WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Check for rot in key areas: the floor, inner and outer sills, and the rear subframe mountings and the floor around them.
Check that the car has received regular oil changes – necessary because the engine and gearbox share the same oil. Some gearbox noise is fine but beware cars that jump out of gear. Listen also for timing chain rattle and worn big ends.
Most importantly, check your Mini’s authenticity. Coopers have been commanding huge prices for years, but so now are early cars. Is your potential purchase the car the vendor says it is? Has it been re-shelled at any point? Has any work been carried out professionally?
Rot is the big enemy of these little Fiats and can strike in many places. The floors are a known grot-spot, likewise the body seams and edges. Watch out for bad welding and bodged repairs, and don’t be scared to lift carpets or (if possible) get the car on a ramp.
Engines are extremely robust, though oil leaks are common, particularly from the rocker cover, where the gasket can fail. Timing chains also wear and core plugs can drop from the crankshaft.
Many 500s on the British market are restored Italian imports. Check that any work has been done to a good standard and make sure all the paperwork is in order.