WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The Series V brought the option of a Borg Warner Type 35 automatic gearbox with torque converter; Hillman previously offered the Manumatic clutchless manual (or semi-automatic) transmission from 1957; this was superseded by the Easydrive system from 1963. Many of the cars that were originally fitted with these latter transmissions have since been converted to more conventional manual or automatic systems, for greater reliability and easier parts supply. The transmission is generally reliable, but it’s not easy to source replacement parts once something does go wrong.
Check the steering box for leaks and overtightening; for the latter ensure that there are no tight spots as you turn the steering wheel. Kingpins were fitted at the front until the Series V of 1963; these wear out, along with their bushes, so get someone to waggle each wheel while you look and feel for play from underneath. It’s still possible to buy a repair kit – Mac’s Factors charges £40 per side. If radial tyres have been fitted, everything needs to be kept well greased to protect bushes and kingpins (if fitted) from premature wear. Using radial tyres makes everything much lighter, but puts more strain on the suspension.
Most Minxes have a four-speed manual gearbox; overdrive was never available and there was no first-gear synchromesh until 1964. This was operated via a columnchange – which wears, making gear selection difficult – until the Series IIIa of 1959. There’s some adjustment available but once parts have worn significantly you just have to live with it. The Series IIIa’s floor-mounted gearchange is much nicer to use. Run the engine in neutral with the clutch depressed. If the gearbox and gearstick start to move about as you release the pedal, the gearbox bearings have worn out – a complete rebuild costs up to £1200.
INSPECT THE ENGINE
The engines are strong and have either three or (from 1965) five main bearings. Any unit will last 100,000 miles if looked after; if the revs drop when you dip the clutch, the thrust washer on the back of the crankshaft has worn, along with the main bearings, necessitating a bottom end rebuild at around £500. Rattling from the front of the engine belies a worn timing chain, tappets out of adjustment or worn tappets and followers; the latter requires a top end rebuild (around £700). Cam followers wear if their oil supply pipe is blocked with swarf. Wear accelerates once the oil supply is restricted and you’ll need £250 to replace the rocker shaft and rebush the rockers.
HUNT OUT THE ROT
The steel in the Series V and VI was thinner than previously and poor panel supply has been an issue for years. Valances, wings, bonnets and bootlids are tricky to repair thanks to their compound curves. Check the front valance (including where it meets the front wings), the wings (behind the headlamps and along the bottom), plus the area between the inner and outer wings, floorpans and sills. Fixing the V-shaped cruciform under a convertible is no problem, but advanced rot creates uneven door gaps. Check the base of the B-pillar, the rear wheelarches and spring hangers. On convertibles check the crossmember behind the gearbox and box sections at the front of each sill.
CHECK FOR OIL LEAKS
Oil leaks at the front of the engine will be from the timing cover, which has a scroll seal. The cover needs a special location tool or it’s guaranteed to leak. Also, once the timing chain has worn and stretched, it knocks against the oil feed pipe that keeps it lubricated (to stop it wearing, ironically enough…) accelerating wear. With the oil pipe then knocked out of position, it increases the amount of oil escaping from the timing chain cover. The fix is straightforward – replacing the timing chain, tensioner and oil pipe costs around £40.
HOW ARE THE BRAKES?
Check the front footwells for brake fluid, which indicates a tired master cylinder; just renewing the rubbers isn’t effective in the long term so it’s best to replace the whole thing for £85. The wheel cylinders can also leak because the bores and pistons pit easily, and they’re expensive to replace.