PH BLOG: FORD'S SECRET LAUNCH WEAPON
Why a reincarnated Puma is still at the heart of every Ford product launch
Wondering why exactly there was a Brit-registered, left-hand drive Puma lurking in the wings on a new product launch I asked about and ended up directed to launch organiser Steve Woolmington. So, Steve, why the Puma?
Which means wherever Steve goes to recce launch routes around Europe the Puma goes with him, its simplicity, scrappy, seat-of-the-pants enthusiasm and chuckability just the thing for zipping back and forth along roads like the Col De Vence and leaving the launch cars free for the hacks.
The gleaming paintwork and immaculate condition attest to the affection in which it's held, the Puma still the pick of the fleet for Steve thanks to its simplicity. "It's got rain sensitive wipers - I switch them on when it rains - and the road sign recognition works as well as it does on the new cars ... I read them as I'm driving along and I know what the speed limit is!" he winks. "Seriously though, it reminds us of how far we've come. The steering is great but the low-speed ride is shocking which means it's great for assessing the state of the roads. I still love it and we still thrash it. I could use anything but I just like it!"
Fair play. And it's one of those little hints about the mindset of the guys at Ford that underlines that they're on our wavelength, like the after-hours Puma project that also came up in conversation over lunch. A 300hp four-wheel-drive mule running Focus WRC running gear nobody can quite recall what became of it. Sounds like a right giggle though...