Re: Do they all sound like diesels?
I would ask for a discount to get the work done yourself, get a quote from a decent local specialist for a full cambelt service with a variator change and ask for that off the asking price. That way when you get the car you'll know all the tensioners have been changed and it shouldn't give you any more bother.
As for the variators being puny, the variator usually fails due to low oil, the dipstick should be at the max line all the time to prevent this happening. Also if you change the oil and filter more frequently this will help prevent the variator failing. The reason they fail is that the seals inside the variator are supposed to keep oil inside the unit but when the oil level drops or the seals get contaminated with crud, the oil sinks back into the sump when the engine is off, hence the diesel noise at startup (once the engine is running oil is pumped up into the variator, stopping the noise).
< Rob >
Spider 2.0 TS 1997
156 2.0 TS Selespeed 1999 (now sold)
147 2.0 TS Lusso 2002