Thursday January 10, 2019
As the 60th anniversary of the Mini will soon be with us, it is fascinating to consider its impact on cinema and television. There is The Italian Job, of course, Mr. Bean and The Bourne Identity to name but three obvious titles, plus Nurse on Wheels, Catch Us If You Can, Doctor in Distress, The Fast Lady, Robbery, You Only Live Twice, A Shot in The Dark, Carry On Camping, the hilariously awful “Swinging London” epic that was Crossplot…
In other words, there is a myriad of big and small screen appearances by the Mini, and the one that made the greatest impact on me was a 17-part TV series shot in 1966 and 1967 that took place in a settlement known as “The Village” -
It still comes as a surprise to realise that only four Mokes were used in The Prisoner, and two are known to survive – one in the USA and one co-owned by Phil Caunt. His Austin-badged example featured as the taxi in the opening episode Arrival -
and ‘it was manufactured on May 15th, 1965’.
By that time Wood & Pickett were using the Moke as the basis of an upmarket “beach car”, with a specification that included PVC coverings for the seats and spare wheel cover, red and black rubber floor matting, exterior trim in fake “wood”, plus a striped roof. The price for such hipness was a very reasonable £644 9s 2d, a sum that did not include windscreen washers or a heater, although the W&P Moke was obviously intended for use in sunnier climes.
Under the bonnet is a 998cc engine - no other Prisoner Moke used the Cooper power plant – and the reasons for the replacement of the original 848cc unit are lost to time. It certainly makes for impressive yet terrifying performance in a car sans doors and seatbelts while Phil thinks that the extra power ‘would have been very useful’ when the Moke was on location on Wales.
As to the association with The Prisoner, one story is a member of the production team saw the Wood & Pickett cars at a PR event in London and realised they would be perfect for the new series. After the end of filming in 1967, HLT 709 C enjoyed mixed fortunes, and when Phil, together with his fellow Moke enthusiast Jeremy Guy bought the famous car in 2015, it was not in the happiest of states.
Today, the Moke is in a condition that would satisfy the most exacting of Number Twos; even Leo McKern at his most acerbic could not have found fault:
To see the only surviving Prisoner Moke in the UK is to be assailed by so many images and memories – the sardonic tones of Fenella Fielding as the radio announcer, the games of human chess, “Rover” (who was actually a weather balloon) and the Village Taxis scuttling through Portmeirion -
For Phil ‘the best part of the Moke is not so much the driving, funnily enough – it is the fact that you are in a car that was a part of The Prisoner’. We could not agree more. Be seeing you…
WITH THANKS TO: PHIL CAUNT