I would prefer not to buy a Williams from a trader and spend your time doing some research - perhaps buying one from a club enthusiast like on here. The Willy and 16V are great cars that deserve all their praise, but if you buy a sh*tter youll regret it for ages.
For a start, read the 1993 Cars & Car Conversions article on the Williams on the main Cliosport site (http://www.cliosport.net/articles/williams-2.asphttp://www.cliosport.net/articles/williams-2.asp
). That outlines the Group A and homologation pedigree of the 16v - and its later special edition: the Williams.
Despite this greatness, they can be expensive and time consuming cars - though not because there are any inherrent faults. Cared for cars will last very well, but those that have been repaired cheaply/not at all will cause problems. Basically, some people buy a Willy or 16V, realise they need to be loved and then sell them on with problems.
In the past, I bought what looked like a really nice example of a 16V, with engine mods and leather. Despite a new engine, clutch, brakes and sound bodywork, I spent the best part of my spare time and money over two years replacing practically everything on this car.
But they look beautiful (especially with no exterior mods), make possibly the best 4-cylinder production engine induction roar and are damn fast.
My instinct would be not to worry too much about high miles if the bils are there. There will be loads of cars with 60-70k miles on the market for good reason: its a very expensive mileage. If you pick up a car for a good price with 100k miles plus, it will probably give you less big bills (already done), but more annoying little jobs.
Overall, Im of the opinion that private sellers owners are of the demographic that look after their cars well - enthusiasts. However, the cars are fairly maintenace-intensive, so, as ever, the care it has received thus far will usually dictate condition. Look for a big folder of bills.
What you should then be looking for then can be split into categories:
- Rear arch lips are susceptible to rusting, front ones are plastic so arent a problem. Rust also possible on door bottoms, around window rear quarters and boot bottom. Rear arches are now only available as an entire quarter panel - £330 from Renault inc VAT each side - so make for an expensive repair. Other body panels are surprisingly reasonable after a recent price cut.
- Front fogs (expensive) are prone to cracking due to stone chips.
- Bonnet and front bumper also prone to stone chips.
N.B. due to engine size, many otherwise simple jobs on 16v/Willy are engine-out jobs.
- Cambelts must have been done before 72k (many advise a cambelt change far earlier); fairly big bill in itself and mega bill if it snaps in service.
- Diffs, gbox and clutch are all expensive jobs so check carefully. Jump off the accelerator in 2nd to see if it pops out of gear: if so, then suspect the box or the "dog bone" engine-to-subframe engine mount.
- Rear brake callipers can seize. New rear discs also necessitates new wheel bearings.
- Check aftermarket exhaust mountings - often a poor fit; rumbling under load can be caused by poor exhaust manifold to downpipe gasket (cheap job, disturbing noise).
- Erratic idle commonly due to faulty throttle potentionometer or idle speed control valve (respectively a specialist job and a straight swap).
- 16v/Willy run hot, so check coolant system - hoses, rad, expansion tank, water pump, anti-percolation (if you can). Radweld works wonders with minor radiator leaks.
- Engine mounts often go - embarassing and expensive to have your engine fall out, so see if engine rocks back and forth by opening bonnet and pulling accelerator cable.
- If car has induction kit check security of air hoses - can explain erratic idle or apparent air leak.
- Steering racks and columns are common failures. The handling reaction will be a second or two behind steering input in such a case; car will also tramline and follow road too much.
- Check for snapped front springs.
- CV gaiters should be checked - manifested by clicking noise on full lock.
- Handbrake is normally not good.
- If lowered, will need new front strut top mounts sooner or later. If majorly lowered, check to see that brake pressure-regulating control valve has been adjusted at the rear - otherwise the back wheels will lock too easily. Lowering also places extra strain on front anti-roll bar mountings and bushes and the track rod ends.
- Sunroofs leak - tough luck! (not a problem on Williams & Williams 2)
- Electric window and mirror switches are very expensive - so check them too.
- Front seat belt reels often become ineffective - especially the drivers one.
- Door handle rods in door mechanism can come loose, so that the handle wont work. A time-consuming but easy job.
Williams: The original homologation special, 400 RHD cars, numbered individually and made in late 1993. Basically, Renaultsport took advantage of FIA Rallying rules that allowed engine capacity of up to 2.0 litres when a car was homologated (at the time, they were using the 1764cc Clio 16V as the homologation car). In order to do this, they had to make 2500 road-going 2.0 Clio examples. The car was named the Williams to celebrate the Nigel Mansel/Williams/Renault F1 victories, although it was basically untouched by Williams F1 Engineering Ltd. Nevertheless, Frank Williams and Damon Hill are among the Clio Williams more famous owners.
The original edition was based on the Phase1 Clio 16V, with the various modifications basically concentrated on making the best hot hatch of the day an even more fitting home for the new Group A/N rallying 2.0 F7R engine. The Willy also wore that unmistakable trademark combination of 449 Sports Blue bodywork and gold/silver rimmed Speeline wheels, with wider tracks filling the 16Vs already pumped-up arches and sporting a larger rear lip spoiler.
The distinguishing features over the Williams 2 and 3 are the Phase1 exterior/interior trim ("retro" would be kind ), lack of sunroof/electric mirrors/ABS/basic sound system. None of the three editions have any mechanical differences worth mentioning.
Williams 2: Such was the amazing public and press reception for the original Williams (see http://www.cliosport.net/articles/williams-2.asphttp://www.cliosport.net/articles/williams-2.asp
), that Renault produced a second batch of Willies in 1994: much to the anger of the original Williams owners. Still, with numbers of RHD cars at less than 400, these are again very rare. These were also Phase2 cars, which in line with the general Clio range are smoother-looking and more soundproofed cars - see elsewhere for details. The Willy 2 gained some of the refinements of the Clio 16V lost on the original Williams, such as electric mirrors. Still no sunroof or ABS and still 449 Sports Blue in colour.
Williams 3: Renault again gave in to the pressure and produced a final edition in 1995. These cars were again limited to under 400 RHD examples and were Phase2 models. They are distinguished by their Monaco Blue pearlescent paintwork (shared with the Clio 16V), which is a lighter colour than the 449 Sports Blue. These final editions came with an electric sunroof as standard, with ABS as standard (I think, or at least a very popular option).
My opinion is that none of these cars is generally in better condition as a group than the other. I looked at all three when buying mine and thought that they were about the same, with the Willy 3 in fact being the catergory of high milers. To some extent at least, its the look and your view that decides your favourite: Willy as the rally hmologation, Willy 2 the best of both worlds and Willy 3 as the refined final edition.
Ultimately, theyre very similar in looks and are identical under the skin - and as "the Best Hot Hatch Ever", thats just as well!