racing car in the 1960s and into the 1970s.
There aren’t accurate production numbers for exactly how many 1275 Californians were built and more than a few convincing replicas have been made over the years, so it’s important to inspect any example you’re thinking about buying carefully using a guide like this.
After Australian production ended the Moke was built in Portugal until 1993. There were plans to shift production to Italy after this but they never materialized. This would have been the end of the Moke had it not been for a team of investors who brought the car back in 2012 – they’re now developing 100% electric versions of the car.
The 1979 Mini Moke 1275 Californian Shown Here
The car you see here is one of the Australian-built Mini Moke 1275 Californians from 1979, it was in single family ownership until 2019 and it’s had a recent nut and bolt rebuild.
As you would expect it’s powered by a 1,275cc A-series inline-four cylinder engine, with a single 1.5 inch SU carburetor, mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox.
It also has California bonnet stickers, front and rear bull bars, Sunraysia 13-inch eight-spoke wheels, high-backed ‘Tombstone’ seats, roll bars and 1275 badging.
This car is being sold out of Fife in Scotland on Collecting Cars, if you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Collecting Cars
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