After months of lurking and ogling craigslist, I took the dive and bought a silver Formula with 78k miles on it. Cosmetic issues aside (a headlight motor, fading paint etc) everything seemed okay and checked out. Pretty much right up until I made the purchase. After buying and getting myself better acquainted with the feel of the clutch, a metallic tapping noise started up, and quickly got worse, progressive into a grinding that sounds like a shovel on pavement. It's most noticeable at idle, but also sometimes/somewhat while in gear and goes away if I give it some decent throttle. On soft accelerations it tends to remain, on hard accelerations it's gone completely. Obviously this is disappointing to me, so after roaming the internet it seems it's either the pilot bearing or throwout bearing (depending on how is answering). My question is, how could such a problem be totally dormant right up until I make the purchase? While I didn't test drive the car myself, I had the owner run it through the paces for a good 20-25 minutes (though I did note that he tended to drive it hard mostly, which seemed normal at the time), and there was no sign of that sound at any time including during extended idle. I really like to think it's a bad coincidence and not willful deceit on the part of the owner... but I'm not experienced enough to say.
Anyhow, I hope to get it resolved soon and get this car confidently driving (and also hope the repair doesn't burn straight through the bottom of my now much shallower pocket). Fingers crossed, knock on wood.
[This message has been edited by rednotdead (edited 11-07-2014).]