HOW TO BAG THE BEST DEAL
Cars built after 1982 resist rust better than earlier ones, but all suffer. Check the door drain holes aren’t blocked, and look along the whole front panel. The sills are another weak spot, as are the front inner wings, the two boot wells and any metal behind plastic trim.
Rattles on startup point to failing bearings, especially if the noise continues at higher revs after the engine has warmed up. Failing water pump pulleys can also create grumbling noises. All engines are flat-four OHC units which must have regular oil changes, so look for this in the history.
The TI and later ’Suds got a five-speed gearbox in place of the earlier four-speeder. Both get noisy with wear. Synchro failure on second gear is common.
TRIM AND INTERIOR
Replacing interior trim can be difficult, so budget for extra time and money if you’re taking on a project with a dodgy interior. The driving position can be an acquired taste. Check all the electrics (replacement steering column switches are scarce).
Underused cars often have seized rear discs and handbrake mechanisms. Oil contamination from a seeping engine or gearbox can also be a dangerous problem so try to diagnose weak brakes before committing to buy.