A “Moke” by any other name is NOT a Mini Moke!
The world of MINI seems to be currently abuse with the story planted by BMW that MINI might someday produce a very distant cousin to the current model called the Beachcomber!
A little history will help: Based on the Mini, the Mini Moke was designed by Sir Alec Issigonis for the British Motor Corporation. The name "Moke" comes from a british slang term for "donkey". The Moke was originally intended to be light military vehicle similar to the American Jeep, however, due to low ground clearance and small wheels the Mini Moke never quite made it as an offroad vehicle. After it was apparent that the military wasn't interested, the Mini Moke was marketed to civilians as a low-cost utility vehicle. As a beach buggy, the Moke finally found it's niche in the United States, tropical resorts in the Caribbean, and Australia. Photos and more information can be found here.
MINI is putting the fun back into 4x4s! In a surprise move MINI has unveiled a brand-new concept car designed as a successor to the famous Sixties Moke. The car is badged the MINI Beachcomber Concept and it’s set to take January’s Detroit Motor Show by storm.
Auto Express was granted an exclusive audience with both the car and its designer Gert Hildebrand at the Magna Steyr factory in Graz, Austria. Hildebrand explained the reason for the location: “For MINI, 2010 is the year of the crossover. Firstly this Beachcomber Concept will be shown in Detroit, then a production version of our Crossover, built here in Graz, will be shown in Geneva before going on sale in the UK in the Autumn.”
So this is far from a wacky one-off show car. Imagine the Beachcomber with doors and a fixed roof and what we have here is actually an early look at how the production version of the Crossman will shape up.
Hildebrand explained the thinking behind his concept: “Under the skin this is entirely the same as the production crossover, in fact the donor car for this project was one of our many prototypes. The reason we chose the Moke as inspiration was not only to give the concept a sense of history, but there’s no better way of showing off the beautiful interior than cutting off the roof and doors!”
Climb on board through the huge side opening, and the emphasis is on an active lifestyle. Each seat gets its own symbol depicting an outdoor pursuit, while a compass and a false horizon to the left and right of the steering wheel keeps you pointing in the right direction.
Hildebrand summed up the extravagant interior: “The theme is based around Hawaii and the active lifestyle – hence the volcano red wetsuit material on the seats and the various symbols depicting the different disciplines in the ironman event. In fact ironman was a name we considered for this concept.”
Should the weather take a turn for the worse, a fabric tonneau cover can be pulled over the car – this fastens to the windscreen frame, rear panel and the side openings. For more permanent protection, ultra-light plastic inserts can be fitted to form a roof, rear panel and doors.
The styling is reminiscent of the Crossman Concept seen at 2008’s Paris Motor Show, with short overhangs and a wide-set stance. But the Beachcomber’s hexagonal grille borrows its chunky lines from the nose of the Mini Moke. But despite it’s stocky stance, the Beachcomber is actually shorter than a Golf hatchback and only ten centimetres longer than a Clubman.
Rugged wheelarches are filled with 17-inch alloys, which will be available on the production Crossman in a selection of sizes up to 19-inches, and wrapped in deep-grooved run-flat tyres, negating the need for a spare. So, instead of serving its usual purpose, the wheel cover attached to the boot door acts as additional storage. Another clever touch is the rear cross beam – viewed from above, it spells out MINI’s logo.
The level of detail on this concept is astonishing - from production-ready features, such as the centre rail running down the middle of the cockpit, to purely conceptual ideas like the wetsuit upholstery, it’s a concept that serves two purposes. Not only will it excite showgoers in Detroit - an important factor with America being MINI’s biggest market – but tells us loads about the forthcoming Crossman, the fourth addition to the modern MINI family and the most adventurous model yet.
According to Hildebrand MINI's ambitions over the next few years don’t stop there either: “For the next three years we are already working on three completely new MINIs, the Crossover for 2010 and production version of the Coupe and Roadster concepts shown in Frankfurt for the two years following that.”
While no one has ever been able to say that BMW was not very smart in their exploitation of the name and brand of the original Mini, this is stretching the posture a bit too much. Why can’t they do anything original? Playing the me too game can only get you so far until you realize that ‘as me’ you can only ever be second best!