The rumored appearance of a 21st century MINI Moke at next month's North American International Auto Show proved spot on as seen in this modern-day reinterpretation of that '60s-era classic.
Dubbed the MINI Beachcomber Concept, this open-air one-off matches its flexible, four-place passenger cabin with a new ALL4 all-wheel-drive system to create a vehicle meant to encourage "spontaneous and active" experiences -- or just plain old fun. Based on the production crossover model that MINI will launch late in 2010, the Beachcomber Concept boasts an elevated ride height, long-travel suspension, short overhangs and 17-inch light alloy wheels with open-tread, run-flat off-road tires that further accentuate its go-almost-anywhere appeal. And when sunshine gives way to rain or cold, the vehicle can be buttoned up by snapping on a lightweight modular hard or soft top -- complete with transparent windows -- plus plastic door and rear gate elements.
Despite its airy character, the Beachcomber's more assertively styled exterior conceals a fully-engineered unit-body structure that's rugged enough to meet all safety and rollover standards. Inside, the great outdoors theme is celebrated in the choice of earth/wind/air/fire colors and textures found on the upholstery and the plastic -- which has surface graining meant to resemble dried earth. Even the floormats feature an open-pore design that reveals the underlying floorpan. The slick Center Rail mounting system introduced on the MINI Crossover Concept also makes an appearance here, positioning the Beachcomber's four individual seats as well as anchoring various ancillary items from cool boxes and water bottles to all types of personal electronic devices. It's even wired to serve as a plug-in power point. While the MINI's signature center-mount speedometer carries over, the Beachcomber Concept does keep its driver more directly advised of changing direction and attitude by adding a liquid-sprung compass to the left of the steering wheel and an artificial horizon display to the right that shows the vehicle's relative position around its longitudinal and transverse axes. In its al fresco mode, the Beachcomber's sliding/fold-down rear seats and dedicated hold-downs make it capable of securely toting everything from mountain bikes to surfboards. MINI provided no word on whether the Beachcomber might ever transition to production status, but it would appear to be at least worthy of serious consideration at some point along the line.