James Ruppert: beat the hype surrounding a small car's big birthday

Mini Cooper S

The 60th anniversary of one of Britain’s best-loved cars is cause for celebration (and inflated prices)

Mini turns 60 this year, so expect prices to spike

At some point this year you might well become a little bit bored with the whole ‘Mini is 60 years old’ thing. I intend to add to that misery with a silly little book to cash in on the anniversary, as I’m sure BMW will do. With all this in mind, let’s see if it’s possible to buy the nation’s favourite small car at a half-reasonable price this year. 

It certainly has been possible to buy affordable Minis in the past few years, but as you might know, the chances of rust are considerable. You will be able to get just about every part, which is a bonus, but the key is to understand that you must buy a Mini with your eyes wide open. 

So let’s open them and find something. Well, £800 for a Mini Clubman estate is something of a result. Except that there was no engine, seats or trim and just half a floorpan. A project, then, and you would need to save up for the important bits. That’s the problem wading around the cheapy classifieds. More of a complete project was a 74,000-mile 1990 Checkmate at £1895. For that you’d get Cooper bonnet stripes, but there was visible rust in the pictures. It looked solid, but then they all do. 

If you want an MOT then up your budget to £3500 and you will find a 1990s something or other. An unidentified 1991 998cc example with an MOT, and, rather interestingly, a Mayfair automatic, which is pretty rare these days. They are noisy, but not as bad as you might think. A ’91 Cooper was relatively nearby at £4250. Parked in a back garden, it had an MOT and also the paperwork which said it had been a Cat C write off, but all was since present, correct and properly repaired. Found a better one at £5750, but at this time of year I’d bid down to £5000. 

The thing is, the later Minis are just as rusty as the old ones. Take a 1966 Morris Mk1 at £5995. It did need work but was at least complete. Add £10k for a restored example or instead try shopping abroad. A 1980 Clubman estate in yellow was £5995 and advertised as a left-hooker, but the pictures said RHD. Actually it was an ex-Brit car and it did contain plenty of patina. 

We live in an age of the £50k Cooper S, but a 1971 Mk3, which looks like an 850cc, is half that. At least we have proved that there are ‘affordable’ Minis. But after its August birthday, who knows?

What we almost bought this week

Mercedes-Benz E280 Elegance Auto

The eagle-eyed will have spotted the ill-fitting grille (it’s from a later model) but that aside, this 1997 E280 with just 89,000 miles, full history (there are 25 stamps in the book), new brake pads and few signs of the rust that blighted the model must be worth a punt at £420. Run it for a couple of years, no harm done.

Tales from Ruppert’s garage

Porsche Cayenne, mileage – 100,700

The Flying Pig has delivered sterling service this past month. A tonne of family stuff, lugging things to airports and regular 200-mile-plus days. Not great for the economy, but it’s a lovable lump of hard-charging goodness. When stone cold the starter gives a little screech for some reason, but otherwise it’s worth mentioning how good the car is at the six-figure milestone. The car feels as though it’s a fraction of the way through its life, and in a couple of months’ time it will have been with us a whole year. Time flies in the Flying Pig.

Reader’s ride

BMW 530d M Sport

Piers Couzens was here a few years back with a Ford Focus Estate but he’s since upgraded to a 2003 BMW 530d M Sport, bought unseen except for an emailed video. “The car has been all good so far,” he says. “It came with a full MOT and history and it seems just run-in at 108k miles. The first owner spent £8k on options, making the car £42k new and a bargain for me at £3k. Much nicer to run around in than an old Mondeo and hopefully this should keep its value. Ideally I’d have a different colour but at what I paid I can’t be too fussy.”

Readers’ questions

Question: I like the Ford Mondeo and am tempted by a 1.5 TDCi Vignale Edition. Would it be a wise buy? Alastair Reeves, Stirling

Answer: Vignale is Ford’s answer to the premium brands and offers benefits such as service collection and a helpline. Most dealers should offer the former and most manufacturers a helpline. So forget these. That leaves Vignale’s extra kit which, all in, adds £3500 to the price of a Mondeo Titanium Edition 1.5 TDCi. Extras depreciate faster than the car and the Mondeo is no aspirational motor whatever its trim, so my advice would be to buy a 2017/67-reg Titanium 1.5 TDCi for around £16,000 instead and save £12,500. John Evans

Question: I’m spending a fortune buying AdBlue from my dealer, but do I need to? Tanya Scott, by email

Answer: AdBlue is available more cheaply from many places including Halfords, garage forecourts and supermarkets. Expect to pay around £10 for 10 litres. As long as it has been produced to ISO 22241 standard, making it compatible with Euro 4, 5 and 6 diesel engines fitted with a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system to reduce the NOx constituent in the exhaust gas, it’s okay to use. Simple, too: You just pour it down the AdBlue filler. John Evans

Want to get involved? Send your used car tales to james@bangernomics.com and reader’s questions to autocar@haymarket.com

Read more

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Source: Autocar Online

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