3 Feb 2013

Living with (and loving) - Ford Puma - Part 2

@LeahRebeccaUK writes about her Ford Puma.  This is quite long (and funny) so sit down, make a brew and enjoy. Part 1 is here

The Ford Puma (And my love affair with it) 

Part 2
Living with a Puma 

It’s not really a two-plus-two because the rear seats are actually usable and comfortable, although it is a little dark back there. My first Puma and I parted after I’d owned it for nine years – far and away a record for me, and even then my only reason for selling was that it was going to need some sills and some welding and quite a lot of money to get it through the MOT. I’d also decided by then that it needed bigger brakes and a few other bits and pieces, most of which were standard on later version Puma, so why bother. 

So, sadly, I didn’t. In those nine years and 69,000 miles, it let me down twice. Just twice. Once was the battery when it lost a cell, but as this was the cars original from the factory and died when I’d had the car five years, I can’t moan. The other time was the starter-motor, which suddenly got tight and seized when I’d gone over 110,000 miles. And here we come to the other reason I love Pumas. They give so much, yet are very cheap to keep on the road. 

Most suspension and engine parts are from a Fiesta, and therefore easy to source and inexpensive. Whatever you’re driving right now, I bet a new half-decent tyre will cost you £80 a corner, yes? I can get a 195/50.15 for £46. It adds up, you see. Or rather, it doesn’t. And because Pumas were fitted with decent immobilisers insurance companies quite like them, and only put them in group 12. I’ve found that a Puma is cheap to run, cheap to insure, and cheap for parts and work. 

You simply cannot go wrong. I won’t begin to list the exotic machinery I’ve embarrassed in my Puma, but believe me when I say that this list is long and distinguished. To get past me on roads I know, you’ll need to be in something like a Porsche Boxter S and yes, I’m being quite serious. A Puma punches way above its weight, and very often, wins.

To summarise 

It’s not perfect.  It was designed in a real hurry on a computer and, as such, has a couple of issues. One of these you’ll discover when you first open the tailgate in the rain.  What happens is, you fill the boot with about a litre of water. You can get around this easily by learning to open it very slowly, giving the gutters a chance to clear. Get used to that and you’ll be fine.

Next, the headlights are very beautiful to look at – being the first projector headlights out there, but have a problem insofar as they don’t actually work very well as headlights. I spent a lot of money trying different bulbs until I found something which meant I could see at night, which is quite important! The high beams are fantastic but you’ll need to upgrade the low beam standard ones and also they’re not standard UK fittings so it’s a bit of a faff.

Do NOT do what I did and chose a Puma without aircon! The glass area is large, only the front windows open, and due to an oversight in the mirror design (later rectified) opening the windows in a Puma while moving doesn’t fill your face – or the cabin, with air. What happens in summer is you cook. It can become unbearable and it really isn’t something you can live with.

Everything is Fiesta inside, plus some shiny bits. The cabin is functional yet practical and is a pretty place to be at night. Remember a Puma is a pretty basic machine, but that’s one of the attractions, also. No trip computers, no driver aids, it just lets you get on with driving it. One shiny bit to mention is the beautiful, solid aluminium, gear selector made from a solid block, which will freeze your hand to in winter, and burn in summer. Be warned!

You’ll go through front brake flexi’s (consider armoured ones as they’ll save you money) and Pumas inherit a problem from its sister Fiesta in that the heater control valves is prone to fail and need replacing - just make sure you do so with a Ford one, or it’ll last a week.

And that’s about it, really. I’ve recently got my second Puma and honestly, unless Ford stop mucking about and build a new EuroPuma (please don’t give it a guppy mouth if you do, though!), there’s nothing out there I’d rather have, and certainly offering the bang per buck.

The views here are, of course, personal and my own, but in these days of driver assist and computer control, I’d rather have my hands on something I control. Something which talks to me and lets me know what’s going on. I’ll stick with my Puma. Oh yes – that’s something else I’ve noticed. It’s always “The Puma”. I’ve never done that before, it’s always just been ”the car”. The only other people I know do this are Jag owners, and that’s not bad company, eh!?

Do you want one? 

The only Puma to consider is the 1.7, and there are plenty out there. You also need to know that most of them have the wrong oil in, needing a special semi-synthetic due to its nikasil bores and to run the variable valve timing properly, and not a lot of people know that (did you do the voice?) so stuff them full of the standard zetec stuff. 

This is not good and will need sorting asap. Also most of them out there will be showing rusty arches cancer, something caused mainly by the stuff Ford packed the arches with to help with sound absorption, which sadly also retains water. With so many of them out there, I’m amazed that someone hasn’t started a service offering to sort this (hint). The standard 1.7 Pumas had cloth seats and a decent hifi and a cassette deck and radio. All have traction control and ABS. Later ones had a better spec and more toys, as well as the special additions. You have a choice of;

Puma Thunder 

Quantity Produced: 1000 each in Moondust Silver and Magnum Grey

Quantity Remaining: 1,769 as of 2011

Years available: 2000(X) to 2002(52)

These were among the final 2000 Pumas produced. Although Moondust Silver was available throughout the whole of the Puma's production run, Magnum Grey was only available on the Thunder Edition. All of the Thunder editions featured a 'Midnight Black' (dark grey) leather interior, 6 disc CD changer and multispoke alloys similar to those featured on the Fiesta Zetec-S.

Puma Black 

Quantity Produced: 1600

Quantity Remaining: 1,381 as of 2011

Years available: 2000(X) to 2001(51)

The Puma Black featured a 'Midnight Black' (dark grey) leather interior, Panther Black paintwork and Ford's 'F1' style alloys. The original quantity of the Puma Black was meant to be only 1000, but as the edition proved to be popular, an additional 600 were produced.

Millennium Puma 

Quantity Produced: 1000

Quantity Remaining: 755 as of 2011[4]

Years available: 1999(V) to 2000(X)

The Ford Millennium Edition cars were produced to commemorate the Millennium Products Award from the Design Council [5] in 1999 for being 'The first Ford in Britain designed solely on computer and in record time.' The Millennium Edition Puma featured eye catching Zinc Yellow paintwork, and an 'Alchemy Blue' (dark/navy blue) leather interior with Recaro seats. A numbered badge and keyring were available upon purchase from Ford, but the cars were not automatically numbered.

The Puma was the only car in Ford UK history that had a waiting list, and was still selling strongly when Ford stopped production, mainly because they were about to produce a new Fiesta and the Puma was based on the floorplan and running gear of their old one. I hope I’m wrong, but I have a feeling we’ll not see its like, again. The engine, made in Spain, shipped to Japan(!) for modification, then sent to Germany, where all Pumas were made. Madness, such wonderful madness, of which the world is currently bereft, in these soulless and auspicious times.

If you consider yourself any sort of petrolhead, and you’ve not driven one of these yet, you need to do so - simples. I’ve never been so impressed with a car before and I love the things so much I’d still probably have one in my ideal three-car garage. Only that would be an FRP and that’s only a dream, but maybe one day, huh? I sometimes wish it had just a little more power, and people suggest putting a two litre zetek in it, but the joy of that revvy 1.7 is what the Puma is all about, and I think that would spoil it, somehow. So I’ll leave it be and just enjoy the thing, and I bet if you see me I’ll be smiling ; )