WHAT TO LOOK FOR
ALL THE GEAR
A four-speed manual gearbox is the norm, but some post-1967 cars have an AP four-speed automatic, which is usually reliable. The fundamental problem with both is that they share their oil with the engine, so an auto’s oil should be changed every 3000 miles, or 6000 miles on a manual. The first thing to go on a manual gearbox will be the synchromesh cones, although these should still last 100,000 miles before giving any trouble. Clicking noises on full lock means new CV joints are needed; about £35 per side for the parts.
Check the complete lower half of the car. Focus on the sills, front and rear wheelarches, front wings (especially the headlamps and seams where it joins the valance) and front valance. Lift the bonnet and analyse the inner wings; the front subframe is bolted to these so strength is crucial. To strengthen each inner wing there’s a conical-shaped box section welded to its underside; make sure it’s OK by removing the front wheel and peering inside the wheelarch.
BUMP AND GRIND
While test-driving a car on a bumpy road, listen for grinding noises from the rear suspension. This signifies that the radius arm bearings need replacing; they cost £45 per side and a special puller is needed. If they’re worn out, the top of the wheel will point inwards by half an inch or so; the rear wheels should be upright when viewed from behind.
KEEP IN TRIM
Interior and exterior trim is scarce for all versions. It all wears very well, but repairing damage is tricky and potentially expensive. The outside stainless steel and chrome brightwork is hard to source. There’s little crossover between the various models’ switchgear and instruments, with some parts now very hard to find. Rocker switches tend to break internally.
DOWN THE DRAIN
The front bulkhead rots out and repairs are involved. Check for waterlogged front footwells due to this or failed quarterlight/window seals. A rotten heelboard means a failed MoT; this is the vertical panel that joins the rear footwells to the floorpan under the rear seat. The rear subframe is mounted to the heelboard and must be removed to effect proper repairs. The subframe itself rots but replacing one isn’t difficult.
The front subframe rubber mountings perish, so scrutinise all six. There are two at the front, two at the back and a pair at the top of the suspension turrets; the latter rarely fail. They can easily be replaced in situ; a set of six repro items costs £90. The boot fills up with water, dissolving the floor, so lift the boot board to get a good look; proper repairs mean removing the subframe and perhaps the fuel tank. On estates check for rot along the top and bottom edges of the rear window; used tailgates are rarer than snake feathers.
Ensure that a car sits level from side to side and front to rear. The displacers that control the system are connected front to rear, so there are two independent systems, one on each side, under 200psi of pressure. The most common problems stem from rusty hydraulic pipes or failed hoses. The displacers are sealed for life but the internals rarely fail. A displacer with low fluid can be recharged. The two steel Hydrolastic pipes that run the length of the car can corrode, with one fitted along each side beneath the floorpan.