by Jeff Mullins 01/10/12
Ford is a company that has always catered to the middle man. Cars such as the Escort and Cortina over generations provided transport to the average family who sought nothing more than basic, reliable motoring. Of course there were sporting and rallying versions of these cars, but their basic underlying purpose was always catering to the masses. Out of these cars, Ford decided to produce a sports car for the common man. Being experts in eliminating unnecessary cost and producing cars as efficiently as possible (they did invent the assembly line after all), Ford eventually managed to come up with a two door sports coupe that did not cost the earth to buy. Termed “The car you always promised yourself” in marketing material, the Ford Capri created a revolution at the turn of the 1970’s. Through three different marks; Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3, it established a niche of its own that was soon followed by GM/Opel with the Manta and no doubt played an influence in the development of other cars such as Volkswagen’s Scirocco.
The final Ford Capri rolled off the production line in 1986 and no car in the Ford model range has managed to recreate its appeal since that time. The Mazda based Probe arrived in 1993 without much acclaim and suffered at the hands of Steve Coogan’s comedy writing when it was the car of choice for his ‘Gareth Cheeseman’ character in the sketch Dearth of a Salesman. This was followed by the Cougar in 1998 which was thoroughly an American car and did not translate well to European tastes. In between the Probe and the Cougar however came something that was a little bit of a hit and retains a cult following today. The Ford Puma arrived in 1997 and was the third car to emerge from Ford’s ‘New Edge’ design language after the Ka and facelifted Mondeo. Underpinnings were provided by the well acclaimed 1995 Fiesta and immediately it was recognised as one of the finest handling cars in production. The steering was beautifully weighted and the chassis contained a certain tenacity that inspired such confidence in the driver that tail happy antics were a common theme when driven with vigour. Externally, the car looked thoroughly modern and was a car styled in anticipation for the approaching 21st century. Black projector headlamps gave a moody appearance at the front while the rear featured sealed pod items integrated into the rather pert tail.
Engines in the Ford Puma were separate from the Fiesta and co-developed with Yamaha of Japan. For the first three years of the car’s production there was the 1.4 litre Zetec-S with 90bhp as well as the 1.7 litre Zetec-S with 123bhp. Both are cambelt driven and have separate intervals for renewal; the 1.4 litre requiring it at 100k miles/10 years and the 1.7 litre at a shorter 80k miles/ 5 years. In 1999 an upgraded version of the 1.7 litre was used in the Ford Racing Puma delivering 153bhp. Built by Tickford, only 500 were eventually produced and it is highly distinguishable as a special edition, with wider tracking and beefed up arches. In 2000 the 1.4 litre was replaced by a 1.6 litre with 103bhp and it ran alongside the 1.7 litre until production finally finished in 2001.
Common colours on the Puma were Stardust Moon (Silver), Pacific Green (Turquoise) and Panther Black. Less common are Melina Blue and Radiant Red, while many other shades offered at the time such as Electric Green and Thistle (Purple) were not suited to the more conservative tastes of the UK and Irish markets.
Issues on the Ford Puma are not too many and aside from rust on UK imports or neglected examples, there is nothing majorly of concern. Corrosion in areas such as the rear wheel arches is not unheard of and can be an NCT failure on cars with it present. Other than that, 1.7 litre models have a tendency to use excess oil as they get leggier and heaters can malfunction due to a failed control valve, which can be costly in labour to replace.
Ford Puma’s are at their bottom market value at present and if you look hard enough, a decent ‘98/99/00 example can be obtained for near the thousand euro mark. That said, most cars will have either service history missing at that price or be generally rough around the edges. Racing Puma’s are far more specialised vehicles that go for several times the above price, therefore they requiring more in-depth research than the regular Puma when buying, provided you find one of course.