The Classic Mini - everyone's favourite little car, is just as popular today as ever. From celebrities to students, there is no real limit to Mini ownership.
Notoriously fun to drive, easy to look after, low running costs & a vast social scene - more & more people are looking in to buying a Mini of their own.
Buying a Mini is a wonderful experience, there's nothing quite like that first time you zip about in one, but - be cautious and do your research! You need to be sure that what you're buying is reliable, safe and not going to end up costing you £1000s in a short space of time (unless you're wanting a restoration project of course)! So, we have put together this guide in the hopes of advising you on what to be on the look out for when buying a Mini...
Classic Minis are renowned for corrosion, and when they rust - boy, do they rust! Don't panic though, even the worst corrosion can be dealt with - but at a cost, so bear this in mind when viewing a Mini. Many replacement panels are available on the market, including British Motor Heritage Genuine panels, made from the original tooling, you can also purchase after-market panels, such as Magnum that offer a cheaper option - you also need to take in to account whether you would be carrying out the work yourself or whether you would also need to factor in to the cost of a professional re-paneling any problem areas. Complete Body Shells are also available from BMH if things are truly bad, or you would rather start afresh with a donor Mini.
Check everything you can see, but the main 'rot spots' are:
- Front inner wings – especially the front & rear corners
- Front valance & wings – rust, especially around & below the headlights & rear seam
- Floors & sills – both inner & outer
- Boot floor – shock mounts, rear wheel arch and spare-wheel well
- Rear subframe
- Rear pockets and closing panels
- Rear seat base
- Door skins and door frame
- Scuttle/bulkhead panels and dashboard upper rail– check around the A-posts and base of the windscreen
- Rear wings – especially under plastic extensions
- Subframes and mounts – look at the front & rear mounts for signs of serious corrosion and inspect the rear subframe - a common MOT failure!
- Rear valance – check around boot lid mounts and the seam between the valance and back panel
Another thing to keep an eye out for when checking for rust, is any poor historical repairs - even a Mini that looks good could be hiding a multitude of sins, not everyone who works on a Mini should be doing, so be thorough - check under the carpet, panel gaps, sills & A-pillars.
Engine & Gearbox
The A-Series engine in a Mini is one of the most dependable & durable engines in classic cars with well-maintained units lasting around 100k miles before needing a rebuild. Many issues are relatively easy to diagnose & repair at home with spare parts available in abundance.
Things to look out for would be smoke on initial start-up or when accelerating - this could be worn valve guides, or deteriorated valve stem seals pistons rings & bores, blocked breathers or gunk under the oil filler cap, this suggests head gasket issues.
If undertaking engine care yourself at home, check out our handy 'home servicing' guide here.
The standard manual 4-speed gearbox in a Mini could again last around 100k miles before needing a rebuild, providing the oil is changed on a regular basis.
Issues to keep an eye for:
- Smoking when accelerating - this could be down to worn pistons, rings & bores
- Smoking on intial start up or prolonged idling – this could be worn valve guides, valve seats or deteriorate valve stem seals
- Gunk under the oil filler cap - suggests head gasket issues
- Oil leaks - Minis are notorious for oil leaks (you can often expect quicker wear to valve stem seals & guides with larger capacity engines, such as 1275)!
- Radiators – moved from the side to the front n 1996, check for leaks, signs of overheating or water & oil mixing
- Gearbox noises (we have a 'home servicing' blog on noises here.)
- Jumping out of gear
- Worn CV joints
- Noisy timing chain or incorrectly adjusted valve clearances
- Driveshaft seals
Most non-modified Minis come with the rubber-cone suspension system (a few exceptions, such as saloons from the late 60s that have the hydrolastic system*), requiring little maintenance however upgrades & replacement suspension parts are very easy to come by, our Suspension 'home servicing' blog will help on exactly what to check, we also have a blog on replacing Suspension cones here.
*If the Mini has hydrolastic suspension, you need to keep an eye for any fluid leaks, or the Mini sitting lower on one corner - the hydrolastic was fragile.
Due to the Minis simplicity, or rather lack of electrical parts, means any issues with the electrics should be relatively easy to diagnose & fix - however later models feature more complex parts, meaning more complex problems could arise.
- Check the imobiliser remote and battery
- Check the boot-mounted battery is secure
- Check the connections in the bulkhead mounted fusebox (replace bullet connectors!)
- Starting issues - may be caused by the lead to the starter motor or a bad engine earth lead connection, loose or faulty connections.
A variety of trim & carpet options were available with the various models of Mini, however we offer a full selection of Newton Commercial trim and custom orders can be made, if you're wanting to keep your Mini as original as possible, it's just making sure to check the supply.
Dashboards again vary from model to model, however these are easy to replace - we stock a variety of genuine & original specification dashboards.
Classic Minis are seen as an investment, buy one in a good condition & maintain it well, or be prepared to put in the time & money for a restoration project,it will only increase in value! We hope that this brief overview will give you an idea of what you need to check when considering purchasing a Mini, the more thorough you are, the better the chances are you’ll save yourself a lot of unexpected pain (& cost!) in the future.
We hope that this blog can give you a little inspiration & advice on what to check when buying a Mini, don’t forget – our team is available 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday to assist you with any questions you may have – or assistance you may need, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!