The Mini Moke has been relaunched! Yes, really!

Leyland Moke Californian

One of the late 70’s, early 80’s icons of automotive beach culture in Australia has been relaunched. Along with the Holden Sandman and the VW Beach Buggy, the Mini Moke was of the common automotive links to sun, sand and surf in the great sunburnt country that I remember from my youth. The ultimate spec model was even called the ‘Californian’, to reflect the epitome of beach culture of the time (maybe even still). As a kid, I recall the Northern beaches of Sydney being awash with Mokes and any visitor to Magnetic Island in Queensland over the last 20 years will likely regale you with their own Moke adventures.


Now let’s make it clear from the outset, I love Mokes’, I’ve owned a couple (the blue one in the photo is mine) and a couple of Minis as well. I reckon the Moke is the biggest example of ‘Smiles per Miles’ you will ever get. It is very hard to take life seriously when you are travelling along in a Moke. A ride in a Moke is often an assault on the senses (you can reach out and touch the roadkill) and nearly always a bit of a giggle.

Despite production ending in Australia in the early 80’s as the design rules passed nearly every level of safety the Moke provided (or otherwise), production continued on in Portugal via Cagiva into the 90’s. Now, an Australian venture has announced that they will launch a re-invented version of the Moke in conjunction with Chinese manufacturer Chery and its subsidiary Sicar Engineering. Updates include a 1.0 litre fuel injected engine, 9 inch disc brakes (the original wheels were only 10 inch!) and extensive roll over protection. Down the track it is intended to receive air-bags too. All for $22,999…

…and there’s the rub. That’s not cheap. Yes it’s wider and longer than the original, which is supposed to make it a genuine 4 seater, but I had one, it had 4 seats, all engineered and sat 4 very comfortably. Rear legroom was expansive in fact. So at $23k for a slightly bigger, but really no better-equipped remake of the original, who will buy it? Yes, some will move into garages in Portsea and Sorrento as permanent holiday house runabouts. Likewise Byron and Noosa will have some take up residence, but will it take off? Personally I’m a touch sceptical. The best examples of original Moke Californians are not far off that mark in the online classifieds and they often stick around for months and months, so demand is not exceeding supply.

Fiat JollyHowever, the distributors say it will also be launched in Thailand, the Caribbean, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and then onto Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Fiji and Vanuatu. Should they get good dealers in these markets they may just take off. Lots of resorts will probably put them on as pick-up/drop-off cars, and others still will be sold to become estate runabouts and yacht tenders in much the same way the Fiat Jolly filled that role years ago.

I really would like to see them succeed, because I love Mokes. They’re great fun, they thumb their nose at practicality in about 100 different ways and it is guaranteed to get people chatting to you wherever you stop (even when stopped in traffic), but I think their time has passed, at least in Australia. A lot of people are simply not prepared to put up with the idiosyncrasies of that type of car these days.

If you think I’m wrong, I’d love to hear why, ‘cause I just can’t see it myself.

Even on the internet, you’re out of date as soon as you publish…


As reported across nearly all the ‘car guru’ sites this week was the fact that a Ferrari 250 GTO (see link – has become the most expensive car ever sold. Unlike the Mercedes I featured in an earlier blog post, this Ferrari is a private sale and therefore, for the time being, is unlikely to be officially “confirmed”, however, several people in the right circles have corroborated the details of the sale.

At $52 million, the sale of this Ferrari has as good as blown the previous high point of $30 million out of the water. The differences between the sales are fairly dramatic too, unlike the Merc, the Ferrari is a usable (and well used) example that has appeared at multiple classic racing events, but more importantly, whereas the Mercedes represented the ONLY example that was ever going to be available for sale, there are MULTIPLE 250 GTO’s available.

If you take all the variations into account, there were in fact 36 GTO’s built and all of them have been accounted for. Even more amazingly, in July 2102, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the model, 23 of them gathered in France for a tour of the Champagne region. Unless I miss my guess, by current rates, that was over a BILLION dollars of machinery peddling around the countryside!


To my mind, the only question this leaves is around the speculation of what the grandaddy of all Auction record holders, the Bugatti Royale would get if one was to come into this super heated market? Trust me, some very well connected people will be trying very hard to make that happen – right Mr Kidston?!

When does the mundane become classic?

A small event the other day made me ponder the matter of ‘when does the mom’s taxi or decidedly average motorcars of decades past become classics’ or ‘can all cars become a classic past a certain point in their life’? As I’m want to do, it also made me ponder how, from a Marketers perspective, some products have more than one ‘Product Life Cycle’.

Now before I delve into this event and the whole thought process it sent me down, let me introduce you to the Product Life Cycle (PLC). Even if you haven’t come across it before, the concept will most likely be familiar. It’s a standard bell curve and has also been applied in various forms to illustrate other cycles such as the take-up of technology and revenue from products over time. The start of the curve begins at Introduction where the product is Product Life Cyclefirst available to customers then rises through Growth, peaking at Maturity, then into Decline (see illustration).  Now cars experience this cycle the same as any new product. The new model is released, early days people see how good it is, it takes off in popularity, plateaus, then drops as the new model is due. The interesting part of this for me is that many cars experience another curve some 15, 20 or 30 years later where all of a sudden they get sought out by a few interested collectors, become popular, then become ‘in demand’ and over time move out of favour, often as the next generation matures.

Now back to the trigger of this musing (and how the PLC becomes relevant), the other day I drove past the house of a classic car owning friend to find his latest ‘classic’ purchase was a refrigerator white, pov pack 1989 BMW 318i parked in the carport. This is a carport that has housed a variety of mint classics from a bright green Valiant Charger that starred Sportsgirl Chargerin a major retail ad campaign to a time warp Carlos Sainz edition Toyota Celica Group 4 that took me right back to high school and thinking maybe Toyota could build ‘tough’ and exciting cars (turns out they forgot again soon enough). When I spoke to this friend, I found out that not only was he thrilled with the new find, but it had kicked the bright red, rally bred excitement machine out in the process. Delving deeper, it got worse, as the Beemer was auto and such a base model it didn’t even score alloys, almost unheard of for a brand that sold itself around “Driving Pleasure” and a sporty image. When I went to find a photo of the particular model on the internet it appears it was so forgettable that apart from a grainy shot from a TV program, nobody bother to capture it. There are hundreds of shots of the more glamorous, better appointed siblings but not this orphan.Image

Now don’t get me wrong, I really like E30 BMW’s, I even own one, but this vehicle is as exciting as a clothes dryer. So what is it that enamoured this collector of (previous) taste to make room for this car? It turns out it comes down to the fact it is essentially a new car from a previous era. Less than 100,000 kilometres had rolled under the tyres (less than 5,000km a year – most cars quadruple that), it had every service documented by the one, now elderly, lady owner and a back seat she can’t remember anyone ever having sat in. It was like new, but had been around for a quarter of a century and he thought it was cool, and he may be right.

So here’s my conundrum, can any car become cool again? Can any car experience its own second coming of the PLC? It turns out others ponder this too as the guys at Mustang Maniac have come across a low mileage, mint example of the generally least liked member of the Ford pony stable (, that may be a classic based on condition and the fact nobody sees them any more.

So if these examples are a case study in a future ground swell of boring buggies gaining popularity, what other humble rides of the past will experience a second coming? Will the Datsun 120Y and late seventies Corollas or cardboard box styled Volvos become statements of cool as classics of the future? Image,

What are your suggestions as to unlikely contenders for classics of the future? I really want to know.

Spring is the time to get out your classic and enjoy it – really? Why did you put it away for winter?


Here’s something I don’t understand. Many people within the car-collecting hobby adhere to the mantra that Spring is the time to get your classic car out of hiding. To highlight this, recently I read in one of ‘go to’ magazines for car collectors about how a particular car show beckoned the start of the Spring Car Show season and this in turn signalled it was time to get your classic car out of it’s winter hibernation. What I want to know is why it went into hiding in the first place?

multi_carcoon_lOk, so I am well aware that a reasonable population of people within the classic car crowd have a pampered trailer queen that never ventures out when there is the merest hint of moisture on the pavement and only emerge, chrysalis like from the climate controlled Carcoon® to be pushed into the enclosed car trailer to compete with other buffed and primped pieces of metal to earn those last couple of points out of 100 in the concours environment…

…but I’m not talking about them. The people I’m interested in in the collector car movement are the people who own a car because they love to drive it, the people who slow down when passing shop windows to catch a glimpse of themselves cruising by (admit it, you know you do it!), stab the throttle in an underpass or tunnel to hear the bellow or wail from the exhaust or even, genuinely, take the long way home because they like the time behind the wheel. These are the people who should have their car out in the colder months. Australia is not like Europe of the US, where winter roads mean salt corrosion and weather forecasting is (mostly) accurate enough to avoid days where it is throwing down cats and dogs.

Why drive in Winter? This is an easy question to answer. I’ve had and driven a few cars that claim to be the ‘Best of British’ and even when in fine form, the sign of weather indicating high 20’s or, heaven forbid, early 30’s can have them boiling like Grandma’s tea kettle, without the upside of her trademark tea cake to accompany it. Even when you choose a car that was built with engineers that understand an Australian summer, acres of vinyl (often black), poor ventilation and almost certainly no mod cons like air conditioning make many a Summer or Autumn cruise a sticky and stinky affair. American cars don’t necessarily do the job much better as 50’s wraparound windscreens or raked rear glass like on many 70’s coupes reproduce the solar convection oven model perfectly. All of these things don’t matter when it’s 25 degrees or less.

Woman driving convertibleAha, you say “But what about a convertible? They’re perfect in summer!”. Sadly, no. Nice hot days in a convertible fry every bit of available skin to a perfect shade of lobster pink and even if you are blessed not to burn at the merest hint of the sun, the wind can dish out it’s own sting and almost guarantees that any female passenger will end up looking like a fright night victim if their hair is even close to reaching shoulder length. If you reckon you can really rock the Grace Kelly scarf look, more power to you. Better to put the top down on a cooler day, turn up the heater in the footwell and accessorise with a funky beanie or fur hat.

Finally, I’ve heard people put forward that they keep their cars in the garage from April to September, as there are no classic car events held in that period. Really?! Every year, I and thousands of other faithful wake up early and make the three-ish hour cruise to Winton for the Historic Races held on the last weekend of May every year and every year I have been going the crowds has been getting bigger.

Ferrari 275 GTB Giallo Fly

To me, this event is a prime example of knowing your market, segmenting the market and targeting those customers you want, but perhaps more importantly, knowing who you don’t want so you know who to listen to and who to ignore. Every year, the car park is full of classic, some mundane, some wonderfully exotic (a Giallo Fly 275 GTB Ferrari for one) and nearly all sport mud splatters, bug strikes and signs of well-enjoyed use. All of these vehicles have carried their passengers there to enjoy the mix of keen racing, eclectic machinery and like-minded souls. This last part is key, every time I mention to a group of classic car faithful about my last visit to Winton, someone will bemoan how it’s in the dead of Winter, it’s too far away and how it’s nearly always raining in Melbourne on that weekend.

The drive North in the early morning to escape the Melbourne cold is what makes Winton great! If you are one of those for whom it is all too hard, stay home, because it is the atmosphere generated by those who come to enjoy the action, admire the machinery and breath in the scent of Castrol R that makes this event so great. This is part of the differentiation of the Winton event that makes it unique, it’s not about one marque or who has the most concours vehicle, it’s about enjoying and immersing yourself in a passion for classic motoring and knowing you are rubbing shoulders with an amiable throng of individuals who all think along the same lines. What’s even better is that half the time you leave cold wet Melbourne to be greeted with sunshine and warmth over the ranges and come home with sunburn!

Historic Winton Group Nc

I’m sure the organising committee for Historic Winton have been pushed to consider more weather friendly time slots, upgrading facilities for more ‘corporate’ minded sponsors and sectioning off parts of the car park for VIP cars and owners, but they have shown they know what many other people, particularly marketers and sale execs, miss – it’s not always about who you want to attract, but who you don’t want to attract. Why? It’s often the ones you don’t want who will change the perception of what you are trying to achieve more than multitudes of ambassadors ever would, and not for the better. Last thing you want is people moaning about the very things that make the event so cool for others.

So next time the weather turns colder and I see a classic out and about it will make me smile all the more and that’s what it’s all about – more smiles per miles!

The Tale of Two Muffler Shops

I thought my Master of Marketing compadres would be interested to see this. This illustrates perfectly how poor customer service can have far reaching effects due to the internet. This case is in the USA, but the same chain is here in Oz and the bad news will impact there potential local customer base.


Based on my experience with many single shop car service crowds they are unlikely to have a social media campaign plan (I couldn’t even get the web site to load when I Googled them), but they don’t have to. Good service when juxtaposed to poor service has given them loyal advocates who are out there actively promoting the business – for free!


The Classic Car community is very tight and widespread. I can guarantee that there will be many owners who actively seek out alternate muffler shops from this well known international brand based on this poor PR.

Michael and Brad have had the pleasure and the unfortunate displeasure of getting  new exhaust put on the ’72 Cutlass.  One would think going from single to dual would be a piece of cake, especially when you place your pride and joy into the hands of a national chain that claims to turn everything into gold when they touch it.  Their first experience turned out to be an unhappy ending to a trusted fable.  They now know that it’s not such a good idea to “Trust the M**** Touch”.  Honestly, the experience was “exhausting“.

These are the BEFORE pictures…

Chapter two of this story takes them just a few hundred feet down the same road where Mike and Chris write a surprisingly refreshing sequel to this saga.  Brad and Michael were greeted with gaping mouths as this band of merry men from Mieneke saw the damage done by…

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It’s official, cars are now legitimate artworks…

It sort of crept up on me, but today I realised that cars have now become legitimate, bona fide works of art. I always had a feeling it would happen one day and had many a strident discussion on the matter when undertaking 4 years of art history as part of my degree, but now I have realised that day has dawned. More importantly, I love it as it means that a significant segment of public perception has changed to allow this to happen, a shift towards an understanding that the visual embodiment of a tale is art and a thing of beauty to be admired and revered.

Now, before the car fanatics start to wildly gesticulate towards the Museum of Modern Art in New York to show that cars cars are already art, I am fully aware they have 3 cars in their collection and have for many years. Likewise BMW has their art car collection graced with works by Calder, Done, Lichtenstein Hockney and Jagamara, but they simply represent cars as a canvas or style icons of an era in the case of the MOMA cars. On the flip-side, for the arty fans that start facetiously asking whether that means the Leyland P76, AMC Gremlin or Austin Allegro (insert regional car of derision here) fall into the high art category, I’ll direct you to Dogs Playing Cards, Black Velvet Elvis paintings or “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”, otherwise known as “Shark in Formaldehyde”, and see how well you can argue the case.Image

So, back to the point at hand. In the last couple of weeks, two sales have occurred that have illustrated that the line between collectible cars and investment-grade art hasn’t just been crossed, at least in one case a standing broad jump has been made across that line. Before we launch straight into those particular sales, the first car that stepped over the line into pure art, for me, was the Lake Maggiore Bugatti. Submerged for 70 years, it reached $360,000 when raised from its watery grave and put up for sale in 2010. It would be a stretch to call the collection of elements bought for that significant sum as a car. Requiring a substantial fabricated frame to hold it all together, it is now housed in a room of its own in the Mullin Automotive Museum so you can appreciate it as the work of art it has become. It has a story to it’s past, it’s burial, exhumation and survival that make you think, the reason for being for most art.Image

More recently, the sale that really stamped the shift to vehicles as being capable of also being fine art was that of Fangio’s Mercedes-Benz W-196 for $30,000,000 in July 2013 – pause on that for a second, 30, followed by 6 zero’s – is a staggering amount. Enough to buy you works by recognised Masters such as Van Gogh or Monet, or a Rodin or Moore in the world of sculpture. What makes this more astounding is that this is not a highly polished, gilt edged work of automotive glory, no this is a beaten up, cracked, faded and thoroughly used motor vehicle that would require many more zeros to appear on a cheque before it would even run (if that was to ever happen). This car represents a rolling work of sculpture with every blemish forming part of its character. Think of it the same way as Auguste Rodin’s “Thinker”, where the passage of time and exposure to the elements has created its own story since the work was completed.Image

The last sale that really sealed the deal for me was the sale of the James Bond Esprit. The Lotus marque is not really revered in the same way as Bugatti or the hallowed Silver Arrow Mercedes cars, but this particular fab fibreglass creation fetched $967,000. More remarkably, this example is no longer even a car, ‘Wet Nellie’ as it is affectionately known, is in fact a working submarine. Again, it is not going to ever be used as a car again, and will never be dunked in water for fear of ruining the substantial investment it represents, rather it will be displayed as a static icon of our adoration to the silver screen and the characters that feature on it.Image

I’m sure some of you will read this and mutter “a fool and his money…” or something to that effect, but keep in mind there are a few basic market rules in play in these scenarios. Basic supply and demand governs the fact that at least two people (if not significantly more) had to drive up the price of these examples to their lofty heights and the fact that these are not run of the mill, average examples of cars, they follow the rule of “Special then, special now”. Combine that factor to the added value of a story to be told with each of these cars and the glory that comes with being the owner of them (remember that Customer Value Equation that I referenced in my first entry) and they are definitely worthy art pieces.

So there you have it, cars as art. Let the arguments begin…

…oh, and I noticed I got distracted again from my plan of delving into the world of Springtime Classics. I’ll try again for my next post – maybe.