Oz Cars

BY JOHN QUILTER                                         June 2015

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Trax, the Australian based marketer of diecast and resin models has recently expanded their range of 1:43 scale items and now included are two Australian versions of cars that were UK based. First is the 1947 to 1952 Austin A40 Tourer, a car based on the Austin A40 Dorset which was in turn the two door version of the longer running Devon of the early 1950s. The Australians modified the car and built a tourer for the sunny climate down under. The model (Trax #TRR07) is in bright red which is a bit on the pink side with a brown interior, and cream wheels. It even includes black wing welting front and rear, a nice detail touch rarely seen. Also featured are correct chrome bumpers, grill, door handles, boot handle, and even a very delicate flying “A” bonnet ornament. Unlike some other models the grill has been black washed to bring out its detail. Photoetched wipers are provided as well as some fascia detail and a three spoke “banjo” steering wheel. The chassis show a considerable amount of detail including the frame, front and rear suspension, engine sump and final drive.

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For scale verifiers the wheelbase measures 2.2 inches which equates to 95.5 inches while the real car has a wheelbase of 92.2, a very minor difference. Length is 3.63 equating to 156 while the real car is 153 inches long which would be deemed as pretty accurate. Dorsets were exported to the USA in the late 1940s but sadly their ¾ scale American car looks from the late 1930s resulted in many of them being converted into dragsters in the 1950s, housing huge V8 engines suitable only for setting records in a quarter mile race.

A recent review of the Trax website shows the red A40 tourer as sold out but if prior history is correct Trax often relaunches the model in a different colour later.

The next Trax item of British origin is the BMC Mini Moke. Again suitably modified for Australian use. The model is offered in two colours, a bright metallic blue (Trax number TRR04) and a white one (Trax number TRR04A). Both with blue seats and a folded down hood in blue. White “spoker” wheels are fitted and the model, comes with a pair of surf boards and a beach cooler these cars being popular with the open air beach going set in Australia.

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The Moke has a storied and varied past, it being first launched in the mid 1960s in the UK as a variation of the Mini 850. It was thought that such a minimal utilitarian vehicle might be of interest to the military and in fact some were tried out by the US Army but were found to have too limited ground clearance for arduous military service. The intention was they could be parachuted out of an aircraft and met on the ground by paratroopers for transport. This was the inspiration for perhaps the first 1:43 scale model of this vehicle by Dinky Toys which was even offered in a para-Moke version with a parachute for small children to drop from a height.

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The Australian Moke differed from the original English version in having a larger 1098cc engine and 12 inch wheels in the 1971 locally produced version. The 12 inch wheels gave it a slightly greater ground clearance than the original 10 inchers, but a full length sump protector was still fitted to protect the aluminum gearbox case. In 1977 the Australian built Moke acquired the larger 1275cc engine and much larger, more robust bumpers front and rear known as “roo bars” which are replicated on the Trax model. Moke production ended in Australia in 1981 but that was not the end of the story as production moved to Portugal where over 8,500 of them were produced by the local British Leyland subsidiary there between the years 1980 and 1990. Like the last of the Australian Mokes these were known as Californian Mokes.

And the final chapter of the Moke story was in a still born project to produce Mokes in Italy by Cagiva who were a motorcycle maker in Bologna. This never actually happened but production did continue in Portugal until 1993 at which point over 50,000 had been produced worldwide. For a period Leyland Australia produced a version of the Californian Moke that was acceptable in the USA and some were used as rental vehicles on Santa Catalina Island, appropriately off the coast of Southern California. Over the years the Moke made use of a number of BMC derived A series engines from 850cc to 998cc to 1098cc to 1275cc and BMC experimented with a twin engine Moke to achieve four wheel drive but this still did not satisfy the US Army who were more concerned with ground clearance. It is reported, however, that four strong soldiers could, with use of the tubular bumpers simply boost the tiny vehicle over any terrain obstacles it got impaled on! That however, did not meet the military’s requirements.

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The photographs above show the Moke with the beach accessories, a pair of surfboards and a cooler and some likely beachgoers (Omen miniatures). The ones with three Mokes show the Dinky Para Moke, the Vitesse in green, and the Trax.

Over the decades the Moke has become a sort of cult vehicle highly cherished by collectors and enthusiasts in many parts of the world.

Back to the Trax model. This has the white spoker 12 inch wheels, the roo bar bumpers, and a tall triangular side window presumably to somewhat reduce drafts while underway. This model has a fair undercarriage detail which includes an engine sump and aluminum tail pipe and silencer. In correct Moke fashion a spare tire resides on the rear off center. Rear mud flaps are fitted with white lettering “MOKE”. There is a folded top and even a touch of luxury, twin windscreen mounted sunvisors. The model’s wheelbase measures 1.82 which equates to 78.3 inches while the actual vehicle has a wheelbase dimension of 79.5, or just about dead on accurate.

Both of the above models come mounted on a black base under the usual clear plastic display case. Trax models are marketed by Top Gear at http://www.topgear.com.au/index.php.


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