FUN IN THE SUN: An American entrepreneur brings a British Classic back to life

Written by Andre James

Designed by Sir Alec Issigonis in the 1950s for the British Motor Company (BMC), the original Mini Moke, the site of which conjures images of the breezy beach party era à la Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, was originally intended for use by the British army as a parachute-droppable vehicle. Too-low ground clearance and an underpowered engine made the classic Moke unfit for military service. However, when BMC pivoted to public sales in the 1960s, the quirky car quickly gained popularity among the civilian sector, despite a laundry list of shortcomings that included a propensity to rust quickly.

After BMC ceased Moke production in 1968, the brand persisted in Australia, where it was built from 1966 to 1981 and known first as the Morris Mini Moke and then the Leyland Moke. Between 1980 and 1984, 8,500 "Californian" Mokes were built at British Leyland's subsidiary in Portugal. The final iteration of the original Mini Moke was produced by Italian motorcycle manufacturer Cagiva. From 1990-1993 Cagiva’s build of 1,500 Mokes is a small fraction of the more than 50,000 that were manufactured between 1965-1993.

Entrepreneur Todd Rome, the founder of Blue Star Jets, first fell in love with the curious Mini Moke while vacationing on the tiny Caribbean paradise of St. Barts. After selling Blue Star Jets, he founded Moke America in 2016 and set about reengineering the 20th-century icon into a 21st-century E-car. To tackle the ground clearance issue, Rome's Moke sits on 14-inch wheels. The glass windshield has been redesigned to be larger and sit higher to accommodate taller drivers better. A refinement of the painting process for the steel and fiberglass chassis better fends off rust. There's also a four-wheel drivetrain, hydraulic steering, front disc brakes, rear drum brakes, a parking brake, a Bluetooth sound system, and a backup camera. For the ultimate ease of use, the car can be fully charged in eight hours (providing 40 miles of range) by plugging it into any standard household 110 outlet.

Street legal and completely customizable from roof-to-rims, each Moke is made at the company's plant in Sarasota, Florida, and takes approximately 90 days from order placement to delivery. While the Moke's cool factor is undeniably off the charts, you won't be breaking any land speed records as it has a top speed of just 25 MPH, which drops to around 15 MPH on steep grades.

At present, Moke America is producing a 007 San Monique edition that pays homage to the classic Moke James Bond drove in LIVE AND LET DIE during his visit to the fictional Caribbean island of San Monique.

The eco-friendly electric vehicle is presently shuttling guests around at resorts including Hotel Joaquin in Laguna Beach, Isla Bella Resort in the Florida Keys, SLS South Beach in Miami, and The Menhaden in Greenport. Moke America has partnered with brands including Louis Vuitton, Vilebrequin, and Serena Williams Fashion on bespoke Mokes, and the company boasts a cadre of celebrity fans who pop up behind the wheel on the company's Instagram feed.

Starting at $19,475 you can build and order your Moke at MokeAmerica.com.

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