Written on: 27/07/2006 by RichardBradford (2 reviews written)
Handling, design, targa top, A to B ability, compact size, designed to survive crash regulations that were so strict they never came into force - my friend took out a signpost with his 1300 and just got a tiny dent in the bumper. Bullet proof engine - tried to blow my old 1300's engine by taking it 1000rpm into the red in every gear from stone cold, for a year, and it still worked fine - with 120,000miles on the clock. Ultra comfortable seats and ergonomics - drove my 1500, with 1300 seats, for 28 hours, literally non-stop, across Europe and had zero back ache. No wind buffeting with the roof off and if you keep moving you don't get wet in the rain.
Rust. Brakes can stick - a 30 minute job to fix. Front end can lock up on greasy roads on a standard set-up. Standard 1300's handle better than standard 1500's, which can spin if you don't know what you are doing. 5 speed gearboxes prone to eating reverse gear - expensive to fix; problem is worse when people put gearbox oil in the gearbox but it should have engine oil - gearbox oil wrecks it. Bit noisy - especially with a free flow exhaust and 'proper' driving.
If you are a lively driver modify your 1500 thus: 1) fit Koni adjustable shocks and lower the suspension an inch all round; 2) fit 185/55 rear tyres and 175/60 fronts; 3) put on Tarox brake discs and pads and use silicon dot 5 brake fluid - helps avoid brakes jamming; aeroquip hoses a useful addition; 4) add a free flow exhaust - Ansa 4 pipe works really well.
I demonstrated the stability of this set up by deliberately locking the brakes at 110mph for a moment. Almost nothing will touch it on a twisty road and in Germany it held the local speed record for a series of special curves.
The engine is not the world's most powerful by a long shot but it loves to be caned and the mid-engined layout and ability to eat bends allows distances to be eaten out of all proportion to its output.
If you buy one learn its limits gradually, mid-engined cars respond very well to driver inputs - get yours wrong and wrong inputs will get responded too equally quickly.
Standard 1300's have the best steering feel, handling, most comfortable seats, gearbox reliability, although they do have a tendency to rust and a risk of front wheels locking under braking.
Standard 1500's have the best straight line performance, a 5-speed gearbox, most protective bumpers, are less likely to lock the front wheels under braking but more likely to spin with careless driving, with the best rust protection and best looking seats.
I've had two 1300's and two 1500's - 10 years ago my current 1500 got run off the road by a 9-ton lorry driver who decided he was bored of waiting to get out of the busy junction and even though I was able to switch to a different lane (on the motorway roundabout) he then moved into that lane while I was alongside him, pushing my front end under the crash barrier and lifting the tail off the ground with his rear bumper.
The police rescue squad had to use a 6-foot crowbar to prise the damaged rear wing off the rear tyre, which was locking it and causing the other to spin. Once the tyre was no longer locked I was able to reverse the car from under the barrier and even the police were shocked how good it looked. At the front it just needed a new headlight pod, straightened front wing and bonnet corner. At the rear just the rear quarter was damaged and this was replaced with a doner corner from a scrapped one. Structurally the car suffered NO DAMAGE. Both myself and the passenger walked out totally unscathed, doors opened normally, and this is the same car I have today. The 9-ton lorry driver's insurance paid me £2000 for the damage - I only paid £1400 for the car when I bought it and fixing it cost around £500.
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