RE: Ford Puma: PH Used Buying Guide

RE: Ford Puma: PH Used Buying Guide

Wednesday 16th May 2018

Ford Puma: PH Used Buying Guide

On the hunt for a Puma? Pounce on our buying guide first...



It seems almost obscene in these days of spiralling prices for some very so-so mid-1990s sports cars that Ford's Puma can still be had in fine fettle for Β£1,000. Still, it also means you can enjoy one of the very best driver's cars to emerge from that decade, or any other.

Based on the humble Ford Fiesta chassis, the Puma was nigh on perfect from the moment it was launched in 1997. The press loved it, dealers loved it and buyers thought it brilliant. All of these plaudits were for the 1.7-litre version, which came with variable valve timing courtesy of a cylinder head designed and fitted by Yamaha. It gave the Puma a fizzy, rev-happy nature that suited its superb handling and pin sharp steering.

By comparison, the 1.4-litre base model, and the 1.6 that replaced it in late 2000, just felt too slow to make the most of the handling. Even so, the 1.7 needed 8.6 seconds to get from 0 to 60mph, but the almost metronomic precision of the five-speed manual gearbox let you keep it sparking away around 7,000rpm where peak power of 125hp was produced.


Early Pumas had quite simple fabric upholstery and, in usual Ford fashion, a number of special editions followed with leather seats, fancy body colours and different alloy wheels.

However, the only significant change to the Puma in its all too short life was the launch of the Racing model. It took the 1.7-litre engine to 153hp thanks to a new intake manifold, camshafts, exhaust and ECU. That resulted in 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds and an increased top speed of 126mph over the standard 1.7's 123mph.

In many ways, the Racing Puma didn't feel special enough to warrant the big jump in price, even if the cabin was decked out with excellent Sparco seats trimmed in Alcantara. However, it was the handling that made it shine. The track was 70mm wider and firmer springs made it almost impossible to keep up with on twisty roads. Ford only made 500, all painted Imperial Blue metallic, and a handful were specified with a limited slip differential that makes these cars even more desirable to collectors now.

Search for Ford Pumas here


Due to its rarity, a Racing Puma will cost from Β£10,000 upwards depending on mileage and condition, but you can be sure prices will continue to rise. For the rest of the Puma breed, you can pick up scabby examples for less than Β£500, while Β£1,000 should find you a car in decent nick but with some rust bubbles showing through. Spend twice that and you can bag a very clean 1.7 that will make you smile every time you drive it.


Bodywork and interior

Rust is the natural predator of the Puma. Most of it will be obvious on the rear wheelarches and sills, but also check around the fuel filler and pretty much anywhere else you can see. If caught early, the rear arches are a simple, cheap fix, but if the rot has spread it can be too costly to repair as panels are hard to come by. Also, inspect the boot floor as it was poorly protected from the factory.

The Racing Puma also suffers from corrosion, though most have been more pampered. Its problem stems from the wider rear wings being glued and welded over the original body. Rust happens out of sight, so you need to strip the interior panels to inspect in here. Repair panels are available, but restoring rot here can run to Β£5,000.

The Racing Puma has aluminium front wings and there are no new panels available, so that means scouring for good used ones if they're damaged

Racing Puma bumpers are made from fibreglass and are very susceptible to knocks, so check them carefully.

The standard car's interior wears well, but the Racing Puma's Sparco front sports seats quickly scuff. Matching the blue Alcantara is a tricky job.


Engine and transmission

Overheating is common due to a faulty thermostat. If the temperature dial fluctuates, replace the thermostat as a preliminary measure.

If the throttle hesitates during a test drive, its position sensor needs replacing, which will cost around Β£40 for a new sensor.

The 1.7-litre engine is best run on 5W-30 semi-synthetic oil.

Cambelt changes are required every five years or 80,000 miles.

Some 1.7s have suffered from bore wear, so look for smoke from the exhaust, poor starting and oil leaks.

Any misfire is probably due to the HT leads shorting due to coolant leaking on to them.


Suspension and steering

Sloppy, worn bushes ruin the Puma's handling. Original spec replacements are cheap and easy to fit, but a better bet might be polybushes to give a longer lasting fix and firm up the suspension without losing the supple ride.

The Racing Puma gained Eibach springs and Sachs shock absorbers, which are no longer available new.

Wheels, tyres and brakes

Look for uneven tyre wear as a sign of worn suspension.

Alcon supplied the brakes for the Racing Puma and they need a service every 3,000 miles to maintain their excellent bite. The calipers can corrode and repairs will cost up to Β£700, while front discs are Β£400 for aftermarket items.

Search for Ford Pumas here

Search for Fords


SPECIFICATION - FORD PUMA
Engine: 1388/1596/1679cc 4-cyl inline
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Power (hp): 89/105/125/153@5500/5500/6300/7000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 92/107/116/118@4500rpm
MPG: 39.0/38.0/38.0/35.0
CO2: 171/171/178/NAg/km
Price new: Β£14,550
Price now: Β£500 upwards

Β 

Author
Discussion

petrolinveins

Original Poster:

40 posts

112 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
Ran one for a tear as my first car. Still got it, failed mot on rust as per though. Both sills and arches flaky. Parts are very cheap and it's a riot in the bends even with tired bushes and shocks.

Jay_87

978 posts

154 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
I've owned 3 Puma's now one of which I've had for 10 years. Genuinely brilliant little cars and great fun on a track day!

Phil Dicky

5,922 posts

213 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
I've the intention to get one of these for my son and me. To use for track days and mod accordingly.

Taylor-nkv9v

5 posts

52 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
I've owned 3 1.7s and they are wonderful cars. I looked at replacing my last many times when my commute doubled but ended up doing 25,000 miles in just over a year. Uncomfortable for me being 6'3" but just so lovely to drive (steering, gearshift, engine, handling) compared to a lot of modern superminis. I often think about how much I miss my Puma when looking at a £17000 1.0 turbo that does 35mpg with electric steering assistance and a touchscreen! I personally wouldn't pay 5-10 times more than a 1.7 for a Racing when the standard car can be easily modified (or enjoyed as it is). You could argue it's one of the few classic Fords that you wouldn't feel guilty or anxious using, although it is becoming increasingly hard to find a really good one.

Limpet

3,611 posts

111 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
A mate and I bought a tatty one off eBay a couple of years ago with a short MOT and a slipping clutch for £174. After a bit of welding, a couple of hundred quid on bits, and a few weekends, it was freshly MOT'd and drove brilliantly.

Ragged it everywhere, and did a few track days in it, and it never missed a beat. We used to love taking it on track. It was always the cheapest car there, always one of the lowest powered, but never the slowest. Brakes would wilt after a few hard laps, but otherwise it stood up brilliantly.

As the MOT approached, a cursory look underneath found more serious rot setting in around the beam mounts and the rear inner sill area so we decided to call it a day while it still had some ticket on it. Sold it pretty quickly on a local Facebook group for £150 to a chap who wanted the engine and gearbox for a Fiesta project.

For fun per £ spent, it's the best car I've had by a mile.

anarki

506 posts

86 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
I will at some point do a readers car post on mine. To add to this topic I would also recommend a brake upgrade on the non-racing Puma. Pre-99 cars have 240mm discs, post 99, 260mm discs which were better but still not brilliant.

A cheap upgrade is to use the Fiesta ST 150 setup (Calipers, discs, pads) which is quite literally a straight swap and just fits behind the 15" wheels without faffing about, I did this 2 months into ownership.

Polybushing has been mentioned and I've done mine, people moan that polybushing the rear ruins the car but I haven't found that, its a tad harsher over our roads but not unbearable.

Cambelt, again mine had never been done, hence me being able to knock £200 off of the already reasonable asking price of £800. I got the belt done for £194 from my trusted independent 3 days after picking up my car.

Here is what £600 gets you, a 59k mile 1.7 Puma in decent shape. With bits I've done double that, so it owes me £1200 which I've already saved by selling my old Mercedes which was costing me £300 per month.










My advice is to pick one up whilst they're so cheap. They are also surprisingly practical, the rear seats fold down flat and the boot opening is generous if a tad high. I've had big bits of furniture in the back of mine. Genuinely the best car I've owned and I can't see me getting rid of it anytime soon.

Jon_S_Rally

731 posts

38 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
£1000 for a decent one? Seriously? My friend picked-up a solid, low owner, 50k mile 1.7 for £300 about 18 months ago. I'd expect a sodding concourse car for £1000.

On the FRP, didn't it use Mondeo hubs that were modified to change the strut angle to give the wider track? As well as different lower arms etc. Saying it had a wider track is perhaps under-selling just how modified it was over a standard Puma. A lot of money now though, given how much fun a normal one is.

Didn't buying guides on here used to be spread over several pages, rather than just one?

maxwellwd

156 posts

36 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
I love these cars, had one over 15 years ago but crashed it. Would love another one, they just all seem so rotten, quite a rare sight now and still look a pretty little thing. The racing in particular with the swollen arches still looks great. Where are people getting these full history, low mileage ones though for cheap? Unless they have rust, I have looked on and off over the years for a cheap one with no rust

Krikkit

17,473 posts

131 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
I really enjoyed my Puma - lots of design errors, and you could tell it was a cheaply rebodied Fiesta, but the 1.7 was a great engine.

Best bit? The gearknob. A lovely chunk of metal that felt just right.

Rust on these is incredible though - I bought one with a slight bubble around one rear arch, got underneath it a couple of months into ownership and put my hand through the body underneath - an A4-sized bit of sill just disappeared as soon as I leant on it, and it'd rotted from the inside out. The piece that came off was pristine on the outside.

culpz

4,062 posts

62 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
These can be bought criminally cheap. I always get tempted by the 1.7. Besides the rust, they seem to be pretty tough things. My old KA only really suffered the usual Ford rot and that was about it. Other than that, not much went wrong with it and it would be nice to have the extra oomph that the Puma provides.

Will they eventually become future classics, do we think?

deepthought

24,436 posts

147 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
culpz said:
These can be bought criminally cheap. I always get tempted by the 1.7. Besides the rust, they seem to be pretty tough things. My old KA only really suffered the usual Ford rot and that was about it. Other than that, not much went wrong with it and it would be nice to have the extra oomph that the Puma provides.

Will they eventually become future classics, do we think?
Yes definitely future classics.

Apparently Peugeot 206 front wings have a very close profit to Puma rear quarter panels. Its a relatively straighforward matter to cut out the arches and weld in the new metal from the 206 front wing. Brand new 206 wings are around £40.

It does surprise me though that noone is making a Puma rear arch repair panel

GTEYE

1,527 posts

160 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
Really really great cars to drive - one of those rare cars that just feels right.

And from the era when a sporty car didn't have to have 20" wheels and rock hard suspension.

Its a crying shame they were not better built - that "R" word seems to have crept into almost every comment above.

I'm sure it will be a future classic, and not only because so few will survive.

deepthought

24,436 posts

147 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
GTEYE said:
Really really great cars to drive - one of those rare cars that just feels right.

And from the era when a sporty car didn't have to have 20" wheels and rock hard suspension.

Its a crying shame they were not better built - that "R" word seems to have crept into almost every comment above.

I'm sure it will be a future classic, and not only because so few will survive.
Ironically there is "headroom" in the value of them to do the repairs.

They can be pickup up for £500 easily, needing rear arches done, yet mint ones are making £1,500-£2,000.

Thats quite unusual because its usually uneconomically viable to do such major work

Olivera

3,735 posts

189 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
Great pocket money cars, even if the standard arch gaps (rear in particular) make it look gimpy.

Limpet

3,611 posts

111 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
deepthought said:
It does surprise me though that noone is making a Puma rear arch repair panel
When I had mine, I was active on a number of Puma groups, and there was a company who were looking at doing a complete outer sill and rear arch repair panel, but there wasn't enough interest to make it worthwhile.

The Puma is at an awkward stage where it has an enthusiast following, but is so dirt cheap and plentiful that it isn't worth the time or money needed to restore a borderline car. As the supply of cars dwindles, values will start to rise, but at present, the cost of restoring an average one is significantly greater than the value of it once completed. Unless you're prepared to do it for love, or as a slightly risky long term investment, it makes no sense. Sure, you get the dreamers asking £2,500 for them as "future classics", but a grand is absolute top whack for a mint, standard low miler, realistically. The Racing Puma (or FRP as they are called), are already seriously collectable.

The Puma owners scene is quite bizarre. People fiercely defend them, condemn people who put them on a banger track, and do the whole 'classics in the making' thing, but few people are prepared to spend any money either to save, or restore them. Nobody in any of the Puma groups wanted mine for £150, but I actually got abuse from some for selling it to someone who was going to pull the engine out of it to use in a Fiesta. Very odd.

I think I will buy another this year while they are cheap.

GeordieInExile

625 posts

70 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
Just swapped a 9-3 for a 1.7 Puma as a) the Saab had borked aircon and b) I wanted something fun for thrashing around the countryside this summer. A year's ticket on it. The usual rear arch rust but it's a solid enough car. I'll enjoy the summer then swap it out for a winter hack of the Swedish variety.

I had a Puma as my first car and I'm enjoying it just as much second time around. That gearchange is the best I've ever experienced and the steering is perfectly weighted.

I've stuck a 30 quid box in the back of the OEM stereo as well so I can now play tunes through it from my phone. Happy days!


j4r4lly

170 posts

85 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
All these comments take me straight back to the Capri........ A few years back they too had slumped to bargain basement levels and were also horribly unfashionable. Many were trashed, thrashed and crashed and rot took many away to the breakers. Parts were available but the cars were worth almost nothing so no-one wanted to sped anything on them. Now the survivors are making good money and it's worth restoring them. Puma's could go the same way so worth buying a couple for a few hundred quid and sticking them in a barn/garage for a few years until they start to appreciate.

I don't think they'll ever get to the crazy values that some of the Capri's have (other than the FRP) but they may be worth enough that people will see the value in keeping them going. After all, they really are a superb car to drive.

molineux1980

1,063 posts

169 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
I've never driven a Puma, but I have a Fiesta Zetec S of a similar vintage. I think the Puma is effectively the same chassis?

It's a cracking car, just wish they had fitted the 1.7 engine to it! Sadly, it's also plagued by rust and i'm at the stage of either spending on repairing it (low mileage), or selling it on.

JonJon2015

161 posts

47 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
I can't help but nod in agreement with all that's been said above. Definitely one of those cars that's greater than the sum of its (probably rusty) parts.

Limpet said:
The Puma owners scene is quite bizarre. People fiercely defend them, condemn people who put them on a banger track, and do the whole 'classics in the making' thing, but few people are prepared to spend any money either to save, or restore them. Nobody in any of the Puma groups wanted mine for £150, but I actually got abuse from some for selling it to someone who was going to pull the engine out of it to use in a Fiesta. Very odd.
Whilst I would agree with your comments about the owners' scene (imagine the abuse I got for using FRP mechanicals in a Fiesta!), there is a huge collective knowledge about these cars on the various forums which makes troubleshooting, maintenance and part identification/sourcing simple. The Puma is really easy to work on which - for me, at least - adds to the appeal.

Limpet

3,611 posts

111 months

Wednesday 16th May 2018
quotequote all
molineux1980 said:
I've never driven a Puma, but I have a Fiesta Zetec S of a similar vintage. I think the Puma is effectively the same chassis?

It's a cracking car, just wish they had fitted the 1.7 engine to it! Sadly, it's also plagued by rust and i'm at the stage of either spending on repairing it (low mileage), or selling it on.
I've had both, and they do feel quite similar to drive, but the 1.7 gives much better performance than the small capacity hike suggests. The VCT gives really good torque through the rev range for a relatively small engine, and it just revs so sweetly that you can't help but use it all. Tough as well. Mine had 130k on it, and would still idle sweetly, and have a full sump of clean looking oil after a full day on track where it was mostly over 5000 RPM

For me, it's a shame they never released a mass produced version with more power. The chassis doesn't break a sweat with 125PS, and if it had the straight line pace to match the handling, it would be a seriously quick fast road/track car.

By the way, the 1.7 will drop pretty much straight in to your Zetec-S smile