The per­fect body

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying Guide -

The Imp’s bodyshell was poorly rust­proofed when it was new, but it is strong. It takes ma­jor cor­ro­sion to weaken the struc­ture, but rot can strike any­where, so be sure to check the lead­ing edge of the dou­ble-skinned bon­net, the bot­toms of the doors, the front and rear whee­larches and the sills.

Sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief

Ex­am­ine the floor­pan and the rear sus­pen­sion pans which seat the coil springs. These cor­rode po­ten­tially to the point where the springs go straight through. The mount­ing points also dis­solve, al­low­ing the springs to crash through the body­work. At the front, the box-sec­tion swing axles can dis­solve and, once cor­ro­sion takes hold, the sus­pen­sion is weak­ened. Bear in mind, too, that only used parts are now avail­able.

Keep your cool

The all-alu­minium en­gine lasts well, but only if it’s been looked after prop­erly. If the an­tifreeze con­cen­tra­tion drops, the al­loy dis­in­te­grates as a re­sult of cor­ro­sion, the ra­di­a­tor gets clogged up with de­bris and the en­gine over­heats. Cylin­der head gas­ket fail­ure is given away by white may­on­naise on the un­der­side of the oil filler cap, and if things are re­ally bad, the block can warp as well as the head. Both of these can be skimmed, but only so much me­tal can be re­moved be­fore either unit is re­duced to scrap.

In the pink

Lis­ten for pink­ing as you ac­cel­er­ate through the gears, which be­lies either in­cor­rectly set ig­ni­tion or a cylin­der head that’s been skimmed one too many times, rais­ing the com­pres­sion ra­tio. The only fix is to fit a de­cent used cylin­der head, but, at £30, that’s not a costly un­der­tak­ing. Post-1966 en­gines got a much stronger block, iden­ti­fi­able by the straight edge along the top of the cylin­der block; ear­lier ones got a curly edge.

Hot stuff

The wa­ter tem­per­a­ture gauge should set­tle at the one-third to half­way mark when cruis­ing. If the en­gine stays cold the ther­mo­stat is either faulty or has been re­moved to mask a more se­ri­ous cool­ing prob­lem. The wa­ter pump should be changed ev­ery 25,000 miles; they fail even more quickly on rarely used cars, be­cause the bear­ings tend to fail.

Box fresh

All Imps got a four-speed, all­syn­chromesh man­ual gear­box which should be a joy to use. Notchy or im­pre­cise gear changes sug­gest that the nylon bushes at the base of the gear­stick are worn and need to be re­placed, but this is a cheap and easy job – a new kit costs just £8. The syn­chro­mesh on first and se­cond gear is no­to­ri­ously weak, so if there’s a crunch when you change gear, the gear­box will be due for a re­build; ex­change re­built trans­mis­sions cost around £300.

Clutch clues

A heavy clutch pedal points to a faulty slave cylin­der or a hy­draulic hose that’s col­lapsed in­ter­nally. Fixes are easy and cheap, but if the bite point is at the end of the pedal’s travel the clutch will need re­new­ing. This means tak­ing the en­gine out, but it’s not a hard job. The drive­shafts in­cor­po­rate Rotoflex cou­plings that per­ish. There aren’t any symp­toms as such, but a vis­ual check will show if the rub­ber has per­ished or split. New re­place­ments cost £80 each, but cheap or old stock items are a false econ­omy.

On the rack

The rack-and-pin­ion steer­ing should be light and pre­cise. Any heav­i­ness or play sug­gests the king­pins and their bushes have worn. Jack up each front cor­ner, hold the top and bot­tom of each wheel and rock it to check for play; any dis­cernible move­ment means it’s time to re­place the king­pins and bushes. A kit of parts for both sides costs £30; re­con­di­tioned king­pins are £90 each. Also check for worn rear wheel­bear­ings – they’re £30-40 per set, but are hard to find.

Keep in trim

In­te­rior trim is very scarce, al­though used parts are avail­able within the club. The seats of MkIII cars (post-1968) aren’t easy to re­pair be­cause they’re moulded, but ear­lier cars’ in­te­ri­ors can be patched up rel­a­tively eas­ily. Ex­te­rior trim is sim­i­larly rare. Badges are Mazak and hard to re­store – the rest is either an­odised alu­minium or stain­less steel.

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