WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Corrosion can run rampant, reducing a Stag to parts-only status. Even cars that look solid can be rotten so if in doubt call in an expert. You need to check absolutely everywhere but focus on the sills, floorpans, wheelarches and inner wings. Also scrutinise all of the seams around the car as rust breaks out in these then eats its way into the surrounding panels. If the sills are rotten the front wings will have to be removed (or the bottoms cut off) to allow access for proper replacement. If these are crusty, the outriggers probably will be too. There are two on each side and the front one is usually the first to go, the rust then spreading to the sills and the rest of the floorpan. Other areas to home in on for corrosion include the trailing edge of the boot lid, the boot floor (especially where the fuel tank is located along with the tank itself) and the hardtop. With the latter, expect corrosion around the side window apertures, the guttering and the header rail. The A-posts also need to be checked carefully as these rot out once they’ve filled up with water that’s drained from the windscreen pillar guttering. The B-posts are no better; these rot and are a pain to repair as three panels all meet at the base.
The engine can be a liability without expert maintenance and a couple of upgrades, but if set up properly reliability isn’t an issue. It’s worth fitting a header tank to raise the coolant level above the water pump. A more efficient radiator is also a good bet. Anti-freeze levels must be maintained to stave off internal corrosion of the heads, so check that things aren’t already clogged up by making sure the engine doesn’t overheat when left idling. Also check that it gets up to temperature on a run – if it doesn’t, the thermostat has probably been removed. Make sure that the Torquatrol viscous-coupled fan cuts in as it can fail. A fastidious owner will probably have fitted an electric fan too, such as a Kenlowe.
Most Stags have an automatic gearbox but manuals are more sought after – especially those with overdrive. Any Stag gearbox should last around 120,000 miles between rebuilds – an overhauled automatic box is available for £630 (exchange) from Rimmer Bros. Overdrives tend to be reliable; problems are usually electrical and easily sorted. Once a manual gearbox has worn expect crunchy changes betraying tired synchromesh. On a manual Stag, listen for chattering from behind the engine. Dip the clutch and if the noise disappears it’s because the clutch thrust bearing has worn. Replacement is straightforward, but decent-quality units are hard to source. More problematic is a really stiff clutch caused by the engine and gearbox running out of line with each other. There are no dowels to locate the gearbox, so there’s no way of knowing if it’s