WHAT TO LOOK FOR
How’s it battling corrosion?
Rotten bodywork isn’t rare; as a general rule of thumb, scrutinise the whole structure and every panel. However, there are some specific weak points. The sill drain holes can get blocked with predictable consequences, the tops and bottoms of the doors rot and so do inner and outer wings. Also check the battery tray, floorpans and footwells, B-post and the bootlid trailing edge. If the door gaps open up at the top the chassis has been weakened by corrosion or not being properly braced when the sills have been replaced. Another sign of a bodged rebuild is missing beading along the seam between the top of the bolt-on rear wings and the deck. Rot is quite likely in the rear deck as several panels meet here. Look at the metal around the lights, front and rear, as this is another favourite spot where tinworm likes to breed.
If chassis rot is bad, it might need the body off to repair. The worstaffected areas are usually the differential mounting brackets and the centre section. Poorly repaired accident damage is another probability, so scrutinise the front suspension turrets, the mounting brackets (from which the wishbones pivot), outriggers, steering rack mountings and the suspension itself. Look for distorted metal (particularly kinks where the chassis gets wider on either side of the sump), cracks, dodgy plating and uneven tyre wear.
How’s the engine?
With proper maintenance the 2.5-litre straight-six will give 150,000-plus miles. However, check for play in the crankshaft thrust washers by pushing and pulling on the bottom pulley, made easier by depressing and releasing the clutch. Any detectable movement means the thrust washers may have dropped out, which could mean the engine is scrap. A cherished car will have a spin-on oil filter; the original canister type leads to starvation of the main bearings at start-up. Blue smoke under acceleration points to bore and/or piston wear while blue smoke when the car is started indicates worn valve guides – and the requirement for a cylinder overhaul. DIY rebuilds are straightforward, with kits priced at £590. All injection system parts are readily available, but the Lucas system isn’t the most reliable. Swapping the Lucas pump for a Bosch item is popular, which solves most problems.
The four-speed gearbox is strong but the bearings grumble and it can start jumping out of gear after 100,000 miles. The layshaft bearings wear too; listen for rumbling in the intermediate gears which disappears in top. Or when the car is stationary with the engine running, listen for rumbling which disappears when the clutch is engaged. The only option is to fit a rebuilt gearbox, at £600 exchange (£1000-£1200 with a rebuilt overdrive).