Currently reading: James Ruppert: beat the hype surrounding a small car's big birthday
Mini turns 60 this year, so expect prices to spike
4 mins read
22 January 2019

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. 

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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.

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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

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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

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Luap 22 January 2019


I miss the old Wood & Pickett and the Radford Minis..

WallMeerkat 22 January 2019

Minis - classics but there

Minis - classics but there are plenty of early BMW MINIs on a bangernomics budget. They have their own issues, but go in with your eyes open. And yes they're larger and more expensive new than the original, I didn't like them until I drove one and it made sense, they're a sports hatch. Economy cars have moved to the east, a Sandero is probably closer to an original Mini in spirit.

Original Clubman / 1275GT with the Cortina/Maxi style grille used to be unloved, but offer more space to work on the engine.

For real rarity, the Riley Elf / Wolseley Hornet were Minis with proper 3 box saloon boots. In South Africa they sold actual Minis with these rears. RHD, would make an interesting import.

Another interesting import would be the Chilean fibreglass Minis, at least they would solve the rust issue.


Merc - never got over the headlight treatment of this W210 model, the previous square light W124 model looked elegant, this always had a 'surprised face'. Though at least it has a proper Merc grille (even if it is ill-fitting) and bonnet badge, unlike the current tacky looking big badge grilles.


BMW - This E39 5 series is into bangernomic territory, a fine car. My only gripe with the E39 is that it looks a bit too like the later E46 3 series, for me the definitive 5 series was the classy E34.

concinnity 22 January 2019

And the other way round as well

I agree with your whole comment, we have the same tastes. I have to add this, though, as it's always puzzled me. South Africa also, oddly, sold the standard Mini bodyshell with the Wolseley grille as the Wolseley 1000 first, before replacing that model with the booted version with the standard Mini front.
Perhaps the people in product planning had been drinking? Or, more charitably, they hadn't realised that the supply of Wolseley grilles came with a matching set of boots, and they hadn't noticed it when unpacking the CKD kits, and then had to use them up.
More info here