WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying & Selling -

COR­RO­SION CATAS­TRO­PHE

As­sume any po­ten­tial pur­chase will have rust – you need to es­tab­lish how much. Start with the pan­els in front of the doors; mul­ti­ple pan­els meet here. Cor­ro­sion is usu­ally from the in­side out, so check for wa­ter get­ting into the cabin from a holed A-pil­lar. Sills dis­solve, ex­pect rust where the sub­frame is mounted to the floor­pan and lift the car­pets to check un­der­neath; holed floor­pans are com­mon. Re­move the back seat to see if the in­ner whee­larches are in­tact. All four shock ab­sorber mounts rust, along with the air vents at the base of the wind­screen pil­lars. Cor­ro­sion of­ten lurks un­der the wind­screen rub­bers, and check for rust where the hinge panel, valance and boot floor meet.

UN­DER PRES­SURE

All Minis have an A-se­ries engine, in 848cc, 998cc or 1098cc forms. It will take some ne­glect, but tired units aren’t al­ways easy to spot – they just fail with­out warn­ing. Ex­pect to pay £1500-2500 for a re­built ex­change engine. Lots of smoke when you ap­ply the throt­tle af­ter the over-run sug­gests the valve guides and stem seals have had it. It’s es­pe­cially likely with the 1275 engine but it’s no big deal; a topend re­build costs around £200.

HAN­DLE WITH CARE

If the tyres have worn un­evenly the rear sus­pen­sion might have been kerbed out of align­ment, bend­ing the ra­dius arms. New ones cost £55 each. Front tie rod re­place­ments are £20 per side. There’s a knuckle joint between the sus­pen­sion cone and arm which wears. Try to put your hand between the top of the tyre and the whee­larch. If it won’t fit, it’ll cost £55 per cor­ner to get it fixed. It’s easy enough to do your­self with the spe­cial tool that’s re­quired.

AU­TO­MATIC CHOICE

All Minis came with a four­speed gear­box, gen­er­ally an all-syn­chro­mesh man­ual unit, but oc­ca­sion­ally an au­to­matic. The lat­ter is rare thanks to poor re­li­a­bil­ity and a lack of spare parts. The most likely prob­lem is with the clutch break­ing, which is given away by power be­ing trans­mit­ted in all set­tings ex­cept Drive. A re­built box is the only solution, at around £1400. The prob­lem with the man­ual ‘box is that it shares its oil with the engine, which should be changed at least ev­ery 6000 miles, al­though 3000-mile oil swaps are bet­ter. The first thing to wear will be the syn­chro­mesh cones, al­though these should still last 100,000 miles. Even when in rude health a Mini’s gear­box whines, but post-1980 cars tend to be qui­eter. Of more con­cern are un­to­ward noises on full lock, sug­gest­ing tired CV joints; spe­cial­ists typ­i­cally charge around £100 per side to fix them.

STA­BIL­IS­ING IN­FLU­ENCE

The sta­biliser mount­ing bushes tend to fail on these Minis, lead­ing to lots of vi­bra­tion from the engine; rock the unit when it’s switched off to see how much play there is. Re­place­ment bushes are just a fiver. Mis­fir­ing may be noth­ing more than damp in the ig­ni­tion sys­tem. The dis­trib­u­tor is on the front of the engine, and this gets cov­ered in rain wa­ter com­ing through the grille. Even fas­tid­i­ously main­tained Minis have leaky en­gines – the A-se­ries is renowned for its in­con­ti­nence. The gearchange and tim­ing chain oil seals are usu­ally the main cul­prits, and while re­place­ments can be fit­ted, don’t ex­pect them to be ef­fec­tive.

IN­SIDER DEAL­ING

If you buy a spe­cial edi­tion you won’t find any new in­te­rior trim, even through spe­cial­ists, and you’ll be do­ing well to find any­thing used. How­ever, the main­stream editions are well sup­ported, with New­ton Com­mer­cial, among oth­ers, able to of­fer seats, car­pet sets, pan­els and head­lin­ings for most vari­ants, in­clud­ing es­tates.

CHARGE HAND­SOMELY

The dy­namo was swapped for an al­ter­na­tor in late 1972. The wiring is sim­ple, but the bat­tery’s lo­ca­tion in the boot can cause prob­lems. If it’s not se­cured prop­erly there will be start­ing prob­lems. The bulk­head fuse­box may have poor con­nec­tions, like­wise the bul­let con­nec­tors.

FEEL THE WIDTH

Check the width of any af­ter­mar­ket wheels, as any­thing over six inches will strain the bear­ings, and prob­a­bly foul the body­work. The brak­ing sys­tem is sim­ple and easy to check. The most com­mon prob­lems are leak­ing slave cylin­ders on cars equipped with drum brakes all round, but ev­ery­thing is avail­able cheaply to ef­fect re­pairs.

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