WHAT TO LOOK FOR

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

HOW’S THE HIS­TORY?

A check of the his­tory is ad­vis­able, look­ing for pre­vi­ous ac­ci­dent re­pairs and any other nas­ties lurk­ing in the car’s past. Punchy per­for­mance and am­ple tuning po­ten­tial has seen more than a few ex­am­ples be­come pop­u­lar with a less-car­ing com­mu­nity of car en­thu­si­asts and track-day war­riors, so you’ll want to be cer­tain that a car hasn’t clat­tered into an Armco bar­rier at any point in its life. Bear in mind that low val­ues can quickly ren­der re­pairs un­eco­nomic, so check for bodg­ing and Cat­e­gory D write-offs.

A TIDY BODY

Ma­jor cor­ro­sion is rare even on the ear­li­est ex­am­ples, but look for rust nib­bling around the edges of pan­els. Pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to the rear wheel arches, and around the tail­gate hinges and boot lock. Oth­er­wise watch for scuffs and dings that sig­nify a hard life, and en­sure that body kits and spoil­ers are un­dam­aged – it’s not al­ways easy to source re­place­ments. ZRs can also be prone to water ingress – most of­ten caused by poorly-in­stalled re­place­ment wind­screens – lead­ing to elec­tri­cal is­sues.

TRIM AND ELECTRICS

Cabins can suf­fer from tatty and creak­ing trim and worn seat bol­sters on high­mil­ers; some bits are get­ting hard to find al­though the ZR/ZS is well-served by the sec­ond­hand parts market. Bro­ken seat ad­justers and mount­ings aren’t un­heard of, either, and check that the heat­ing con­trols are work­ing. Knobs can break, while failed re­sis­tors cause the blower fan to fail; a new one is cheap at around £40. Electrics can be trou­ble­some, so en­sure that cen­tral lock­ing and elec­tric win­dows still op­er­ate as they should.

TRANS­MIS­SION CHECKS

De­pend­ing on age and model, man­ual trans­mis­sions were the Honda PG1, PSA/Rover R65, or Ford IB5. The R65 of is con­sid­ered to be the weak­est with the oth­ers prov­ing no­tably ro­bust. But in any case check for whines, worn syn­chro­mesh and baggy gearshifts. You can source sec­ond­hand re­place­ments on­line for less than £100. Check for a worn and abused clutch, too, with a stiff feel in­di­cat­ing loom­ing cable re­place­ment. Lis­ten out, too, for the click of tired CV joints on full steer­ing lock.

RUN­NING GEAR WOES

The good news with the brakes and sus­pen­sion is that both should be trou­ble-free, un­less ne­glected or worn out on very high mileage ex­am­ples. Look for worn discs and cor­roded pipework on the for­mer, along with faulty ABS sys­tems, and weep­ing dampers and per­ished bushes for the lat­ter. Check balljoints and anti-roll bar links for wear, and look for any fluid leaks from pow­er­steer­ing pipework. Again, up­grades and mod­i­fi­ca­tions are com­mon, so ask about any changes that have been made.

K-SE­RIES CON­CERNS

Check care­fully for ev­i­dence of cylin­der head gas­ket fail­ure, look­ing in par­tic­u­lar for weeps of oil and coolant, rough run­ning, over­heat­ing and emul­sion on the oil filler cap and dip­stick. Plenty will have been changed by now, many re­ceiv­ing the up­graded MLS (Multi-Layer Steel) item that works well; if it fails it’s usu­ally be­cause the en­gine has other, deeper is­sues. Some spe­cial­ists reckon that the stan­dard MG Rover re­place­ment item works fine, too, but either way you’re look­ing at a £500 bill.

MAIN­TE­NANCE AND MODS

Given those head gas­ket prob­lems, it’s worth en­sur­ing that the cool­ing sys­tem is healthy, with no signs of a cor­roded ra­di­a­tor or sludgy coolant. Oth­er­wise a diet of metic­u­lous oil and fil­ter changes should see all en­gines last well, and al­though the oil-burn­ers seem at odds with the per­for­mance im­age, they are trusty and re­li­able units. Just en­sure that there’s no ex­ces­sive ex­haust smoke. And lastly, mod­i­fi­ca­tions and en­gine swaps aren’t un­com­mon so you’ll want to be sure about the stan­dard of work done.

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