What To Look For When Buying a Classic Mini / Old Mini

An insiders guide on tips for buying a classic Mini and what you need to know when looking for the best classic mini to buy. As cute as they are, the classic Mini does like to rust.

Outside Bodywork

Firstly look at the scuttle, this is the area under the windscreen where the wipers reside, if this area is rusty it can be replaced. The panel alone is around £70.00, but remember to replace this panel the wings need to be cut off, so that starts getting expensive. Next the front panel, this is below the headlights and often corrodes excessively, again welded on as are all Mini panels so again not cheap to replace. The bonnet is a bolt on panel so nothing too difficult to replace.


What it should look like

Below is an image of the front scuttle where it meets the front wing. This image was taken on a car that is totally original, note the lack of corrosion and how the wing meets the scuttle.


What it shouldn’t look like

Note that in this image, the panel joint between the wing and scuttle is totally smoothed over. This is a sure fire guarantee that filler has been used. Also, note the over-spray on the side strips, this is the sort of car to be avoided unless it is very cheap.

Next, the A panels, these A shaped little panels reside between the wings and doors again, a favourite rust spot. So if the Mini you are looking at needs all these panels replaced this we would class as a restoration project depending on the severity of the corrosion. Remember paint bubbling means rust underneath. If is for you to decide how bad the rust has advanced and can you live with it. Many people want there Mini as near pristine as possible. But if you have access to a mig welder or a friend that can weld this can de a distinct advantage!

Note the rust on these A panels above

  • Doors – do they fit correctly? are the hinges worn?, if the door skin is rusty that can be replaced, but if the frame is rusted you need to consider new doors. Again not cheap.
  • Rear wings – again not a expensive panel to buy but a major job to replace, in our experience these are normally not too bad.
  • Boot – a bolt on panel, so no issues there, but look under the rear bumper at the valance to check for rust.

Most of above is cosmetic and will not effect you during an MOT test unless its really excessive. Cheaper cars i.e. under £1,000 will invariably have rust in some or all of these areas

Inside the car

Lift all carpets up to see if the front and rear floors are rusted, check the inner sills, either pull away the carpet or tap with a light metallic object. Be careful here, any rust inside is usually an MOT failure issue. Rear compartments next to the rear seats, lift up the cardboard liners, that must be rust free in side as it is part of the inner sill section.

Inside the Boot

The subframe mounts are in here, so be vigilant, check the boot floor in total, paying attention to the top shock absorber mounts, any corrosion here is expensive to repair and dangerous. Check at the rear near the boot lip, also where the subframe bolts to it. Lastly remove the battery to check the battery box.

This is the area exposed of the boot floor once the petrol tank is removed. Note how close the corrosion is to the two silver bolts that connect the subframe to the boot floor. This will most certainly fail any MOT. This was not an old Mini either – this image was from a 1996 P registered Mini Cooper 1.3i that had covered just 27,000 miles! This to repair properly and neatly is not a cheap exercise!

Underside Front Section

Jack up the front of the car and remove both road wheels. Check for corrosion near the front shockers (again an MOT failure), prod around the top of the inner wing – where the fresh air vent pipe enters the car, excessive rust here will guarantee water leaks. Now check where the front subframe mounts to the floor, rust here again is very dangerous. Also check the front subframe, but usually these are OK as most Minis leak oil as standard.

Underside – Sides

Yes…Time to check the sills. Purchasing them is not expensive, but to get them fitted correctly and neatly takes a skilled hand. Also, ensure that you check the floor pans for rust.

Underside – Rear

Have a prod in the inner wheel arch, at the top where the shocker mounts and the areas in front and behind the road wheel. Check the rear subframe, if it’s corroded, replacement can be a fairly lengthy and expensive task.


Check for colour match and overspray inside door shuts and under wheel arches. If the paint is bubbling the panel is starting to rust, whatever the seller says!