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Ford Puma & Racing Puma: Buying guide and review (1997-2001)

Ford Puma & Racing Puma: Buying guide and review (1997-2001) Classic and Performance Car
Ford Racing Puma Ford Racing Puma Ford Racing Puma Ford Puma Ford Puma Ford Puma Ford Puma Ford Puma
“Pros: Everything. Cons: Nothing” – for years, evo Magazine’s brief but glowing summation of the Ford Puma 1.7 found in The Knowledge. Even today, it gives a pretty accurate description of what a great car the bargain coupe really is. 
 
Based upon the already fine-handling Mark 4 Fiesta, the Puma gained firmer suspension, a wider track and tweaked versions of Ford’s Sigma engines. The result was a sharp, playful chassis, which combined with the revvy engines and an undeniably pretty coupe body, made it one of the most desirable cars available on sale at the time.
 
It was affordable, too. Sharing so much with the Fiesta (much like the chassis, the dashboard design was near-identical too) kept prices low: costing £14,550 back in 1997, the Puma was cheaper than both the slower, more stale Vauxhall Tigra and the similarly-performing yet less exciting Renault Megane Coupe 2.0-litre. 
 
That price along with the Puma’s almost universally-glowing reviews helped ensure it became a great sales success for Ford. As a result, prospective buyers today are left with plenty of choice on the used market.
 
Which one to buy?
 
From its 1997 launch, the Puma was sold with a 1.7-litre engine, and six months later it was joined by a smaller 1.4 lump offering 90bhp. Unless insurance costs are a deal-breaker, we’d go for the larger engine – both are more than willing, but the 1.7’s extra shove (at 123bhp it has 33bhp more, not to mention an extra 24lb ft) makes it the more exciting drive. A 1.6-litre model replaced the 1.4 in October 2000, and its additional 10bhp helped to cut the 0-62mph time to from 10.8 seconds to 10 seconds flat.
 
Several trim level special editions were sold during the Puma’s life, including the Millennium (Zinc Yellow paint and dark blue leather Recaros) the Black (Panther Black paint, black leather, unique alloy wheels) and the Thunder (Magnum Grey or Moondust Silver paint, black leather, multispoke alloys and a six-disc CD changer.)
 
The rarest and most sought-after is the Racing Puma. Much more than a simple styling exercise, the FRP was developed by engineers from Ford’s rally team and finished by tuners Tickford. Wide arches help to accommodate a 70mm-wider track, while the more aggressive front bumper gains a deep splitter. Lightweight Speedline Turini alloys measure 17” in diameter and sit ahead of Alcon brakes, featuring discs (295mm at the front, 270mm rear) clamped by four-piston calipers. Handling was sharpened thanks to stiffer springs, and a limited-slip differential was optionally available from the factory. The standard 1.7-litre engine’s power output climbed to 152bhp (a 30bhp increase) courtesy of revised camshafts, uprated intake and exhaust systems and a tweaked ECU, good for a 7.9-second 0-62mph time. All 500 Racing Pumas were finished in Imperial Blue Metallic – a colour shared with the Escort Cosworth. 
 
With approximately 22,000 Pumas still registered on UK roads today there’s plenty of choice out there, so don’t feel pressured into jumping at the first example you find. The biggest bugbear is rust – particularly around the rear arches. Much like the contemporary Ka and Fiesta ranges, it’s more unusual to find a rust-free Puma than a corroded model. Given the car’s current values, it isn’t really economical to fix the rot. Best to find the cleanest car possible, then.
 
Performance and specs
 
Engine 1679cc inline four
Power 123bhp @ 6300rpm
Torque 116lb ft @ rpm
Top speed 126mph
0-62mph 9.2secs
Fuel consumption 38mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2446mm
Length 3984mm
Width 1837mm
Height 1315mm
Weight 1035kg
 
Common problems
 
• The Puma’s body has an infamous reputation for rusting. Rear arches in particular are known to rot from the inside out. Check for bubbling below the door sill, both rear wheel arches and around the fuel filler cap

• The Racing Puma’s brakes need frequent servicing to ensure that dirt from the road doesn’t foul the caliper’s pistons. Later versions of the regular Pumas can suffer from fluid leaks 

• The thermostat can give off inconsistent readings, which can cause overheating issues

• The 1.7-litre engine, co-developed with Yamaha, is somewhat fussy when it comes to oil. Ensure it’s filled with fresh 5W30 semi-synthetic to ensure the best running

• The throttle position sensor is another part which can cause issues, manifesting in a hesitant throttle, poor idling, and kangarooing at low revs. Replacements cost £30-£40, so it’s not a disaster to discover a Puma misbehaving in this way on a test drive
 
Model History
 
1997: Ford Puma launched
1999: Puma Millenium special edition offered unique yellow paint and a full leather interior. 1000 produced
Nov 1999: Racing Puma sales commence. 500 units produced in total
2000: Ford Puma Thunder released. Featured a choice of metallic grey or silver paint, black leather and Fiesta Zetec S-aping alloy wheels
2000: Ford Puma Black edition released. Features Black paint and leather interior, plus unique alloy wheels
Oct 2000: 1.6-litre petrol engine replaces 1.4
2001: Puma production ceases, though some cars were registered in 2002
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites
 
• www.projectpuma.com
• www.fordownersclub.com
• www.pumapeople.com
• pumabuild.com
 
Summary and prices
 
Due to the sheer numbers available, values for the bulk of the Puma range remain incredibly low. High mileage and almost certainly rusty – yet working – examples are available for barely £300. If you’re searching for a regular 1.7 in the finest corrosion-free condition, it’s unlikely you'll need to fork out much more than £2000. 
 
Due to their rarity and desirability, Racing Pumas, are worth significantly more, but still relatively affordable in comparison to many other Fast Fords. After settling around £5000 for several years, currently FRPs are beginning their steady climb towards the £10,000 mark. 
 
With so many parts shared with the Fiesta, service and perishable parts are cheap. Brand name tyres for the standard 15-inch tyres should only cost £60-£80 per corner, while a set of front brake disks and pads cost less than £40.

Words: Alex Ingram
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Last updated: 31st May 2016
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Ford Puma cars for sale

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Ford Puma
300 14995 GBP
  • Ford Puma 1999

    £300 £300

    1.4 Puma  3 door 4 seats, electric windows, standard ford CD player and radio  Mot til June Advisories on suspension and bushes  In great condition for age 111000 miles ish  one small bit of rust abouve one of the rear wheel arches   

    • Mileage: 110000 mi
    • Engine size: 1388
    For sale
    FridayAd
  • FORD PUMA RACING FRP BUILD No 468 Petrol Manual 2000 53000 Blue

    £14,995 £14,995

    AN EXTREMELY RARE OPPORTUNITY TO PURCHASE AN APPRECIATING MODERN CLASSIC FORD RACING PUMA WITH ONLY 500 EVER PRODUCED!;COMPLETELY STANDARD CAR! BUILD NUMBER 468.;;THIS PARTICULAR CAR HAS BEEN MAINTAINED REGARDLESS BY ITS PREVIOUS OWNERS AND THEN CARRIED ON BY OURSELVES INCLUDING ALL WHEELS STRIPPED BACK AND POWDER COATED, FULL SERVICE INCLUDING TIMING BELT KIT/ WATER PUMP REPLACED, NEW PUMA BUILD FRONT BRAKE DISCS WITH EBC BRAKE PADS, NEW REAR AXLE BUSHES, GEOMETRY SET UP, NEW PUMA BUILD STAINLESS STEEL ORIGINAL STYLE EXHAUST SYSTEM.;CAR WILL BE SUPPLIED WITH A FRESH MOT.;;FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL US ON 01743 463169 OR EMAIL TO ARRANGE A VIEWING.;;

    • Mileage: 53000 mi
    • Engine size: 1.679
    For sale
  • Ford Puma

    £495 £495

    Ford Puma 16v 2000 plateMOT February 2018Beaten and battered but drives well, low mileage 98k, some history, great cheap project or first car.

    • Mileage: 98000 mi
    • Engine size: 1679
    For sale
  • Ford Puma 1998

    £450 £450

    Ford puma  Service history Mot till July 17th Good condition for age Very smooth an reliable  Everything works as it should 500 ono

    • Mileage: 74 mi
    • Engine size: 1679
    For sale
  • Ford Puma 2001 Special Edition Black .

    £895 £895

    leather seats , Air Con, Electric windows, Alloy wheels ,Remote Central Locking , Two Keys, CD Player, recent full service new discs and pads , cam Belt replaced 5000 miles ago , exceptionally clean tidy car, long mot  

    • Mileage: 63621 mi
    • Engine size: 1679
    For sale
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