The Story Of A Very Special Mini Moke

Images: David Whale

This is the story of a very special Mini Moke. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, the British Motor Corporation manufactured 'pre-production' models, usually producing ten vehicles to test the capabilities of the manufacturing line and various features that might or might not be incorporated into production vehicles. My car is validated by the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust as pre-production model 6 out of 10.

Shell restored using only original panels

It is special for another reason: the first owner was in the Devon County Fire Service. In their vehicle records, there are 15 registration marks of Mini Mokes, categorized as 'General Purpose Vehicles—used to carry personnel and portable pumps.' In Devon, there is open moorland that catches fire easily in the summer. One concept was to equip the Mokes with equipment to fight these fires where larger fire engines could not reach. In reality, they were used for various tasks and painted fire service yellow; we found traces of the colour during restoration!

Shell repainted in original Spruce Green

I found the car for sale in a local newspaper advertisement from a Volkswagen dealer. When I saw the car first registered in April 1964, I was suspicious as I knew production did not commence until the following month. A clandestine visit to the dealer established the chassis number, and research with BMIHT confirmed that this was a unique car, unbeknownst to the existing owner. I made the purchase very quickly!

Extensive work to remove corrosion in both longitudinal box sections

The car has only covered 19,000 miles from new. Mechanically, it was in good condition, but the body, like most Mokes, had rotted in the longitudinal box sections. When I purchased the car in 1993, I was lucky, as a large quantity of original Mini Moke body panels had just been found in Australia. I purchased everything I could and stored the panels in a dry storage.

Left-hand hull side rear is the only non-original panel used in the restoration

As we approached the car’s 50th anniversary, the Mini Moke Club asked if I was prepared to undertake the restoration in time for the forthcoming International Mini Meeting. This event is held every year, but every five years it returns to the UK. Time was short; we had twelve months to complete a full restoration! I literally took the vehicle for its government test the day before we travelled to the show.

Complete engine and transmission ready to install

When we arrived at the IMM, Moke Club members helped unload and position the car. However, I was curious as no one commented on the restoration. The following morning, the Club chairman told me they were absolutely stunned when they saw the car and were speechless. Anyone who has restored a vehicle within a marque club will know this is the point at which members typically point out what hasn’t been done correctly!

Moke engine and transmission installed and ready to drive

I was determined to return the car to the exact specifications shown on the BMIHT certificate. Through a friend who was the Marketing Manager of Dunlop Tyres, I obtained a set of original but new Dunlop C41 tires. While too old to be used on the road, they are perfect for display purposes!

Childline charity event promoted by FBHVC; the car being driven by the Glasurit parrot

Here's another example of attention to detail: all Mini after-market vacuum advance pipes are now manufactured too short. However, I found that the pipe fitted to an MGA was longer. Once straightened in a vee-block, it could be re-bent, re-painted, and made to fit perfectly. Early Mokes had a unique engine, which is still in place. Early Mini enthusiasts treasure an original radiator manufactured by the Coventry Radiator & Presswork Co. Ltd, and that's still in place too.

International Mini Meeting Detling 2014

Since the restoration, the car has been requested by the Mini Moke Club and showcased on many occasions. It has also participated in Childline® charity Drive It Day events organized by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs.

At the International Mini Meeting Detling in 2014
The all-important British Motoring Heritage Trust Certificate

David Whale

David has led the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs for twelve years. 500 clubs cater for car, motorcycle, bus and coach, lorry and commercial, military, agricultural and steam enthusiasts.


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