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First look: Mini does a Moke

Mini monster: The Mini Beachcomber Concept strips down for the Detroit motor show in January.

Beachcomber concept reprises Moke as Mini gets set to launch baby SUV in 2010

16 Dec 2009

MINI has chosen the frozen climes of wintry Detroit to reveal the sunniest of concept cars – a born-again Mini Moke called the Beachcomber – at the North American International Auto Show this January.

The open-top doorless all-wheel-drive four-seater is unlikely to see the production line in this exact form any time soon, due to its lack of side-impact crash protection, but speculation from Europe suggests the car has strong engineering ties to Mini’s forthcoming fourth model line, the small SUV to be called the Countryman.

Due in September 2010, the Countryman is likely to share the Beachcomber’s ALL4 all-wheel-drive system, larger wheels and taller ride height when it joins the Hatch, Cabrio and Clubman body styles in the Mini line-up.

And while the Beachcomber has pillarless open-air sides like the utilitarian Mini Moke of the 1960s, it clearly has side openings capable of taking four doors in SUV form.

39 center image The original Moke was penned by Alex Issigonis, designer of the first-generation Mini and the man credited with putting the world into front-wheel drive cars.

The Moke went into UK production in 1964 – five years after the original Mini donor car – and was made in Australia under Morris and Leyland badges from 1966 to 1981. In Portugal, production lasted until 1993.

The Mini platform was reinforced by large box-section side sections – one of which alarmingly held the petrol tank.

The Beachcomber differs from the original chop-top Moke by retaining side roof rails that boost rigidity and roll-over safety.

While the original Mini was powered by a transverse four-cylinder engine that grew progressively from 1.0 litre to 1.3 litres over the years, the Beachcomber Concept is believed to house the Mini’s 1.6-litre range of petrol and diesel powerplants, also in a transverse layout.

Unlike the two-wheel-drive Moke, however, the Beachcomber (and Countryman) will drive through all four wheels.

A Beachcomber’s tonneau-like soft-top roof also draws comparisons with the Moke’s rudimentary original rain shelter, fastening at the front to the top of the windscreen.

Transparent plastic inserts in the sides and rear provide the “windows”. “Door” openings in the sides and rear are lashed shut to keep out the elements.

For more secure protection, plastic panels are available to provide a roof, sides and cargo cover.

All four seats provide fore and aft adjustment, and the backrests all fold flat to make way for bulky items.

Larger, 17-inch alloy wheels fitted with chunky tyres for off-road work sit in flared mudguards, giving the Beachcomber a serious look. Knock-resistant unpainted black trim – including the bumpers – add to the macho look, as does the crossbar grille that harks back to the original Moke’s basic flat stamped design.

A rear-mounted spare tyre completes the Moke look.

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1st of January 1970

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