by Jerry ElengicalSep 20, 2021
Originally designed to be a combat-ready vehicle, Moke has now transformed itself into a spunky beach cruiser. The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Brigitte Bardot have all been captivated by its personality and unique styling. While George Harrison’s love for the celebrated buggy has been very well documented, the popularity of Mini Moke garnered international attention when The Beach Boys posed in front of five Mini Mokes for the promotional campaign of their international tour in 1966. It then caught the attention of French Riviera jet-setters, celebrities and surfers, and became synonymous with breezy island living. Now more than 25 years later, Moke stages its comeback geared with modern automotive technology for a new generation of drivers, the design of which is helmed by British industrial designer,Michael Young.
Young trails down memory lane, unearthing the historic past of Moke’s earliest automotive design by Sir Alec Issigonis, the father of the Austin Mini in the early 1960s. Before he established his legend as the design of the Mini, Issigonis conceived several military vehicles, in particular during World War II. At the end of the 1950s, when the British Army sought a suitable lightweight, air-transportable utility vehicle, a brief was sent to this most celebrated designer. His response was a vehicle codenamed “Buckboard”, built by the British Motor Corporation. The car quickly gained cult status in the French Riviera, Australia and the Caribbean and soon after, shared screen time with James Bond himself in almost four of its action-filled franchisees. But this was no ordinary punch buggy – the car then further caught the eye of the UK’s naval warfare force, The Royal Navy, who primarily used it as a carrier. Twenty-five years later, Moke International, along with Young, breathed life back into the re-engineered Moke for the 21st century. “While the new, much-anticipated model remains faithful to its origins and classic look, it also integrates the most pertinent elements of today’s automotive technology for a new generation of drivers,” shares Young. The brand has since been enjoyed and championed by celebrities including the likes of British supermodel Kate Moss and Grammy Award-winning artist and producer, DJ Khalid.
A Moke owner himself, Young associates the car to 'a sense of freedom', one that draws directly from the motor car design. The uninhibited appeal of the car, according to Young, illustrates a well-deserved beach vacation. Open-air thrills, a great utilitarian design that allows you the freedom to sojourn wherever you want. “The car screams fun and that’s what you feel as soon as you step into it,” exclaims Young.
The new car design process was based on making the car suitable for modern-day driving. As users, people are now accustomed to chasing comfort over style. “The old models were very dated, rough and needed improved amends,” mentions Young. For this reason, he was commissioned to head the design team at Moke International.
To fashion the likes of a futuristic car design, the designer bulleted the body with suave army green, air force blue and striking special ops black trappings, technological enhancements with improved road-holding, braking, suspension. “The journey of the production car was a very long one,” recollects Young. “It took almost 10 years to get it back onto the road. We did all the prototyping in China. Once we charted the course for the redesign, the factory was set up in France to rebuild the car to the specification we needed it to be,” he adds.
But the challenges didn’t end there. According to the designer, the team also had to battle legal issues in order to get a historical vehicle up to measure which involved several design modifications. “It was a labour of love to get it back onto the streets,” says Young fondly of his favourite project and obsession.
Visit Michael Young's newsroom on STIRpad for more on his latest works, installations, projects and videos.