Buying an original mini - advice - bbroomlea{P}

I am seriously considering buying an original mini as a hobby to restore. I dont have much experience in restoring cars so I would mainly like something to tinker with at a weekend and hopefully drive occasionally.

I would ideally like something that isnt going to loose me too much money as I start to spend on it and ideally would like something more mechanically tired or light cosmetic rather than total restoration as I dont have any welding experience (although dont mind paying too much to get bits and bobs done)

What should I be looking for in terms of vintage and originality? - it will be a long term plan and not fixed up to sell on.

Even some of the worst sheds on ebay are going for silly money considering their condition!

Any advice would be great, even if I am pulled in line or have the idea knocked out of my head!! - no doubt SWMBO'd will do that at some point anyway!

I was hoping a budget of around £500 as an original purchase price - not bothered about what it costs afterwards as it will be as and when I have the time/money to do things, however would like to be driving it within 12 months if its not road legal at purchase.

Other than ebay, any other suggestions on sourcing a cheap mini?
Thanks in advance
Buying an original mini - advice - bell boy
a mini is a bad car to cut your teeth on,ive yet to see one that doesnt want plenty of work day in/out
work up to a mini start on something nice and simple like a mk2 cortina etc
Buying an original mini - advice - bbroomlea{P}
I probably should have mentioned that the car needs to be small if there are any other alternatives anyone can recommend. Anything much bigger than a mini/metro and I wouldnt have any room in my garage to work on it.

I suppose I was also thinking the mini because of the ease and price of parts along with plenty of on-line help if needed....

My other consideration was an early MK1 MG Metro, however they seem like goldrust now!
Buying an original mini - advice - bell boy
austin a35?
Buying an original mini - advice - Lud
There are a lot more viable minis than A35s om...

A mini is a rustbucket though. If you pay a lot for it as OK, get an expert to toothcomb it. If it's a runner, restorable, be prepared to start a complex relationship with an intelligent welder.

Those things apart, you should be OK. Just remember the gearbox is lubricated with deteriorated engine oil, and that's why it sounds like a Jeep.

There was an outfit used to make fibreglass bodyshells for Minis. Lighter than the original and rustproof of course, but I don't know how rigid... perhaps you had to have a roll cage too. You bolted engine and front subframe in one end, the other thing the other end. Then you cut the doors out with a fretsaw and sellotaped them back in or something.

There are a lot of small outfits selling restored Minis to people like my young cousin-in-law who is on her second such. They are I have to say fairly carp although there's always something like Minilite wheels or perforated alloy pedals to get the naive punter excited. Do do do take a seriously po-faced and very experienced old engineer or mechanic with you if you fancy something of the sort.

I wonder how much an hour Aprilia charges ( :o) ) .
Buying an original mini - advice - MGspannerman
One of the cheapest classics to own and run is an MG Midget. Essentially A series running gear and nothing that cant be fixed with much more than an average tookit. However the mechanicals are not the problem, it is the bodywork and chassis on anything of this age - A and B posts, floors, sills, inner wings, spring hangers etc. and an alarming tendency to bend in the middle if really far gone. For £500 you will get a do it yourself kit. With the MG by far the best option is something that somebody else has spent money on and now wants to sell, as with vehicles like this you will never get your money back and do it for the love of it. The parts are the cheapest and most available of any of these vehicles and once fettled they can be surprisingly reliable and cheap to run. However bear in mind their British Leyalnd heritage, they were badly designed and made when they came out of the factory and the intervening thirty years or more hasnt helped, but does give a misty-eyed nostalgia. If you are interested in anything like this then look at plenty before buyng one, there are so many bodged up dogs out there that will never be worth the money. I find some of the owners club meets and classic car shows are very worthwhile. Personally I feel that Mini's do reach a point of no return with so many rust problems and little to otherwise recommend them.

Buying an original mini - advice - Aprilia
I remember Minis when they were available new and were popular. TBH I hate the things with a vengance and to have to work on one regularly would be a form of torture. Most are rotten as a pear and the mechanicals are crude, even by the standards of the time.
Something like an old BMW 3-series could be cheap, simple and quite fun to drive without too many nightmares. Parts are readily available and they are a possible future classic. They can rust a bit though (bottom of doors, wings). Saw a very smart 1990 318 E30 with genuine 40k miles go for £500.
Buying an original mini - advice - archcarman
We did this about four years ago as a project for father and son with the end product being a small cheap car for my son to drive around in. The project was a success and we converted a low mileage 1983 Mini 1000 auto to a manual Cooper lookalike (but still 1000cc' for 17 year olds aagh). Spares are plentiful and reasonably cheap. If you really want to go to town you can even buy a complete new shell made to original specs.
We did the whole hog and welded and sprayed it back into good health, but quite a few people have the heavy duty stuff done by specialists and then do the reassembly as a diy project.
If you want to find out which bits rot and what to avoid, then before you buy anything, get the Haynes Restoration Manual for the Mini. Its well worth the money and has a section on what to buy and what to walk away from. If it doesn't put you off, then it also gives a full blow by blow account of how to restore one of these cars.
There are a couple of specialist Mini Magazines on the newstands as well, which give advice and articles on various aspects of repair and ownership and also have extensive classified ads sections for cars and spares.
Good luck.
Buying an original mini - advice - madf
For my sins I owned a seies of rotten and not so rotten Minis.

If you must buy one, the worst places for rust are the not so obvious ones. The front rusts everywhere but the A posts and all the metal holding on the front wings are likely to be full of holes and welding them up requires ACCURATE assembly.

The rear subframe mounting panel - the one at the front: a vertical panel with hidden captive nuts often is very corroded - and hidden. Welding under a car without a pit is a real pia.

I did all the above myself. I cannot recommend it : would never do it again : and if you are mechanically inexperienced you are likely to spend 100s of frustrating hours .. and have a half unfinished project which you sell in frustration..

A Mini is a time consuming project for an experienced restorer. If you are not, and are inexperienced in appraising a Mini bodged up for repair with the problems hidden:
you are likely to buy a bag of bones.
you are likely to be unable to restore it properly.

Sorry for such a downbeat message.
Buying an original mini - advice - Garethj
As archcarman said, you get more value for money buying a later car and making it into what you want, rather than going for a 1960s car which will have been bodged over the last 35 years.

Autos are good value and can be converted, try to look for something that's unmessed with. 1 lady owner cars are still out there but take some tracking down!

We forget how small old cars were - a 1950s or 60s small family car is a LOT smaller than today's Focus or Golf, so don't be so sure you have to restrict yourself to a Mini. I always preferred the Austin A40 Farina, some MG Midget bits can be bolted on to make for big fun at relatively modest speed and cost.
Buying an original mini - advice - aahbarnes
I've had 3 Minis in my time and have to say they are rust buckets with mechanicals which wear prematurely and the crash resistance scares me. However I still love them!

The biggest thing to check for has to be rust, sills are particularly prone, then the seams on the front wings, the scuttle panel below the windscreen, the seams down the A panels and the seam behind the rear bumper. It was literally a weekly battle to keep the rust at bay.

Mechanically things wore out very quickly too. The front balls joints were very weak, the front & rear wheel bearings seemed to be problematic. I also always had trouble with damp in the distributor (mounted just behind the grille).

I would try and buy a runner, but a budget of more than £500 will be needed, maybe more like 1K for a decent one.
Buying an original mini - advice - Xileno {P}
Dreadful things, in my opinion. Why these heaps ever sold so well is beyond my comprehension.

Buying an original mini - advice - DP
Dreadful things, in my opinion. Why these heaps ever sold so
well is beyond my comprehension.

Because they look great (IMO) and are a complete laugh to drive, if you like that kind of thing. The steering and throttle feel directly connected to the mechanical bits, the handling is fabulous, the agility is eye opening, they're good on fuel, and the mechanicals are very reliable if looked after. They make even the most agile small car feel flabby and woolly afterwards.

Yes of course they're noisy, uncomfortable, unrefined, appallingly built, rot prone, hopeless above 60 mph, and utterly suicidal to crash in, but it depends what your priorities are. I would still consider one for short journeys if I could find one that didn't need many months and even more ££'s investing in it. And if I ever did any short journeys of course.

Buying an original mini - advice - Aprilia
The Mini was good by the standards of its time - look at other cars introduced in the late fifties, early sixties! And it broke new ground in many important respects. But that was nearly 50 years ago and things have moved on.
Buying an original mini - advice - barchettaman
Bbroomlea, had you thought of an early-ish Pug 205 GTI?
Buying an original mini - advice - archcarman
Forget trying to restore relatively modern cars like old Beemers and Pugs. Parts are nightmarishly expensive and you will need all sorts of serious service tools. The Mini is a usable classic and, over short distances is still good fun to drive. If you do the rebuild job properly, then it is reasonably reliable, and is viable and cheap transport.
If you have family, kids, dogs and baggage to shift on a regular basis, then you need a modern hatch, if you want a car for a short solo commute, or a quick blast along a quiet country road on a Sunday morning, then a Mini is a great little car.

Get the best base car you can buy. Autos are good usually, due to the sort of owner that they attract, but you will need a complete manual gearbox/engine/front subframe assembly, plus a clutch pedal and bracket. Costs, we spent around £2500 including car and manual conversion bits, but did it all ourselves and apart from new cills, found a car that needed relatively little structural work, even though it was twenty years old. You could probably count on spending another grand or so if you had it welded and sprayed professionally and then did the reassembly yourself.
Mini Technique near Preston, Lancs would be worth a chat if you are still interested after all the gloom, doom and predictions of rust. They have all sorts of cars in various states from drive away to restoration projects and can carry out work on your behalf to get a project under way.

Have a look at

Buying an original mini - advice - Micky
Whatever you do with your Mini, make sure you put the engine in the right place!
Buying an original mini - advice - henry k
Whatever you do with your Mini, make sure you put the engine in the right place!

or places?
Buying an original mini - advice - Kingpin
I wouldn't bother. £500 will only buy a poor example needing at least double that spending. The biggest problem with these is rust as others have mentioned which is the hardest part of any restoration to deal with. Unless you are a competent welder I would forget it.
It can be very demoralising to sit in a cold garage with a screwdriver scraping away at a floorpan or sill and keep going through paper thin metal whilst your budget for new panels rockets and enthusiasm dwindles.
Mechanically they are a bit more robust but a devil to work on - difficult to do most jobs in the cramped engine bay.
The only car I would consider is a 2CV - they have a separate chassis that can be repaired, galvanised or bought brand new. All body panels can be removed individually and repaired. Front wings come off with a couple of bolts allowing free access to the engine and inboard front disc brakes. Parts readily available. Can take each of the cylinder heads off and have unleaded conversion done. If desired can convert to electronic ignition to eliminate the awkward points changing routine behind the engine fan. No coolant to worry about. Classic insurance and 50 plus mpg. Not that slow and they enjoy being thrashed. Downsides - prices creeping up, rubbish in winter (no fan blower and only heating is warm air blown by engine fan up cardboard tubes into the cabin). Also pretty poor in a crash.
Not too big so may fit in small spaces.
Buying an original mini - advice - madf
You can convert the original drum brakes and horrible swivel pins to metro disks and swivels - using metro hubs. it requires new brakepipes but is a well known and cheap mod.

In fact there are lots of useful things that can be done: Car Mechanics did a series on restoring Minis and if you go to their website,

you may be able to get back issues - or ring them up: they may still have a book on restoring Minis..

If you do buy one, I have various tools - clutch puller etc you can have foc if you contact me.
Buying an original mini - advice - barchettaman
Just out of interest, would a Pug 205 be such a nightmare for a DIYer to work on? More so than a Mini?
Buying an original mini - advice - Xileno {P}
No it wouldn't, a 205 is far easier to work on as there's more space. Doing almost any job on a Mini is a curse. Wretched things.
Buying an original mini - advice - apm
Depends what you want. Are you keen on a 'classic' in the traditional sense (ie 60s or 70s), in which case i endorse the view that an MG midget is a good place to start- cheap to buy & simple to restore & maintain. Equally, Triumph spitfire or even better a Herald would fit the same bill. Or maybe an imp? I'd stick with big manufacturers for ease of parts & support.

Or, as has been suggested, a later 'classic', such as a pug 205 or similar might be a good option. Try looking in the classic car section on ebay- see what takes your fancy.

Have a look at Practical Classics- they're currently restoring a Triumph GT6, and have done quite a few other cars in the past. You can buy the articles from the website- gives an insight into the breadth & depth a proper restoration requires!


Dr Alex Mears
MG BGT 1971
If you are in a hole stop digging...unless
you are a miner.
Buying an original mini - advice - artful dodger {P}
Would agree with Kingpin and add the 2CV to your list. Suggest you run 2cv restoration into google and see the results. About a year ago I came across a 2CV restoration website that was excellent, IIRC they were in Devon.

I used to own a Dyane and it was a hoot to drive, provided you did not want to get there quickly. Used it for a daily commute of 30 miles each way. Occasionally took all the seats out, except the drivers, to carry large loads - something you cannot do in a mini.

I read frequently, but only post when I have something useful to say.
Buying an original mini - advice - nick
I'd go for a Herald or Vitesse, a Herlad is much cheaper. Fun to drive, cheap bits, an excellent club and meccano-type construction make it a reasonably easy car to restore. Just beware, if the chassis is too rusty, the body will have to come off, otherwise, just patch away!
Ohterwise, how about a Minor? Silly-cheap bits and lots around to choose from.
Buying an original mini - advice - boxsterboy
You probably mean Frome 2CV in ... er, Frome, Somerset. They did an excellent job of replacing the chassis on my 2CV a few years back. The chassis is only £500 and can be fitted DIY - but I bottled it, and got them to do it. Still have the car, and, yes, they are great fun to drive and a perfect antidote to todays sanitised cars. You need to drive them sympathetically and use your ears as rev-counters, if you know what I mean.

They are simple to work on although the engine itself is actually quite a complex design.

Half decent ones are creeping up in price - in France they command at least 2,000 Euros as the locals realise what they have been neglecting.

The heater's not to bad - I find it makes a perfect station car, if that's not sacrilege.
Buying an original mini - advice - Lud
I wd add my voice to those recommending 2CV. A truly great all-time classic, comfortable and fun considering its minimalism. No good if you want to go over 70 though, except down hills. And when you do, the aerodynamic vacuum above the roof sucks it upwards and tries to tear it off, with Dyanes too.
Buying an original mini - advice - aahbarnes
They (2CVs) are simple to work on although the engine itself is
actually quite a complex design.

Are we talking about the same 2CV engine here? The flat twin? I have to say this is one of the simplest engines to work on, a very simple design. No head gasket, no cam belt or chain, just good old push rods.
Buying an original mini - advice - mini 30 owner
A few years back I bought a Mini - 30th anniversary special edition through Autotrader with pretty much the same objectives as yourself - a small practical classic that would probably hold its value while I learnt about car restoring

The special edition is a truly beautiful car - lovely deep burgundy paint, tinted (not pimp - just dark) glass real chrome bits and cute little wheels, the steering wheel and gearstick are covered in red leather and the seats are half black leather - if you like minis - it's a smasher

The first time I drove it at night I had to stop and get out and look to see if the headlights were working - they were, but they just aren't like modern lights

It was rusty with holes in some places but after a wash and a polish up people did literally stop and stare,

It's so manoeuvrable, and responsive

After making the mistake of having it serviced by a normal garage I took it to a mini specialist and it came out and the gears and everything were lovely and smooth - it drove like a new car

I spent £900 buying it, more than £1000 on services + mot but I didn't have the time/skills, or equipment to make any progress on restoring it and after repeated attempts by people to steal it (minis are nice for joyriders) the alternator went and I ended up flogging it for £450

I would have one again, but I would buy a much better one, I think you probably need to spend £1500 - £2000 minimum - but they area part of our motoring heritage so worth doing, I think
Buying an original mini - advice - local yokel
> I'd go for a Herald or Vitesse

- go the whole hog and get a GT6!
Buying an original mini - advice - henry k
>>Tue 28 Nov 06 22:17
probably should have mentioned that the car needs to be small

if there are any other alternatives anyone can recommend.
Anything much bigger than a mini/metro and I wouldnt have any room in my garage to work on it.

>>>> I'd go for a Herald or Vitesse ... - go the whole hog and get a GT6!
and a new garage? ;-(

Buying an original mini - advice - bell boy
- henry k the main problem these days unless you go to a restorer is being able to find a welding person that can weld and at reasonable cost.
Its an art and needs practise, theres plenty of people that claim they can weld but cant and to be honest if you can find a mini without needing welding i will eat my hat.
Therefore i implore you to find something easier to cut your teeth on first and work up to a mini,even a half decent mk1 fiesta is worth a pot and the welding should be straight forward and you could do it yourself.
Remember these bobcats started life back in 76 so an early one made mint would be a worthwhile project plus parts are still common and even s/h are cheap on ebay.
Minis are the worst cars to work on and if you offered me 5 thousand pounds to weld all the bits that would need stripping and fixing i would turn you down (an ex welder that turns the tap these days only when necessary)
Buying an original mini - advice - madf
I drove a Herald and compared to a MIni it was horrible.
VERY VERY horrible.
carp when new. Even more carp now...
(no imo:-))
Buying an original mini - advice - smallfish
I've had several minis and loved them as a youngster, also had a 2CV. Both have character and are real fun to own.
The thing with Minis though is that an average one is quite easy to keep on the road for a few years whilst it slowly rots away (that was the pattern with mine anyway!) but as nearly everyone has said, to restore one is a pretty major task. I had one in particular, a 1275GT that I loved more than anything and decided I'd fix after it failed MOT on more or less everything. I spent a very depressing 6 months dismantling it until I realised I was basically the owner of a pile of mud and rust.
I'm a big fan of the 2CV and reckon that a straightforward proposition would be to buy a new chassis and a rotten 1980's, low mileage donor car - and transfer everything serviceable onto the new chassis.

Or a suggestion from the leftfield - what about a kit car that needs tidying? There are plenty in all shapes and sizes on Ebay, I always fancied a Lomax (2CV based 2 seater) - and a well sorted Burlington Arrow (Triumph based cycle winged roadster) can look the business!.
Buying an original mini - advice - mjm
If you do buy one and you are over 3 feet tall, buy a hard hat to avoid puncturing your head on the bonnet catch!
Buying an original mini - advice - bbroomlea{P}
Thanks everyone for your sound advice and comments. I am going to look at some alternatives offered, especially the MG Midget and 205.

I really like the mini though and anyone you speak to has owned a mini of some description and i still remember my first ride in one....somehiow it sticks with you.

What I cant understand is why they are so expensive when they are in an unreasonable state of repair - 99% of other cars would be scrapped as worthless!

As I said previously it will be an ongoing project and not a car that will be used daily (weekend use only more than likely)

I was already looking for an MG Metro before the Mini came into my head (fueled by my fiance buying a MINI and me wanting the real thing)

Buying an original mini - advice - davidh
I can recommend an Allegro through current personal experience as my first foray in to classic car motoring. They resist rust reasonably well and have great access in the engine bay to the simple A series engine which is basically the same as a Mini engine. Its got bags of "character" and is a hoot to drive (no, really!) after a sanitised modern car. It really is a laugh and brings you back to actually driving a car - mine has 45 bhp on a good day vs the 200 bhp I have on my daily driver a Rover 620ti.

Size wise, its actually smaller than a current Micra/Fiesta but is really well packaged inside.

The hydragas suspension is pretty straight forward - just needs a pump up now and again.

It turns heads and get you noticed like no silver Audi A4 ever could get you :-) and is a great talking point in the street.

Good thing is, a real minter can be had for a few hundred pounds.

Just a thought.

Buying an original mini - advice - Dynamic Dave
I can recommend an Allegro
and is a hoot to drive

I can think of plenty of words to describe an Allegro, but hoot definately isn't one of them.
Buying an original mini - advice - madf
I drove 2 Allegros from new.(no choice:-(

(1300 - no go, 1500 horrible gearchange)

They make a Triumph Herald (I said that was carp in a prior post) look brilliant.

Imo anyone who buys an Allegro has a Serious case of total lack of aesthetic taste.

And the execution of the design was down to BL's usual low quality standards.. with a suspension which leaked or rusted or both..

The only redeeming feature is the rust resistance: but in a car so bad, that's a liability.

The list of faults from new I suffered was indicative of the care with which the cars were not built.

Buying an original mini - advice - nick
I drove a Herald and compared to a MIni it was
VERY VERY horrible.
carp when new. Even more carp now...
(no imo:-))

You got no soul, madf ;-)
Buying an original mini - advice - Mapmaker
Bbroomlea wrote>>What I cant understand is why they are so expensive when they are in an
>>unreasonable state of repair - 99% of other cars would be scrapped as worthless!

That's because people like OP want to buy a Mini at any cost because they think they're fun and will be easy to restore, and it'll be fashionable.

Oh, you are OP.


If you're after a car that's pants to drive, no fun and you're likely to get run over by somebody driving a bicycle then we can't stop you. I'd buy something a bit more 'sensible'. Like a MK 1 Polo. Or a W123 MB. Fiesta. Cortina. Something that's running for your sub-£500 budget, with a MOT, and which can be a rolling restoration and will give you fun now - rather than something that will be an unfinished project 25 years hence.
Buying an original mini - advice - nick
If you're after a car that's pants to drive, no fun

Come on, you can't say a mini is no fun to drive. Great fun can be had at relatively low speeds.
Buying an original mini - advice - Mapmaker
>>Great fun can be had at relatively low speeds.

If pants handling and a risk of being run over by a bus equates to fun in your book, well who am I to disagree!
Buying an original mini - advice - davidh
Thing is, you cant objectively judge an old car with a modern car - its just not funny how much cars have come along in terms of safety / refinement / economy and smooth sporty driving experience etc etc.

Most classics are bought with a nostalgic misty eye and are dearly loved even if they are/were carp cars. Cars are money pits so get one that rouses an emotion in you - it'll be the only way you can get anywhere near justifying spending loads of money on it and still feel great about it.

Thats why I love my podgy old Allegro.


Buying an original mini - advice - nick
You are in a very small minority if you think a mini is a bad driver's car. Your memory must be fading!
Buying an original mini - advice - madf
A Mini was and still is great fun to drive. A go kart sums it up best.

Apart from a mid 1960s Lotus Elan (I owned one and 4 Minis - not all at once tho!), I've never driven a small car which gave as much fun although the Fiat 124 I hired for 3 days in the early 1970s was great cos the engine just revved and revved and revved - a boy racer's dream.

If you do want an old car you want one that is fun to drive. So either different looks or character.

The Lotus Elan I had had an engine with about 140bhp (Big Valves had 126, the SE 155, the standard 105) and went like a rocket and handled brilliantly.. BUT was temperamental as the twin Webers seemed to need tuning depending on the barometer.

Buying an original mini - advice - Pete M
I agree that a Mini is the closest thing to a street-legal go-kart. I got mine as an abandoned project to give my daughter something to learn on. After getting it sorted, I decided to keep it for myself. She can have something more modern and civilised (and slower). Mine has had an Allegro 1300 transplant, with some sort of a better camshaft. I put a set of twin carbs on it, and it is definitely fun to drive. Rust is always a problem, especially in the UK, but proper treatment after repair should prevent recurrence. With 165/70-10 tyres, it sticks to the road well, and the handling is very direct. I can recall a couple of instances when its ability to turn instantly has saved me from being squashed. So, for a real fun Mini: Get a Mk3 with wind-up windows, put in a 1275 with some power mods, wide wheels plus flared arch extensions, a nice small steering wheel and a rake adjuster for the steering column, and get out and have fun. Any of the Mini magazines give good advice, parts are plentiful, there's a flourishing club scene, and Mini enthusiasts are (I have found) very friendly.
Oh, and at 51, I'm not too old to be a big kid (safely).
Buying an original mini - advice - L'escargot
I am seriously considering buying an original mini as a hobby
to restore.

I drove an early Mini and my advice is to chose some other car to restore! Anyway, by now most of them will have gone to that great scrapyard in the sky.
Buying an original mini - advice - bbroomlea{P}
Just to update.

Thanks for everyones replys and advice. I think I will still go for a mini, however I am going to wait a while until I have more spare cash floating around and buy a cooper from 1997 onwards with the big arches and nice leather interior. Hoping these cars wont be suffering too much rot and will be easy to keep at bay if I buy one that has already been well looked after, although expect there will still be things that need doing to it for me to get my teeth into as well as some nice mods to think about. I would only really use it at weekends in nice weather so keeping it in good condition shouldnt be too difficult.

If I run into a cared for example of a Mk1 MG Metro Turbo beforehand I may change my mind, however they are like hens teeth and seem to be fetching very good money (shame as I had one at university and sent it packing to the scrappy because i couldnt afford the repairs at the time!)


Ask Honest John

Value my car