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Ford Puma

Published: 21st Mar 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Some cars are destined to be collectable from the moment they’re unveiled. But collectable doesn’t have to mean costly, and the Puma is the proof. One of the most stylish coupés of the late 1990s, the Puma may have been little more than a Fiesta in drag, but that’s no insult, as Ford’s evergreen supermini was a cracker even then. Over a decade since the last Puma was built, they’re now starting to be bought as cherished classics for occasional use – especially in the case of the smart-looking Racing Puma. But many are still being used as cheap transport, so it’s essential that you don’t buy a neglected example, as they’re rife.

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WHAT TO LOOK FOR

General neglect is a common problem, and there’s no shortage of Pumas that have been driven ‘enthusiastically’, so look for bodywork damage. Corrosion shouldn’t be much of an issue on any car that’s been cared for and has never been scraped or shunted, although the classic areas (wheelarches, sills and door bottoms) may need some TLC.

The mechanicals are reasonably tough, but high-mileage Pumas are common and there are weak spots. Puma engines don’t like fully synthetic oil; they’re better run on semi- synthetic that’s renewed every 5000 miles – although Ford recommended 10,000-mile changes. Also make sure the cam belt has been replaced within the last five years or 80,000 miles, preferably along with the water pump. Allow £350 for the work to be done. A misfiring 1.7-litre engine is usually down to leaking core plugs dropping coolant onto the spark plugs. Make sure the heater works properly; the valves are unreliable, but replacement isn’t especially onerous or expensive, even if done by a garage. Also look for uneven front tyre wear, suggesting the front wheels have been kerbed; it can be tricky to get the tracking right after this. That uneven front tyre wear can also point to worn suspension bushes – clonks will usually be in evidence too. Powerflex upgraded bushes are recommended replacements.

Modified Pumas aren’t unusual; if done properly there’s no problem. But many cars aren’t modified that well; the classic clash is lowered suspension with 17-inch wheels, which can cause clearance issues. Big alloys can destroy the ride too, while sports exhausts can make long journeys unbearably noisy.

VALUES

High-mileage tatty Pumas start at £500 or less, but they’ll need some TLC; typical things that need doing include fresh cam belts, new clutches and tidying of the bodywork. You need to spend at last £800 to secure a Puma that doesn’t need immediate expenditure – even better if you can run to £1200 for something genuinely tidy. Really nice low-mileage cars can still cost over £2500, and you can easily pay double this (or more) for a cherished Racing Puma – although few of these are available at any one time. We’d recommend going for a 1.7-litre, but the key thing is to buy on condition rather than specification.

DRIVING ONE

Because it’s based on the post-1995 Fiesta platform, the Puma is perky, agile and great fun to drive as well as typically Ford-easy, but if you buy 1.4-litre edition it won’t feel especially sporty; the 89bhp unit gives 112mph and 0-60 in a fair 10.8 seconds plus at least there’s cheaper road tax and insurance. The later 101bhp 1.6, feels much perkier but pick of the bunch is the 123bhp 1.7-litre unit that was
never used on any other Ford and gives the Puma the crisp urge its looks deserve. With a slick gearbox and sure-footed front-wheel drive handling, the Puma is entertaining.

Potentially even more fun is the 152bhp Racing Puma, which looks superb and is a real pocket-sized road racer that’s certainly going to be a future classic. But the suspension is utterly unforgiving, which makes regular driving very uncomfortable.



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