Here is a collection of musings on my experience with ex-gov auctions which may be useful to prospective purchasers. Most of it is common sense and applies when buying any 4x4.
The difference this list made was it allowed me to target those areas where 80's may be problematic - and hopefully avoid them... (Didn't avoid the juddering clutch though.... ;-))
Many of you may know most of this already so my apologies to those whom I am teaching to suck eggs... ;-)
The biggest lesson I have learnt from doing the auction shuffle is to be patient, there are resonable vehicles coming up all the time, and just when you think you have seen the best available a gem will come up the next week.
Petrol VS Diesel :
Most of the "working 80's" are diesels, the petrol's seem to have a much easier life, most being RV's with metallic paint and all the fruit. Someone told me that the petrol's tend to be used for their people carrying ability rather than their 4x4 ability. Based on the general condition of petrol's vs diesels I could agree with that statement...
Price wise the RV petrol with the same km went for about the same price as the standard diesel. The DX's are rarer and command about 5% over an equivalently specified standard.
Condition VS Accesories :
A lot I looked at had underbody damage, dented exhausts, bent bash plates, dents in the fuel tank etc. as evidence of a hard life. As a rule of thumb if body protection accessories are/were fitted they were there for good reason. The government "user" of the vehicle has to pay for any damage to the vehicle, so if it is to be used in a harsh environment where damage is inevitable they tend to fit those accessories.
The other side of the coin is that many of these accesories are removed prior to sale (but not always) to be fitted to a new vehicle. This is important info for those wanting to buy an 80 once the 100 series is released as these accesories may not be able to be fitted to the new 100, hence those accesories will be auctioned with the truck... we shall see...
The good news is extras generally only add a small fraction of the purchase price to the vehicle.
Service books are provided and will provide real clues as to where the vehicle was stationed and what it was used for. A lot of 80's do beach work up here with the results being fairly apparent in evidence of corrosion of exhaust, mounting brackets and other relatively unprotected surfaces. The other downside is that they would have spent a high proportion of their time in 4x4 realtive to other 80's on offer. The best kept books were always seen on the ex-police vehicles, "serviced" every 5000km on the dot. I think they really only do the basics as some items (such as the air cleaner) on mine which should have been replaced at 40k looked more used than they should have been.
Look for hard scatches to mirror cases, rear bumpers and external plastic trims around the rear window as this is generally evidence the vehicle has been pushing through the scrub. A lot of vehicles had grass/vegetation wedged between the air-con condensor and the radiator indicating same.
In addition, body protection accessories that protect the rear quarter are usually not fitted so the rear quarter in this case will almost certainly be damaged, open the access panel to the jacking equipment and look at the inside of the quarter panel skin.
Quite a few trucks showed evidence of sagging in the rear springs and serious soiling marks and tears in the rear cargo area and the interior.
Several had evidence of leaking front diff seals, generally on those which had evidence of having done a lot of 4x4. (Which makes sense as all the diesels are part timers). None I saw had third window pillar cracks or cracks around the barn door area.
Accident Damage :
Look for overspray on the chassis rails and inside the guards. Almost all of the vehicles I looked at had evidence of repainting in one or more areas. (Or evidence of hiding overspray by coating the rails and inner guards with chassis black). Look on glass and rubber areas. Trucks that had no evidence of repainting or panel repair anywhere were rare but suprisingly did not command a higher price.
Try to buy on a day when there are a lot of vehicles on offer, interest in the vehicles tends to wain after the third or fourth lot, with the condition of the vehicles being a mitigating circumstance.
IMHO, the best way to go is for a really early car that nobody wants (ie. 1992/1993 which come up rarely) or as late as possible. The range generally (at the moment) is 1994 to 1996. Go for the 1996 if possible as you gain 2 years, keep the factory warranty, and improves you resale for only a 10% addition in the purchase price. The warranty part I personally found important as you could not drive before you buy.
The other observation is that there are very few 'bargins' to be had. Mostly you are competing against dealers in the bidding and they appear to drop out at about 2-3k below what they have them for in the lots. Several times I observed a truck sold on the Friday appear in a dealer lot on the Saturday with 2-4k added to the price... So this tends to keep the prices bouyant.
Hope this is useful,