From military vehicle to neighborhood living, this electric, low-speed vehicle has come to Phoenix. The Moke (rhymes with woke) can be seen dropping children off at school or taking a family to a block party two streets down.
Jeff Riley, TK West CEO, opened the AZ Moke America dealership in Phoenix. He has been introducing the product for nearly six months.
The car originates from World War II. The British needed an easy way to get vehicles from the air to the ground, so they designed a small Jeep that could be dropped from a plane over a battlefield with a parachute. They named these vehicles Mokes because it was British slang for donkey or mule.
“They built all these Jeeps for World War II, but by the time production got really up and running, the war was over,” Riley said. “We made it to Germany a lot faster than anyone thought we would, so we had all of these small Jeeps in the UK.”
Instead of discarding them, the United Kingdom distributed them to beach communities, such as Greece, Saint-Tropez and the British Virgin Islands. “They all took these jeeps all over to these vacation spots, and that’s where there’s iconic photos,” Riley said. For example, he said, Brigitte Bardot in a Moke with her five dogs in the 1950s when she lived in Saint-Tropez, a town on the French Riviera.
“They’re still very visible in those areas,” he said. “They’ve become an easy-to-get-around vehicle on an island or beach community.”
Riley said that the cars are still very visible in those areas of the world. He discovered the car with his wife when they were in Saint-Tropez. “We saw one of those fifty-year-old ones driving by,” he said. “I had never seen one before. We stopped and asked about it. He looked at us and was like ‘what do you mean you’ve never seen one of these before?’ Well, we’ve never seen them in North America. We were fascinated by them.”
So they did some research on the vehicle and discovered that Moke America was planning to bring the car to the United States: “We signed up as their first dealer,” Riley said.
Moke America took the body of the car, slightly redesigned it and converted it into an all-electric vehicle, so it was eco-friendly. “There is no carbon footprint,” Riley said. “They’re not gas-powered at all.”
The Moke car can go up to 40 miles on one charge. It takes 8 hours to charge, but it can be charged in any household outlet. They have hydraulic disk brakes, power steering and a wider base than a typical golf cart. “They’re very sturdy,” Riley said. “You can’t flip them over. They’re safer.”
But why bring the car to Phoenix? Because for nearly a decade, there has been an increased use in golf carts around the Valley, whether that be for running errands or dropping kids off at school. “It’s the convenience of it,” Riley said. “I would honestly say it’s the fun. People enjoy driving around their neighborhoods in a golf cart. I don’t know why exactly that is.”
Of course, AZ Moke America sells the cars in bulk to resorts and retirement communities; however, their core business is to individuals. “There is a novelty to it,” Riley said. “There’s something fun about it. It’s just an alternative to taking the Suburban two streets over to your neighbor’s house.”
Rachel Loftin, a stay at home mom in Paradise Valley, owns a white Moke with red and black accents. “I use it daily to drop off and pick up (the kids) from school. We also use it for running around the neighborhood for visiting friends and that kind of stuff.”
She had been looking into buying a golf cart for taking her children to school because of its convenience. “When we saw that the Moke had a distributor in Arizona, we decided to go ahead with the Moke,” Loftin said.
Loftin also said she enjoys some features on the Moke that wouldn’t necessarily be available with a golf cart. “I like that you can easily plug it in and out, but it also has the ability to have a car seat in it, which I really like because the children are younger and use a booster seat. It was easy for that. I liked that you could remove the top or have it on when it gets a bit hotter. It’s nice to have the roof part to keep out of the heat. I also thought it looked cooler than a golf cart.”
Riley said the Moke comes in eight different “flashy, fun colors.” They have stereos with Bluetooth. The Moke America website describes the vehicle as a “20th century collectible car… updated with 21st century sex appeal.”
“The Moke is not just another golf cart; it’s extremely stylish,” Riley said. “It’s extremely hip. It has a really cool stylish history.”