WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Check that everything works as duff electric window regulators and glitches with heater fan controls and airbag systems are common, and factory immobilisers can play up with the car starting and then cutting out. Aftermarket alarms and immobilisers are common fitments so ensure they work. And be sure to check the heater as a leaking matrix is a dashboard-out job to replace.
A sensible owner will have replaced a VR6’s clutch when the timing chains were renewed, so look for any supporting paperwork. The automatic transmission is more fragile and needs regular fluid and filter changes; check for lumpy upshifts as an overhaul isn’t cheap. Broken crownwheel rivets cause catastrophic differential failure so be extremely wary of a noisy unit.
The MkIII is prone to corrosion, especially around the lower part of the front wings where they meet the sills, the sills themselves, the door bottoms and tailgate, and around the windscreen. Plastic wheel arch mouldings can hide rot, too and rot can attack the sunroof surround. The MkIII’s water-based paint wasn’t all that durable either, so look for evidence of a respray.
BUSHES AND BRAKES
Check for worn front strut top mounts and rear axle bushes. Brakes can suffer from seized rear calipers and ABS problems can be ruinously expensive if a new pump or ECU is needed; specialists can overhaul them, but make sure that the warning light comes on and goes out correctly. Check the PAS rack or pump for fluid leaks and listen for droning rear wheel bearings.
CHECK THE HISTORY
Given the performance potential a thorough check of the history for any signs of previous accident damage is vital; any hint of ripples in the front inner wings or boot floor and you should walk away. Incidentally, look for standard VR6s masquerading as sought-after Highline models; the real things were only ever painted Black or Mulberry, so check the V5.