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buying a classic Mini

I am thinking of buying a ' classic ' Mini , around 1993 on K - L - M plates - am viewing one today in fact : They seem a bit pricey , suppose they are ' collectable ' now , but the ones I've seen are non Cooper and the asking price around £2500 - a bit much for 15 year motors with a history of sub - frame rot , or is this the real price today ?

Is it me , or have car prices gone up ? seems to be nothing roadworthy under £500 out there ?

any tips on what to look out for on a roadside examination ?


martint123    on 17 December 2007

You need more than a roadside looksee with an old mini. I'd bite the bullet and take it on a test run to an MOT garage, get it tested and ask to peer underneath whilst it's up in the air. The local garages I use are happy to work like this as the "test" only consumes a small portion of the time the DVLA says a test should take. Although an old banger would seem to get a much more thorough exam for corrosion and proper repairs to grot.

Altea Ego    on 17 December 2007

They are dear because roadworthy ones are rare, and getting more so by the day.

Wonderful Iconic cars they are, but I wouldnt have one as everyday transport.
< Ulla>

madf    on 17 December 2007

Look out for rust: everywhere:
Floor at front . Floor at rear. Subframe mounting points front and rear.
A posts. Sills.
Front wings. Inner winds. Door bottoms, Boot bottom. All vertical panles behind front wheels. - especially at top of wing/A post join.. a BAD mud trap.
Rear panels.

In fact every panel apart from the roof.

On really bad ones, the entire box section the front of the rear subframe mounts to (under the rear seat) will rust and water enters. You cannot undo the mounting bolts and the mounting points collapse. NOT a nice job. I've rewelded it.

I managed to make a Mini Estate last 15 years without too much of the above by waxoyling from new.

Otherwise you should plan on a TOTAL body rebuild.. every 10 years.

I would not buy one. No galvanised panels, built in rust and mud traps and carp paint.

Did I say they rust?

Also the lower front seat belt mounting points in the vertical pillars rust as well.


madf    on 17 December 2007

I forgot to add: panels under front windscreen. Rust from underneath and bubble.

Watch out for filler. Take a magnet and light hammer.


daveyjp    on 17 December 2007

I pass a garage which deals in original Minis. I rarely see anything for less than £5,000.

He either only buys good ones, buys bad ones and does them up, buys them but doesn't sell any, sells them anyway whatever the condition due to rarity value.

If I wanted any car like this my first port of call would be the owners club.

normd2    on 17 December 2007

i had a 80's W reg Mini in the garage for 10 years - I was always going to get around to fixing it up but having children got in the way. It ended up just being a pile of rust held together in Mini shape by the paint. I was going to replace the driver's door hinges but the pillar just crumbled when I put any pressure on the nuts.
Anyone want a pair of Mini hinges? - unused.
It had been a great car and good fun to drive but unless you are very sure about what you're doing or take someone who does know be very careful. A good one will be fantastic but a bad one will empty your wallet. That's the problem with iconic status, things that would consign a car to the breakers in a 'normal' car become a 'feature' on a Mini.

Number_Cruncher    on 17 December 2007

If I were doing this (and I might be soon, because SWMBO loves classic Minis, and keeps asking for one), I would buy one with good mechanicals and a rotten body, and buy a new shell from BMH. Then, by reconditioning parts that need attention during the swap, you end up with a car that stands a chance of being reliable and safe(ish!).


Altea Ego    on 17 December 2007

With a new shell at £3,600 primed, there is the answer for the OP about why he cant find cheap mini's
< Ulla>

stunorthants26    on 17 December 2007

A customer of mine has a mid-90's Cooper and they spent nearly £6k having it repainted ( better than factory ) and fully rustproofed, plus did a load of cosmetic upgrades. They reason that its only as much as buying a new car, but no new car will ever have the character the old Minis do.

Thats a good price OP, but id want the car to be good also. They arent really that rare really as many were made, so id look at many, join the owners club/s and get clued up before you put money down on anything.

As has been said, they rust like anything, so buy the best you can and then rustproof it in every possible way. It is possible to still find mint original or restored cars out there and while they may look expensive, in the long run, they could prove good value as repair costs on a dog can be mind-numbing due to the terrible design already mentioned.

Oh and dont drive one through a deep puddle unless you have shielded the electrics as water washes through the grille and soaks the electrics.

madf    on 17 December 2007

I would remind anyone buying an old Mini that unless
they are quite short
or quite young
or very fit
old and short and fit

getting in and out of a small car can be difficult... I did it happily 40 years ago... not now (and I'm short and reasonably fit:-)

bell boy    on 17 December 2007

£3,600 primed,
in what 26 carrot gold bullion plate?
£100 a tonne at the moment old cars and a 93 mini might just have a cat to weigh in as well
OP to be honest if you think a roadside inspection is sufficient on an old mini then i would recommend you dont buy one as these cars are labour intensive white knuckle rides

Garethj    on 17 December 2007

I've had more rusty cars than I've bought reels of MIG wire and I can highly recommend getting an old car that ISN'T rusty instead.

My 1961 VW came from Sweden where they don't salt the roads, worth looking it Minis from foreign parts where the climate is kinder? No import duty or VAT if you buy from the EC, or good exchange rate if you buy from the US

madf    on 17 December 2007

As far as mechanics are concerned my checklist from memory:

stabiliser rubber goes: engine rocks. Easy to fix.
Thermostat by pass hose: a pig
Worn distributor
Worn SU/ efi
Rusty radiator.
Must have antifreeze or rusty water.
Big end knock
Oil leaks... engine gearbox
timing chains rattle... tensioners.. chains.
Synchromesh 2nd
reverse gear noisy
driveshaft knock
Clutch goes.

Front suspension:
wheel bearings
brake disks.
brake hoses.

all stell brake lines.
At rear:
all wheel cyclinders
steel brake lines
brake balance cyclinder
Trailing arms bearings.
Rusted solid brake adjusters.
Rusted handbrake pivots.

Exhaust system rust and knocks.

Steering rack bushes and knocks.

Basically assume it will need a 100% rebuild.

I can assure you as bellboy said: bashed knuckles, blood, everything that can rust solid will.

I have 3 Mini manuals and a clutch removal kit if anyone wants them.


Lud    on 17 December 2007

You used to be able to get a fibreglass imitation Mini bodyshell. You just put a roll cage in it with extensions to attach driveline and front suspension, get a 1400cc engine tuned to your desired pitch, five-speed Jack Knight gearbox and whatever trim or lack of trim you fancy, and there you have it: a relatively rustproof, extremely noisy, uncomfortable and fast small car. Not a Mini of course, but better in some ways.

milkyjoe    on 17 December 2007

after reading all the posts , what exactly qualifies a mini as a "classic"?

normd2    on 17 December 2007

at the very least it has to have the central speedo and large thin steering wheel.

SpamCan61 {P}    on 17 December 2007

It's a design classic, not a manufacturing classic ;-)

Mr.Tee43    on 17 December 2007

This is a heart ruling the head scenario for sure.

A long time ago. I and a mate used to do lots of work on Minis and as other posters have said, unless you buy one in mint condition, you will be in for a lot of heartache and you will be constantly fixing it and paying out lots of money.

When I think back to the number of rotboxes we used to repair !
The number of times we had to replace gearbox transfer bearings !
Bypass hoses
Etc Etc

The list is endless.

And for what? A car that is noisy,slow,has poor ergonomics, WILL breakdown and really has very little going for it.

I would not waste my money, there are far better interesting cars available that will give you more reliable enjoyment.

Don't do it !

daveyjp    on 17 December 2007

"I would not waste my money, there are far better interesting cars available that will give you more reliable enjoyment"

My boss has just bought his son a 'hobby' car. A Fiat 126 which has had plenty spent on it and passed a pre-purchase MOT with no problems. £250.

normd2    on 17 December 2007

...really has very little going for it

I disagree - they're very easy to push....:)

nick    on 17 December 2007

C'mon guys. Rotboxes, yes. But great fun to drive and have real personality. I wouldn't want one as an everyday car but as a hobby car, yes.
I'd agree to buy the best though.

martint123    on 17 December 2007

One of the few advantages of an old mini is that they are light and can be rolled over onto a mattress to make all that welding easier.

bell boy    on 17 December 2007

rolled over onto a mattress to make all that welding easier.
>>>>>>>>>>> and then you set fire to the mattress
then the garage
then the house
your wife leaves you
your kids go into a home
your boss fires you because you are in a traumatic mess
the bank cancels your credit cards

see,its just not worth buying an old mini

motorprop    on 18 December 2007

you doom mongers - if you were all 100% right , these cars would be scrap value only, and not starting at £2.5 k

Went to see it yesterday , very decent sellers in a nice house / expensive area . The low down ; special edition ' The Italian Job ' in red , 38 k miles from new warranted , no rust visible from outside, not even on that horizontal seam beneath the front headlamps . Ist class interior , same owner 10 years , started Ist time in freezing temps , mot till Oct 08, tax till April, local to me . Owner says it runs on unleaded - is that right on a K reg ?

Owner has agreed to let me take it to ' my ' mechanics later on today , where we will examine it over the pit. Owner has already come down to £1900 from an initial £2500 . Cannot really spend more than £1600 ..

watch this space

nick    on 18 December 2007

It sounds good to me. Buy it now, sell next summer and make a few bob.

madf    on 18 December 2007

Visit a shrink... they have pills for the illness you suffer from and - despite what most people say - hospitalisation and lobotomies are just a last resort.

nick    on 18 December 2007

Rubbish! IMHO of course ;-)
Go for it if you want one, huge fun to drive, most things fixable by a home mechanic and silly cheap bits. Just don't buy a rusty one and go mad with the dinitrol every year.

Lud    on 18 December 2007

I agree with nick. If you know what a Mini is like in real terms and still fancy one, the one you describe sounds very good. It is an all-time design classic. No other car has ever come close to it in packaging a big space in a small exterior (except perhaps the Austin/Morris 1800 from the same stable, which packaged a limousine's interior space in a medium-sized body). Economical, chuckable, safe handling and easy to keep out of trouble in. A good one won't be too noisy if not thrashed.

madf    on 18 December 2007

If you have false teeth, take them out and store them securely wrapped in cotton wool.
Avoid all speed humps.

All those who are in favour of a mini are now too big to sit comfortably in one... and as for getting out...

And btw, forget any idea of walking away from a crash. Stretcher job at any speed. Especially after some rust.

It's a 1956 design. With 1950 ideas on safety.

i.e. none.

nick    on 18 December 2007

So what? On that basis, nobody should drive an old car or even get out of bed. I drive a couple of '50's designs. The trick is not to crash. ;-)

Lud    on 18 December 2007

Well of course, if passive safety is your thing go for a Volvo. Minis are no use at all. Two teenagers in a rusty one got under the wheels of a thundering HGV in the Clapham Road in the seventies, struggling out of a side turning at what was certainly the wrong moment... nasty.

Garethj    on 18 December 2007

Plenty of people have crashed Minis and survived, a friend of mine has crashed 2 which shows a basic lack of "learning from your mistakes" Obviously crashing is dangerous but to be honest that's not a bad thing to remember as we all barrel down the road in the killing machines that are our cars.

Of course it's noisy, uncomfortable, slow, dangerous and a dozen other things compared to modern cars, but if you want a Mini then buy one. But buying a good one will give you more fun driving times than a ropey one that you'll be repairing every week.

The Gingerous One    on 19 December 2007

ISTR that "Car Mechanics" bought a J reg (1991-era, not late 60s) Mini within the past couple of years and that required the rear subframe replacing, plus attention to a number of other rusty areas.

engines/brakes etc can be easily fixed at home (albeit at the cost of swearing and lots of scarred knuckles). It also helps if you have slender arms and long bony fingers, you will be able to wriggle your arms down almost anywhere to get at those awkward bits.

but it is rust, rust rust that is the problem.

and if the rear subframe does need replacing, beware that if the bolts that secure it to the body shear off, they fit into captive nuts (or the bolts are captive, I've forgotten which way round) and then you have to cut the end of the sill off, weld in a replace panel with the captive nut/bolt bit before you can continue refitting the subframe.

(the head of the bolt is held in the sill so isn't accessible)

if you do buy it, ensure you have some money put aside for such issues. and remember it could have just been patched up for the MoT each time and at 15 years old it will have seen some welding by now.

did a couple of rear subframes just about the time the car you are looking at was being manufactured.

let us know how you get on


madf    on 19 December 2007

Th rear subframe nuts are captive. Uually the captive bit rusts through and it all spins round..:-(

motorprop    on 20 December 2007


have taken car to garage today and got underneath it in the pit ;

the low down : ( K reg Mini 1.3 ' The Italian Job ' special edition in red )

Very little rust to speak of , the rear subframe intact and dry , very slight flakiness in subframe edges , but very solid - consistent with a garaged car , exhaust as new , fuel / brake lines good and dry . No rust on floor , anywhere .

the bad points : clutch on way out , only seems to bite at the bottom of the travel ( any idea on costs , garage said about £350 but they don't do these often )

water dripping through headlining where rear view internal mirror fixes - windscreen condensates as a result. Noted the rubber seal outside the screen doesn't meet at TDC , there is a chrome clip that seems to have moved, leaving exposed painted metal . No rust visible

Front o/s wheel has slight play in bearing . Heater was noisy but produced very little heat.

On the way to the garage , the owner had to stab on the brakes due to an idiot infront of us who decided to move from the middle lane of the North Circ to a sliproad that he had virtually passed. Our car did not stop in a straight line , it veered from side to side .

Otherwise presentable and a very nice black interior , rev counter , small steering wheel .

He was last ' down ' to £1900 , I was at £1750 before the test drive / inspection. Feel like offering £1500 , that's with 10 months ticket and taxed till April .


Garethj    on 20 December 2007

To be honest it's not a bad thing to go through the brakes to make it stop in a straight line, pick up the odd wheel bearing at the same time as this might contribute. All straightforward stuff really and parts are cheap. Check the dampers and tyre pressures while you're there of course.

The clutch might be down to adjustment? I've never done a Mini one but I remember they're hydrulic so the first cheap thing to do is make sure the cylinders are working fully, bled, not moving about etc.

As long as the car doesn't overheat the cooling system is probably ok so perhaps just a backflush through the heater matrix will get more heat out of it, a noisy fan shouldn't be expensive to replace.

I'm sure most Mini specialists have online catalogues with prices so you can find out the cost of things, this can help to bargain the price down (if you feel you need an excuse to).

If there's water coming in through the top of the screen, check the floors from inside by pulling up the carpets. Rust really is your number one enemy in terms of repair cost!

bell boy    on 20 December 2007

"He was last ' down ' to £1900 , I was at £1750 before the test drive / inspection. Feel like offering £1500 , that's with 10 months ticket and taxed till April"

i think you have screwed him down enough and he has been very accomodating,if he was i and you wanted it cheaper still im afraid you wouldnt be buying it anymore at any price

Edited by Pugugly {P} on 20/12/2007 at 20:21

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