WHAT TO LOOK FOR

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

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.

GLASS­FI­BRE BODY

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.

CHAS­SIS ROT

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.

COOL­ING SYS­TEM

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.

ELEC­TRI­CAL GREM­LINS

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.

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