Buying used: Ford Puma

Buying used: Ford Puma
Buying used: Ford Puma

This handsome coupé can be yours for well under a grand

To some this might now look a slightly dated car, but to others it still retains an optimism and a zest that really marked it out at its launch in 1997. Based on the Fiesta Mk4, this 2+2 coupé was designed to wipe the smile from Vauxhall’s equally preppy Tigra coupé.

Although the Puma came with a choice of four engines over its run, that still wasn’t enough to stop Ford producing a Tickford-tuned special in 1999. The Racing Puma was the full ticket, with wider track, beefier suspension, race-bred brakes, racing seats and even the option of a limited-slip diff. With a pumped up 1.7-litre engine making 151bhp, the Racing version won’t be yours now for at least £13,000. But what interests us here is at the other end of the price spectrum.

The engine choices ranged from the 1.7-litre 16v VCT four-pot, and this is the most likely engine you’ll find now. In 1998 a 1.4-litre version with 89bhp made for cheaper insurance quotes, although by 2000 that engine was up to 1.6-litres and 102bhp.

If you could find one, we’d go for the Puma Thunder since that added leather and air con to a cabin that already had sports seats, while traction control and ABS were standard fitment across the range. With the 1.7-litre engine this makes for an exhilarating drive still, with the engine revving freely and the handling giving you confidence and fun in equal measure.

If there’s one aspect that might ruin your enjoyment it’s the dreaded rust. It can get everywhere, particularly around the rear, and it can be terminal. Rear panels and the sills are the favourites on the rust-monster menu, so check them out carefully. They can be fixed but be aware.

You’ll struggle to find original wings now, but Peugeot 206 front wings can be made to fit, and Ex-Pressed Steel Panels will provide remanufactured sills.

Otherwise your major concern is that this will be an older car and it may not have all the servicing paperwork, so look for all the obvious things. The timing belt will go to 100,000 miles, although it should be done every 80,000 or five years. The engine is pretty solid, as is the gearbox, so just use common sense when checking for wear, leaks and so on.

The front suspension bushes wear hard, so listen out for clonks. It’s all normal stuff really, but do put the effort into the paperwork. Check it all matches up and that the right engine is fitted as there’s no badging. Replacement engines are about £150 a pop so that’s not the end of the world either.

In fact you could get a Puma from as little as £250 although you’re probably also buying some rust as well. However cars in the £600-£900 bracket will be decent 2002 models with higher mileages but decent condition.

If you’re after the 1.6-litre engine as opposed to the 1.7 then you’ll need at least £850 to get a reasonable one, or a better condition 1.7. The best 1.7-litre cars are in the £1000-£1500 range, which will get you sort of 45k mileages on a 2001 or 2002 car and maybe some service history.

If you wanted the Puma Racing then, as mentioned, you’ll need a lot more, like £11,500 to close to £20,000 for a decent example. Cult status appears to be creeping in here.

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