You’ll be lucky to find a Puma without rust but look on the bright side: it’s why this driver’s dream is so cheap. Prices for runners with a short ticket start at around £300. Spend double that and you’re into tidier cars with a year’s MOT. At the upper end, around £1000 will get you a clean 60,000-miler with some history.
Why would you bother? Because besides looking cute, the Puma is a product of that exciting decade in Ford’s history when the company’s brilliant engineers finally took over the asylum.
The Vauxhall Tigra of 1994 had established that there was a market for a tiny 2+2 but, more important, the Corsa-based coupé gave Ford a benchmark. The Puma arrived in showrooms in 1997, based on that sparkling little number, the Fiesta Mk4. It was immediately clear that, rain or shine, here was an alternative to the Tigra that could spread a far wider smile across the face of its keen driver and look prettier intothe bargain.
The Puma was offered with no fewer than four engines during its short life. The launch unit was by far the most popular and, therefore, the one you’re most likely to encounter: a 1.7 16v VCT (variable cam timing) four-cylinder. It was joined in 1998 by a more insurance-friendly 89bhp 1.4, which was replaced in 2000 by a 102bhp 1.6 16v.
The fourth engine, an uprated version of the 1.7 producing 151bhp, was reserved for the Racing Puma of 1999. Converted by Tickford and with a widened track, stiffened suspension, 17in alloy wheels, a strengthened gearbox, an optional limited-slip differential, race-spec brakes and Sparco seats, the Racing Puma is rare and the best start at around £13,000 today.
It’s the cheap-as-chips Pumas we’re interested in here. Standard trim included sports seats, anti-lock brakes and traction control. If you can find one, a fully loaded Puma Thunder is the one you want, withits leather and air-con. Word on the street is that the cleanest, least rusty Pumas have classic potential. It could just be worth a punt.