My fascination with the Mini Moke started in the mid 1970’s in Tortola, BVI where I was chartering my classic wooden ocean racing yawl “Stormy Weather” and needed a vehicle on land. A Moke was the first car I owned when I moved to the Caribbean. I loved having a Mini Moke! You could drive anywhere on the island, beaches, cow pastures, etc. and never get stuck! And of course if you did, you just pick the back end up and move it over a bit…and off you go. In those days one could drive into Road Town and leave keys and belongings in the car and never worry.
Fast forward: Forty years. I am now a retired architect living on St. John and St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, where life is easier for a US citizen. I have been driving solar powered, (with PV modules on the roof) GEM (Global Electric Motors) NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicles) mini trucks for about 15 years. The GEM’s are a 7 HP, 72 volt DC system with heavy lead acid batteries, which severely limit range and speed on our hilly terrain.
The Virgin Islands also has very regressive auto dealerships that do not sell electric cars or even hybrids! So, wanting to drive a zero emission vehicle that runs on sunshine, I decided to do a conversion! I wanted to make an “all island, go anywhere” electric vehicle (EV). Of Course, to start an EV conversion, one needs a donor vehicle. I asked myself. What is the best “island” car I have ever owned? And BOOM! A Mini Moke popped into my mind. Instantly I made the decision to make an electric Mini Moke! That, in my opinion, would be the perfect island car!
I had seen a YouTube video of a classic VW Beetle conversion (another ‘cult car’) done by an EV conversion shop in southern California. I called them and asked if they might be interested in doing a Mini Moke conversion. They said. “Funny you should ask. We were just talking about it. We think a Mini Moke would make a good conversion, and we don’t think anyone has ever done one before. So, yes if you have patience (and money), we will do one.”
So, my search for a Moke began! I had seen a Moke advertised online several months before and called the owner to see if it had been sold. Nope, not yet was the answer. It was a 1967 Austin Mini Moke and he was only the second owner. Luckily my cousin happened to live in the same town in Florida where it was located. He gave it a green light. The Moke was in remarkably good condition for its age, with only 21,000 miles on the odometer, having spent much of its life in storage in a barn, I was told. So sight unseen, but with a lot of faith, I bought it and shipped it to California for the conversion. The six months that I was told the conversion would take, slowly turned into a full year before I would see my Moke EV!