The Ford Motor Company in Europe was rather pleased with the impact of its New Edge design strategy in the late 1990s, first fruit of which was the highly individual Ford Ka. People either loved or hated this controversial small car, but Ford definitely liked the waves made by their daring style initiative and decided to return to the well with the revised Mondeo (1996), the German-built Puma (1997) and Focus (1998).
The Puma was not the most extreme example of New Edge design, though it still didn’t please everyone. This three-door hatchback crouched in a somewhat feline manner, as though poised to spring forward suddenly from rest. The Puma was a 2+2 coupe based on the Ford Fiesta and came with front discs and rear drums, with an ABS system as an option. The Puma was a front-engined, front-wheel drive performance car that had four different engines over the production run, all 16-valve Sigmas branded as the Zetec-S. The various versions came in at 1.4 litres, 1.6 litres and two at 1.7 litres with different power output.
The Racing Puma was a bold enterprise that flopped. Originally one thousand high-performance specials were envisaged, but fewer than half were sold to the public. Each had a tuned 1.7 litre engine belting out 155 bhp, modified body shell, disc brakes all round and bucket seats. This model was painted in an exclusive shade of blue and sold only in the UK market as a right-hand-drive car. The Racing Pumas were created by the Ford Rally team at Boreham and modified by Tickford in Daventry.
When the Puma was discontinued in 2002 its replacement was not like for like, but instead the Ford StreetKa – a two-seater Fiesta-based convertible that at least used the Puma’s transmission and suspension live up to Ford’s high hopes.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1997 (until 2002)
1,388 cc, 1,596 cc or 1,679 cc Straight Four
Racing Puma – top speed of 126 mph (202 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.9 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Puma’s memorable launch campaign featured a born-again Steve McQueen in San Francisco together with a newborn Puma, thanks to clips from the iconic movie Bullitt and the latest digital wizardry.