WHAT TO LOOK FOR
YOU’VE BEEN FRAMED
There’s a steel bodyshell on top of a sturdy steel frame; its thick panels help to stave off corrosion but major rot can still be present and replacement panels are scarce. At least it’s easy to remove the major panels to work on them; all four wings simply bolt into place. Start by scrutinising the bulkhead, especially around the battery compartment, and all of the lower half of the car; floorpans, door bottoms, sills, running boards and valances. All these areas get blasted by road debris and then rot. The running boards of Prefects and early Anglias are especially rot-prone, while wing joints are also likely to be harbouring corrosion.
A puller is needed to overhaul the rear brakes, so they’re often left when they need to be replaced – or even just checked. Another potential brake problem is wear in the brake linkages, especially the one under the rear axle. Regular greasing of the linkages can help to slow down the rate of wear, but it will occur. Once things have worn down, it’s a question of fitting overhauled bits – which is straightforward enough to do. The three-speed gearbox has no synchromesh on first gear. Expect some baulking as you change gear but budget around £750 for an exchange unit if something is amiss. Clutch judder as the drive is taken up betrays tired engine and gearbox mountings; the stabiliser bars fitted below the engine may also be missing. Oil seals on the rear axle can leak, accelerating to premature wear. They’re easily fixed but involve dropping the axle. The rear wheel bearings run directly in the axle casing, wearing them away, but the FSOC offers sleeves which allow a slightly smaller, much stronger bearing to be fitted. These are locked in place with an industrial adhesive, and offer a permanent solution to the problem at £160 per side.
Dropped doors point to rotten A-posts, which means major repairs will be necessary. Although serious structural corrosion is less likely than you’d think, non-structural rust is common. Areas such as the radiator grille and bumpers tend to rust, along with the front wings around the headlamps. The windscreen rubbers perish then leak, so make sure the footwells haven’t filled up with water. New rubbers cost £20 apiece and fitting them is straightforward because the glass is flat. If the fabric roof leaks, major problems will follow. Extensive roof gutter corrosion can leave a car beyond economic repair.
Original trim in good condition is scarce, but recovering seats and panels isn’t difficult. All of these cars featured Bakelite dash mouldings, except the 103E and commercials. Bakelite ages, so many parts go brittle over the years and are easily damaged as a result. Good Bakelite mouldings are highly prized; if you find a car with a decent set you’ll be doing well.
GREASE IS THE WORD
If the steering is vague the box probably requires a rebuild, but the parts are available through the FSOC. The suspension is another weak spot, as the kingpins need to be greased every 1000 miles in order to prevent rapid wear. Feel for play in the system and use a crowbar underneath the car; if in doubt, put the car through an MoT. All the parts needed to overhaul the suspension are available, but replacing the kingpin bushes will need the help of a specialist.
ON THE SIDE
The same sidevalve engine was fitted across this range in either 933cc or 1172cc forms. The latter is a bored-out version of the former and neither unit will go for more than 40,000 miles between rebuilds; oil changes every 1000 miles are essential to prevent premature engine failure. The use of white-metal bearings on the big ends means that rebuilds are costly; budget at least £2500. Blue smoke from the exhaust under acceleration suggests a rebuild is due. Valve clearance adjustment is tricky because you have to grind the stem (to increase the clearance) or the valve seat (to decrease the gap). So if the top end is very noisy, budget up to £750 to fix it, assuming you remove, dismantle and refit the engine yourself.