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Advice On A First Mini

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#1 englishdoug


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Posted 24 February 2021 - 02:07 PM

Hi all,

Looking for some info on what it's like to own a mini.

Growing up I frequently went to various car shows with my dad and you guys will be unsurprised to learn that the classic mini was easily my favourite. Unfortunately they stopped making them before I was old enough to drive and when I did I didn't have the money. That is until now. I have finally got enough to start seriously looking into owning a classic mini so I thought I would come to the experts for a little advice on what to expect from owning one of these beauties.

Firstly when buying a mini what would you say is the absolute minimum to spend in order to reasonably expect that it is in decent running order and wouldn't need any serious maintenance in the first 6 months or year.

Secondly how much maintenance and cost is likely to be required on an annual basis to keep it in similar condition. Would mainly be doing short trips around town with occasional trips further afield perhaps as much as 300miles in one go once or twice a year.

Thirdly would you even recommend getting a classic car to someone such as myself who has rather limited mechanical experience. Ive heard some stories of people investing money in a car but never really getting it to run for long periods

I appreciate these questions are like asking how long is a piece of string but I am a complete novice in these matters and I thought even ball park figures from the experts would at least help me get an idea of what to expect and whether it's worth seriously looking into it. Any other advice you feel relevant based on your experiences would be much appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

P.s. If that is all a little too vague I've attached a link to an 1988 rover mini, 56,000 miles for £5,000. Would you expect there to be any cheaper minis worth looking at, would it likely be high maintenance? Etc.

#2 FDW


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Posted 24 February 2021 - 05:03 PM

I'm currently in my first year driving, now 18 and owning my first car a classic Mini. I also started off with limited experience but have been learning at a rapid pace - because Mini's force it upon you. I'd always encourage someone to go for it providing you can cater for it being off the road for a few days or weeks at a time if it takes a bit longer to do jobs (such as a garage). I bought my 1990 Mayfair in May 2019 for 3k, it had an MOT that lasted the next year, a relatively healthy 998 engine but wasn't fantastic on the bodywork aspect (I probably could've done better). Mine is a rolling ongoing project as compared to a restoration but you may need a safety net pot as some jobs particularly bodywork will need a professional. So I'd say the most important thing to look for is bodywork, read up on what to check and ensure the shell is in good shape as it'll get worse with time until its a losing battle. As for the rest of the car, its almost all nuts and bolts so if you dedicate enough time to reading up and learning how to do everything properly you can fix anything. There is so much information about everything mini related on here, YouTube, books and other sites but if you ever get stuck this is the place to ask. A bit long winded but its definitely worth it for those special days and the occasional car show and good luck if you bite the bullet. 

#3 mab01uk


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Posted 24 February 2021 - 07:09 PM

Read the full MOT History and it gives you an idea of the maintenance and rust repairs that have been carried out in recent years to get through the annual MOT test. The rust repairs will need to be inspected for the quality of the work carried out.

eg. Was the rear subframe corrosion patch repaired or was the rear subframe replaced which is the best long term repair but more expensive.

MOT History:-



#4 MatthewsDad


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Posted 24 February 2021 - 07:14 PM

I think everyone will advise you that rust is generally the deal breaker. Some rust is manageable, too much and you have a money pit unless you can weld. A rolling restoration is enjoyable, making improvements as and when you have time and money, and learning spannering along the way. Depending where you live and after lockdown you might find someone local on the forum who's happy to view a car or two with you. There are lots of good value cars around - view as many as you can, take your time and wait for the best one you can afford. Good luck.

#5 edp


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Posted 24 February 2021 - 07:18 PM

Hi. I was in almost exactly the same position - wanting a Mini and not being too sure where to start I bought my 1985 Mayfair in March 2019 for just over £3k. It was rough around the edges but importantly had very little rust, having undergone a light restoration 4 or 5 years earlier and being garaged since. It was exactly what I wanted - cosmetically needed some work - wheels/engine bay/interior/paint, but ran well, was not rotten and with the MOT I could drive and enjoy straight away.

I was keen not to buy too much of a project as I wanted to enjoy driving the car as well as working on it. As FDW says, you learn quick! I'm very lucky to have a far more experienced Dad who can do almost anything and I'm also lucky that I don't use the car everyday - if I break it or I can't get it back on the road after a weekend working, it's not the end of the world.

I'd say the car on Autotrader you've found for 5K looks like an ok price having had all the engine and gearbox work - and with a Stage 1 kit to boost performance. Depends what your priority is - to drive or to build/restore, or both.

Best advice I was given was to make sure you take someone with Mini knowledge along with you, if possible, to look at any cars. Good luck! Ed.

#6 george_hill


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Posted 25 February 2021 - 07:56 AM

i bought my 1985 mini ritz when i was 15, cosmetically its not great and it didn't run very well either but there was little rust. I got it for 2k in 2016, having a look around now you'll struggle to find that sort of thing since prices have gone up since then but 5k does seem about right for that one on autotrader. and as said before check the mot history as it gives a really good indication of how well the previous owners have looked after the car

#7 MiniCarJack


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Posted 25 February 2021 - 02:18 PM

These days I think you'll struggle to find anything really solid and worry-free under the 5k mark at minimum, as others have said rust is the main thing to look out for. Almost exactly a year ago I bought a 1991 Mini Neon for just over 3.5k, it had an MOT and I've used it as my daily driver for most of the time since then, though with lockdown and working from home the miles have been a bit lower than they otherwise might've been.


But for its most recent MOT it's had to come off the road for about a month by this point, with lots of hidden corrosion found in the rear (including the subframe needing a complete replacement), and collapsed suspension in the front along with a few other bits like a track rod end, play in a ball joint and a couple of split gaiters & boots. On their own, the mechanical issues aren't particularly expensive or tricky to sort, but with all of them needing to be done at one time, and welding work in the back I've had to outsource as well, it's become a pretty expensive affair - I've probably sunk about 800 quid into new parts including a replacement subframe, and at least the same again in labour to get the bodywork done to a good standard. Once you factor that in, as well as other bits I've had to buy over the past year like a new set of tyres, a clutch slave cylinder I fit myself, and other bits and bobs, I'd have been better off paying the 5-6k upfront for a more solid base car to begin with - but it's a little late for that now, and I guess at least I'll know I've got a solid mini having actually gotten the work done myself, and not relied on the word of a previous owner to say it'd been done properly!  >_<

#8 Cooperman


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Posted 25 February 2021 - 10:28 PM

The only real advice is when buying your first Mini, be absolutely sure to take someone with you who is a classic Mini expert and knows exactly where to look for potential issues. I know this an be easy to say, but it is so important.

I have often been to inspect Minis for first-time buyers and it is surprising what one finds hidden by vendors. 

get it wrong and it can cost literally thousands to put into good order, especially as the issues are usually rust and more rust. 

mechanical problems are relatively easily sorted if you have a good tool set and somewhere to work, plus the appropriate mechanical aptitude.

Owning any classic car means that you either have the ability to do virtually all the necesasry work yourself, or the money/income to pay a professional to do it.

It will require work sooner or later.

Buyer beware has never been more true than when buying a classic Mini.

#9 surfblue


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Posted 27 February 2021 - 09:57 AM

What do you intend to use the mini for?
If its a classic car to tinker with and use on sunny weekends and it doesn't matter if its off the road with issues then go for it. If its your only form of daily transport I'd be reluctant to recommend a mini for this role any longer. Its 20 years since the newest were made, they are old cars now and need much more maintenance than current superminis. Salty winter roads do them no favours. I used minis as my daily transport years ago when they were current everyday cars, spares were available in every (old school) petrol station and scrapyards were full of them as a source of spares. That's sadly not the case nowadays. I wouldn't want to do so anymore. That's just my personal opinion, others will disagree and still do use them year round. Be realistic about the cost and your abilities before deciding.

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