Stealth Moke

My addiction started about 1990 when I happened across a Yellow Moke for sale. Within a few minutes I was the proud owner of a 1979 Yellow Californian. This little Moke was to provide me and my 2 young daughters a great deal of fun and my wife an equal amount of embarrassment.

I joined the NSW Moke Club, met some great characters, made new friends, which I am still in contact with, and had some great camping trips.

After a few years, and for some reason I am yet to fathom, I sold the little Moke and have regretted it since.

But like an ex-alcoholic that takes a sip or an ex-smoker that takes a puff, when my wife suggested that with (early) retirement looming I should look around for another Moke that would keep me out of the house and in the “shed” I realised I wasn't over my ‘moking’ addiction. With the prospect of having me around 24/7, my wife was full of encouragement.

I did quite a lot of research on prices and started looking for a running and registrable Moke that needed some TLC. I didn't want to do a full restoration job. After looking around for quite some time I was loosing confidence that I would get what I wanted at a reasonable price. Then on a Saturday in June 2005 I couldn't sleep and was up early reading the paper. Low and behold there was an ad for 1980 Moke Californian. Described only as registered, I was around looking at it an hour later. What a sad looking thing it was. The current owner had had the car for 4 years with the intention of “doing it up’. Previously it had been a farm runabout/paddock basher for 4 years. It was registered but I think that was more down to the owner being in the auto trade and having a friend who was rego inspector, than the road worthiness of the car. The outstanding thing about the car was that it was almost totally original (rear bar was from an earlier model) – no modifications and everything was there. He wanted $3500 for it and I rang the wife (Finance officer) who said don’t come home without it. So a deal was struck at $3000 and using jumper leads we got it running. Very gingerly I drove her about 25ks home and parked her on my front lawn

After walking around it for a few days admiring my new toy it was time for a bit?? of work.

I rolled it into the garage and started having a close look at what I in fact had. The body was good and straight, with no rust (good old gal bodies). Everything was where it was supposed to be and looked in good shape if somewhat tarnished... The hood had not been open for a couple of years. So I rolled the car into the sun and after a couple of hours slowly raised the roof. What a pleasant surprise, it was intact and in not too bad a condition. The rear rides sides fitted okay, but the fronts had shrunk a little. Eventually I had the zips moved about an inch backwards and they are okay. The engine puffed a bit of smoke on start-up but seeing it had only been started once a year for the last 4 years to take the last owners kids around the block at Christmas, that was to be expected.

Time to start pulling things off and cleaning. The front and rear bars and the seat belt bar came off and went to the powder coaters, windscreen, grill, dash, mirrors and arms and side screens were removed, rubbed down and undercoated and top coated.

When the bars returned from powder coating I started to put the car back together. As I said earlier, I didn't want to do a full restoration job as I wanted to use and enjoy it as much as I could without the worry stone chips etc. so I then concentrated on cleaning the body. Eight years of dust had done a reasonable job of protecting the paint work, so with a bit of elbow grease she came up ok. I had some Squadron Blue mixed up and carried out some touch-up work. Next the wheels came off, I rubbed them back over a couple of days and repainted them. In hindsight, I wish I had bought a sandblasting outfit

So after about a month the Moke started to look okay, but before I could drive her too far I had to do some mechanical work.

I noticed on the drive home from buying her that when I braked there was every chance that the car would go either left or right but no chance it would stop straight. I replaced all the brake wheel cylinders, flexible lines and brake shoes. Now I could stop as well as an all drum system will allow. I checked out the suspension, which seemed pretty good, and replaced the knuckles which had over the years pounded the plastic cups into submission. New shocks were installed which meant that when I drove over a bump I didn't get tossed out of the seat. There was a clunking noise which was traced to the steering rack which was duly replaced.

Over the next few months I replaced all the perished rubbers I could find including the backing plate handbrake rubbers, tie rod rubbers, bonnet rubbers, etc.

Before I knew it, summer had arrived and the long days and nights spent working on the Moke were forgotten.

The Moke was looking good (to me anyway through my rose coloured glasses) and apart from a smoke trail, was running okay.

After a couple of months enjoying the ride and undertaking minor tasks, I thought it time to look at the engine. In today’s jargon, the engine on start-up would leave a large “carbon footprint” on the suburb which only cleared when the wind came up. I had decided to stay with the 998 engine so started looking around for someone to rebuild it for me at a reasonable price.

As luck would have it, a friend from the former NSW Moke Club rang to say that he was selling his mechanical business and that he had reconditioned a 998 A+ motor some years before and hadn't used it. He said it was mine if I wanted it. I was down in Sydney in a couple of days and picked it up together with a stack of parts. The engine had been balanced and blueprinted, ran a mild cam and the head had been modified to David Vizard specifications.

Over a few weeks I fitted new auxiliaries to the new engine, including clutch, fuel pump, carburetor, extractors, water pump etc. and then dropped her into the Moke. I turned it over on the starter to get oil pressure up. I then did the final connections and it started immediately and sounded smooth. OH WHAT A FEELING!!!!

As a test for all the work I had done on the car and with trepidation, I loaded the camping gear in to the back and with a friend, headed for the NSW South Coast. What a great trip. She didn't miss a beat and ran strongly. Even fully loaded she comfortably cruised at 95 to 100 kph.

As with any car, there is always something to ‘tinker‘ with on the Moke. I still need to finish/replace a few things like seats and rear bar, and will at some stage re-spray her but in the meantime will continue to enjoy the experience of driving a MOKE.

 Peter L.