Minis overseas : Australian Mokes
Once it became clear the Moke was never going to cut in in serious military use, its future seemed to be tied into sunnier climes…
Park Paget tells the story of its Australian afterlife…
AT the beginning of the Seventies, BLMC-Australia had started to realise the Mini-Moke could be better marketed. As a result, the Moke’s well publicised commercial aspects were to be overlooked in favour of recreational use. Although there was no real change to the product’s mechanics, structure or comfort, a new image was needed. This became most evident with the speckled and later floral vinyl trim. Not only the seats received this pattern but the canopy and optional side curtains as well. But then it was the early Seventies. For whatever reason it was also conceived that a revised product in this new image could be sold in the American marketplace. The new model would be classified as nothing more than ‘Export’.
However, by time production started, pending changes to American design rules had dashed hopes of mass exportation. A few cars did manage to make it to foreign shores. But for the majority, the local market was about to receive a strangely equipped Moke to directly compete with the existing product. One such car, now in England has body number 976. Presuming models still continued to start at 501, this would suggest that at least 476 Exports were made.
At this time Australian local content had, or was about to peak. In addition to the expected panels, items such as; road wheels, steering wheels, seats, trim, lower suspension arms, trailing arms, rear hubs, stub axles, and most of the electrics were made in Australia. Others parts, including top suspension arms, engines and boxes bore local content and assembly.
Colour schemes were also unique. Although basic colours were undoubtedly similar to overseas production. Duo tone or iridescent paint wasn’t a factory feature. The names however, truly reflect the times; Home on the Orange, Country Cream, Oh Fudge, Hairy Lime and the later Scarlet O’Hara and Am Eye Blue to name but a few.
To meet American requirements a variety of changes were introduced. Though these were no different to those found on most North American specification Midgets, MGBs, Jaguars, Rovers, Triumphs, Land-Rovers, Marinas….
Left hand drive of course, but I don’t know whether a modified British rack was used, or if a LHD version of the Australian Mini rack was actually made. New electrics consisted of; Midget side lights, Lucas L594s were reintroduced, plus new indicators, possibly from Hella Australia and rear reflectors. To accommodate the new lights and reflectors, wider wheel arch extension panels and extended rear wheel arches were created. The generic Lucas ‘pull’ hazard switch as per Triumph 2500 was mounted under the dash. The fuse box is also listed as being inside the car. No doubt other American spec. items such as a bimetallic circuit breaker for the headlights was also present.
The otherwise standard tow bar was now deleted. This model also had a wider rear track by 0.75 inches and drum brakes all round! Winter treads were replaced by road use tyres although still only conventional ply. Rear passenger grab handles seem to be standard regardless of how many seats are fitted. The new fuel tank (possibly Midget) was fitted to the underside of the boot floor with filler neck now adjacent to the spare. The large hole for the traditional side tank wasn’t pressed. However the vacant space now created wasn’t utilised either. Two more useful companion boxes could have been easily introduced but weren’t. An SU electric fuel pump was also used and this to may have stemmed from USA requirements for pump location etc. The handbook lists the engine size as 1274.86 cc. Undoubtedly using low compression pistons, probably to cope with American ULP.
Air injection with 1.5 inch SU was of course standard as a result. Such emmission control wouldn’t be used in Australia until July 1976. Therefore it is possible a complete engine or power unit was purchased from the UK solely for this model. Engine numbers from genuine virgin cars could confirm this, as Leyland Australia (L.A.) had their own sequence for locally produced engines. Strangely, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of a catalytic convertor or cylinder head valve seat inserts.
Otherwise the car was generally as per the Australian model; steel frame seats with lashed-on covers, folding roof and speedometer with incorporated fuel gauge.
Non export, Export specification:
I have no idea if any cars were actually retrofitted from LHD. I suspect that most, if not all were simply assembled to RHD specification until such time as the critical parts began to run out. Alternately, the original projected production figure (unknown) was used to try and justify costs and use the majority of parts.
Except for RHD, the body, electrical and trim aspects, were as intended for export. It would seem that the 1275 cc engine was used in local cars with all the extra plumbing. How the Export passed Australian Design Rules with all round drums and odd track widths, is anyones guess. I would not be at all surprised if the Australian 1098 cc engine was used in some cars. As for any Australian built or delivered car at the time, an aluminium Compliance Plate was fitted. This stated basic details such as; the manufacturer, chassis (body) number, vehicle mass, seating capacity and the Australian Design Rules which the vehicle met on the date the plate was affixed.
There are probably too few surviving untouched Export Mokes left to identify what actually occurred. Too cheap for too long and being the odd model in an entry level car. Despite some truly amazing accomplishments, L.A. production records are somewhat of a mystery. Not just because of the Zetland factory closure in 1974. For whatever reason the Australian Mini range was relegated to a lot of quite simply half assed supporting detail.
Just ask anyone who has tried to use a Leyland Australia Mini Workshop Manual. The relevant Moke parts list (which is still available) having almost as many pages with ‘No Illustration’ as those that are illustrated. Whereas other products such as the P76, Tasman and Nomad have acceptable to excellent supporting documentation.
No doubt the Export Moke gave rise to the term Californian. But the model doesn’t bear this name, only Moke. This confusion, combined with the Export not having a badged name has also helped to remove the model from the roads. The Export Moke probably became another nail in Leyland Australia’s coffin. However the flare and initiative to try and enter the world’s largest car market should be respected.
This article was written off the top of my head. As a result it doesn’t bear my usual array of reference points, nor reflect any recent research. I don’t actually know that the Export was destined for the States, the American Commonwealth or anywhere in North America. However, by the type of modifications used, this would be a fairly logical conclusion. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world where such features would have been needed at that time.
The question was posed as to the correct engine colour for this model. Quite simply, I don’t know. I haven’t owned and Export and I can’t remember having worked on one.
But for this period the company was changing Mini engine colours: Following on from the Sixties, metallic green was used and this appeared on early Clubmans etc. (circa 1971-1972). There was a previous base model engine colour of metallic gold. Though it seems to have been phased out before this period.
With the introduction of the British rod-change box under Australian 1098cc engines, a lighter shade of dark blue was introduced. This became L.A.’s short lived ‘blue period’ ending in late 1974, possibly early 1975 and seems to correlate with the closure of Zetland and opening of Enfield.
An emission control engine as required for American spec. wouldn’t be used in Australia until July 1976 (allowing for a short introductory period before this date). Therefore a complete power unit may well have been sourced ex UK. This would have been finished entirely in black. However, as with the previous Australian Cooper S, Matic etc., this may have been entirely over painted once at Zetland.
Article written by Mark Paget.
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