WHAT TO LOOK FOR
IS IT OIL-TIGHT?
Engines are generally tough, although the cramped packaging can make maintenance a knuckle-skinning affair. Look for excessive smoke, indicating internal wear, and for oil leaks from around the timing chain case and sump. Lack of use dries out seals and gaskets, so frequentlydriven examples retain their oil better. Parts for the 700 engines can be hard to find and pricey, but simplicity means major engine overhauls are a DIY proposition.
The usual caveats apply for a glassfibre body – look for cracks, crazing, and bodged repairs. Complete tubs are available secondhand, and you can find some new sections such as the nosecone (around £200). The canopy is no longer available, but the Bug Club is working on this. It contains metal inserts which corrode and expand, cracking the glassfibre – look for bulges, damage around the hinges and strut fixings, and misalignment.
Beneath the Bug is a steel chassis – a shortened and modified version of the one used by the Reliant Robin. Be sure to check it for corrosion. The top rail is a common trouble spot, and also pay particular attention to where the body is riveted on. Chassis replacement is a DIY task, but it’s quite involved, so think before taking on a project; expect to pay about £1000 for a new one. To check the car’s history, look for the VIN plate in the passenger footwell.
Look for a healthy cooling system, because the all-alloy engines suffer if neglected. Regular flushes keep sludge and sediment at bay and proper anti-freeze levels are the key to longevity. Check for a corroded radiator and for leaks from the water pump. Ensure that core plugs are secure and not corroded or weeping, and keep an eye on the temperature gauge for any sign of overheating.
GEARBOX ANd CLuTCh
Beware a noisy gearbox or any difficulty selecting gears. Replacement ’boxes are getting hard to find now, so you could well be looking at a specialist rebuild. Early ‘boxes lacked synchromesh on first gear, so brush up your doubledeclutching skills. Check for oil leaks from the unit, along with hydraulic fluid loss from the clutch slave cylinder and pipework. An oil leak from the back axle could also mean contaminated brakes.
The Bug’s cabin couldn’t be simpler, so just check for shabbiness or damage. Replacement parts and trim are available – the Bug Club is a great resource here – but do ensure the electrics are okay, especially the gauges. Items such as the fuel tank sender (shared with the Regal van) are hard to come by. And make sure that the canopy lock is present and correct because it’s another rare part that could cost £200 when you do find one.
SuSpENSION ANd STEERING
Suspension is simple, so a check for weeping dampers and worn bushes should suffice, along with looking for corroded rear trailing arms. Original dampers aren’t available, and aftermarket items can be pricey. Perished seals and wear and tear are the likely extent of any brake issues; replacement parts are available. Check the worm-andpeg system for oil leaks from the steering box, and for cracks where it mounts to the chassis.