I follow steel Santana prices and to me the price looks reasonable assuming it is in good shape. The Sovereign was a very popular aluminum model in its day.
Next not sure how much you know about Santanas vs other brands. I haved owned a CoMotion and now own two Santanas so I will try to give a brief summary:
Santana has some unique design features. Some like them and some people don't.
Santana's rear drop out width is 160mm while most modern tandems are 145mm. This reduces your options when purchasing wheels or rear hubs. On the plus side Santana claims that the wider hub increases wheel strength. Not a big deal unless you already have 145mm wheels or want to upgrade to a boutique wheel set. Santana has enough market share that wheels and hubs are available.
Bottom bracket width is the mountain bike 73mm width rather than the common road bike width of 68mm. This also reduces selection when upgrading however Santana and FSA make 73mm tandem cranksets. We like a standard square taper BB and some light daVinci cranks so not a problem for us. There are other square taper tandem cranks available as well.
Fork steerer is 1.25" rather than the more common 1.125" diameter. Really no big deal here. If you upgrade the fork then buy a Santana fork or a Chris King headset that will allow you to use a 1.125" fork.
Your original question is about what to look for. Basically it is just like any used bike. I would look for crash damage or corrosion in the usual places. Check the wheels to see of they look true. Does it look like it has been well cared for? Does it shift well? After wheels the shifters are the most likely expensive repair cost.
The captain should be able to stand flat footed across the bike. This allows good control when starting and stopping. The pictured tandem appears to be a small size and is probably smaller than other brands stock small size. If this one is too big then you may need a custom or specialty tandem. Tandems are so long and stable that a tall captain can ride a little smaller frame than he would on a single. The limiting factor appears to be the available seat posts and stems.
The picture looks nice. Santanas are great tandems. There are a lot of people that dislike Santanas. I feel that it is because they were the dominate maker in the past and the owner turned off a lot of people with his marketing style and strong personality.
Thanks for all the detailed info. Sincerely appreciated.
Not totally new to tandems...just started this year though....we've bought two(!) off CL already this year. A Trek T900 and a Phat Limo (that I've gotten an education all in itself when I converted from it a single speed to a 21 speed in early May, swapped parts off of my wife's old MTB with Deore and XT components). The Trek is a keeper, the Phat Limo is nicer now, but still not quite what we want to go forward with as a family for long term. It was, however, the ball that started the whole thing rolling on us getting into tandems as a family. A small investment that's turned into a lot of fun for us.
Last edited by hartphoto; 07-10-12 at 04:44 PM.
Reason: typso :-)