Monday, 3 August 2020

The Prisoner Moke can now be yours

To get in the mood for this message, may I recommend you to watch this first? Yes boys and girls, that's the opening theme to that great 1960s series 'The Prisoner'. This series had such an impact that the very confusing ending led to troubles. The late Patrick McGoohan, who played the lead, said later: "The switchboard at ATV was jammed overnight, my children were molested coming from school and people were beating on the door with malice. We had to go to Wales for a couple of weeks with no telephones or contacts or whatsoever to the outside world." When fiction becomes fact... 

But apart from McGoohan the stars of the show were perhaps the village of Portmeirion in Wales and a couple of converted Mini Mokes. Just one of the Mokes was believed to survive until one time warp car was found back in 2011, which turned out to be the original and first one, too (unfortunately not by me but in my home country! - click here). It ended up in the possession of Phil Caunt who beautifully restored it. When it was finished the car was fully featured in MiniWorld and Classic & Sports Car magazine in 2018 and still is in an immaculate condition. Phil, however, hasn't been getting any better himself and has now decided to sell it. He wrote: "I wouldn't be selling but my health is not good. It is with a heavy heart that I have now, after 5 years of ownership, decided to sell the car."

Here's the outline that he wrote. 'The Prisoner Moke' is HLT 709C, the fully restored original Mini Moke as seen in several episodes of the series, and once showing its true registration number in the episode 'Living in Harmony'. McGoohan himself drove it in the famous chase scene on the beach in Portmerion. Indeed, it appears in most ' Portmeirion' episodes as well as the later studio based ones, finally appearing at the famous press launch at MGM Studio's at Borehamwood. Built in May 1965, and registered in June in London, the car was converted by Wood & Pickett to a design which resembled a 'beach buggy'. It is unknown who commissioned the car but the company 'Weircrest' were to market it... It was used in brochures, photo-shoots and publicity material, and by the London Hilton Hotel. One has to assume it was spotted by a member of the production crew as what they needed for the upcoming TV show 'The Prisoner'. Based on this another three Mokes were converted to resemble this one, including CFC 916C, which was owned by Max Hora the owner of the Prisoner shop in the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed I owned and restored this Moke back in the 1990's, this vehicle now resides in Los Angeles with a Prisoner fan and Moke enthusiast.

HLT 709C was taken down to Portmeirion in late 1966 to begin filming, closely followed by the other three. Whilst filming it sustained damage to the front and had to be returned to London for repairs, the other Mokes covered its absence. After its fame in The Prisoner the car disappeared and its whereabouts were unknown, it appears to have spent time in the Sheffield area in the 1970's but after that the trail goes cold. It is rumoured to have been owned by a member of the production company although I have not been able to confirm this. In 2011 it was discovered in a farm building in Holland by a Mini enthusiast, still with its UK number plates, 'candy stripe roof' and Penny Farthing bonnet logo intact but obviously worse for wear. On to 2015 and the owner decides to sell and the car goes to auction. Upon taking delivery of the car ( I did not view it before buying... sometimes you just know you want it!), I assessed what was needed for a full but sympathetic restoration, keeping everything I could to keep the car as original as possible, whilst obtaining anything else to bring it back to how it looked in 1966. 

Perhaps the most famous of all Mini Mokes - converted by Wood & Pickett in 1965
Picture courtesy Phil Caunt

The car was used by Patrick McGoohan in the television series The Prisoner back in 1966
A famous scene reenacted for this picture on the beach of Portmeirion, Wales
Picture courtesy Phil Caunt

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