Used car buying guide: Suzuki SC100

An owner’s view

Alastair Clements: “I first saw a Whizzkid when I was 13, and desperately wanted to buy it to do up, but my dad was having none of it. So when I was looking for an economical runabout a decade later, I got one. I loved that car and only sold it to buy an engagement ring. I missed it terribly but realised I had made the right decision when my new wife gave me another as a wedding present. I’ve still got it, 18 years later. It’s like a back-to-front Mini Cooper with even better steering. I’ve hillclimbed and rallied it, but since stopping the usual rampant rot, I’ve retired it to gentler duties. I’ve had four now and can’t see myself ever being without one.”

Buyer beware

Engine: This engine is hardy and very reliable if properly maintained. Condition is king, so ask how much work has been done on the engine and listen carefully for any unwanted noises. Check the ancillaries carefully, too, as these will be of a good age, especially the cambelt. Fuel pumps need careful maintenance. Exhaust manifolds and back boxes can cause trouble: the only access is through a small panel behind the rear seat and they are no longer available. Take any potential buy for a drive to make sure it doesn’t overheat or pump out blue smoke. 

Transmission: This manual isn’t the most pleasant to use, although you can polybush the linkage, which helps. It’s known to be fairly strong, although clutches can wear quickly and are relatively pricey. 

Brakes: These likewise can be problematic and cost a lot relatively to fix. Discs corrode and are no longer available and the unservoed brakes, handbrake and rear-wheel cylinders can seize. Kits for the drums are hard to find. Check the hoses. Make sure the car doesn’t pull to one side under braking. 

Electrics: Although strong when new and of high quality, these can cause trouble now, due to the car’s immense age. Fires are rare but have been known. 

Bodywork: Rust could be the SC100’s middle name, alas. It can be a huge and toxic and terminal issue, noticeably around the sills, floorpan (check under the rear seats) and rear pillars, which are extremely difficult and expensive to repair. Also check the rear arches, front subframe mounts and door edges. Rear wings cost up to £2000, although Mk1 Ford Fiesta arches can be used, because the profile is similar.

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