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So you have decided you want to purchase a Tiger - you have also decided you don't want to build one yourself nor do you want one being sold by the factory. So what should you look for? Well one of the first things would be to get yourself over to www.tigerownersclub.co.uk and register on the forum - there is a lot of experience (and also cars for sale) that can be tapped into and also people may well know owners who are selling and can offer advise as needed. In addition it might be worth asking one of them to look over a car with you for some unbaised advice.
It is not in my opinion worth getting an inspection done on one of these cars as the mechanics won't have the specialist knowledge to really know what they are looking at.
The first thing to remember when buying one of these cars is that there is a good (90%) chance that what you are purchasing was bolted together by a guy in his garage. This does not mean that there is anything wrong with the car just don't necessarily expect production car fit and finish on all the components - fortunately anything built in the last 11 years (1997 onwards) will have had to go through SVA or Single Vehicle Assessment a VOSA administered scheme which ensures all amateur built vehicles have to go through the same examination before being allowed on the road so there is a base standard to work from.
The first thing to do as in any purchase is to have a look over the car and see if everything looks as you would expect - obviously remembering that the chassis is structural and the panels (fibreglass or aluminium) are unstressed and can be mostly removed and still leave a drivable car - in fact a Tiger can be driven without nose, bonnet, wings and sides as long as the scuttle is still in place to hold the instruments and switch-gear in place. Check the obvious things - tyres, suspension (usually very stiff), fluids, lights etc there should not be any differences between these and a 'normal' car.
The next thing is to check that you fit in the car - obviously these cars are usually built around the owner so if you are 5'3" and the builder was 6'6" there could be a problem as the seat will most likely not be adjustable - the seats can be relocated if necessary so this may not be a deal breaker. Also check the type and operation of the harnesses (do they fit) and adjust to suit yourself.
We would now be looking at the oily bits and see how they are working (or not). Hopefully the vendor should have not started the car prior to your arrival and you should observe the starting procedure as it can be involved depending on how the car is set up. Check for the obvious signs as with any car and see how long it takes to idle by itself with nobody in the driving seat.
Now comes the fun bit the test drive. Depending on the vendor you might not be able to drive the car yourself (due to insurance) however you should be prepared to be taken on a test - if the car only has an aeroscreen then a full face helmet is advised, if it has a windscreen without sidescreens then a good pair of sunglasses or goggles will be needed if the speed ventures above 50MPH or you won't see a thing as the air pressure will try and reshape your eyeballs!
On the test drive listen for squeaks / rattles / clonks all of which are potential bargaining points. On a good condition road then the car should ride smoothly and relatively quietly (apart from the engine and exhaust) - if the gearbox whines then either the car has a straight cut gearbox or a knackered standard box which will sound the same (ask the vendor for proof of this).
Tigers with very few exceptions do not have brake servos fitted nor do they have ABS so expect to give the pedal a good prod to slow down and if they lock take your foot off the pedal to release them.
They can bite! a lot of people have never driven rear wheel drive cars (unless they have a BMW, Jaguar or Mercedes for example) and hence have never experienced the joy of a properly done rear wheel drive power slide. This does mean that things can go wrong very quickly remember when driving the rule SLOW in FAST out applies to corners, don't try to brake mid-corner and if the worst happens steer into the skid and hold on!
If everything has gone to plan so far then you may well be in the position to try a bit of bargaining. The first thing it to look at the V5 in detail. Check the chassis numbers match the documents, also the engine number and ensure the person on the certificate is the guy trying to sell you the car. Ask for the MOTs (with luck there should be a few) and check the consistency of the information also look through the bills / receipts most of the owners tend to collect these as they are invaluable to locating a spare part for something bought a few years ago. If the person selling also built the car then there should be loads of them - if the car is on the second or third owner then it might not be quite so easy.
Finally there are some problems which are peculiar to each model Tiger which I have listed below.
Suspension bushes - the basic rubber bushes used in the suspension do not tend to last overly well in the car and will probably have been replaced with polybushes by now.
Sumps - the sumps on these cars take a battering as they are only 3" above the ground so look for signs of speed bump contact.
Trailing arm links - they do break and replacements are available from Tiger - one of the causes is down to incorrect setup when the car was assembled.
If there is a metallic noise under heavy braking this will often be the water pump pulley hitting the front springs - it rarely does any damage but can make getting the pump off a bit tricky. The cure is uprated engine mounts available from Tiger.
Take special care with these to ensure all the safety equipment is working as designed, and that the chassis is straight (it might be worth getting Tiger to check it out). Also check its racing history how many DNFs are logged against it and the reason for them...