WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - BUYING & SELLING -

AU­TO­MATIC OP­TIONS

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.

STEER­ING IS­SUES

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.

MAN­UAL TRANS­MIS­SION

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.

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