Monday, 23 April 2012

Why the Ford Racing Puma ruled the roost in Wales

TWO things surprised me in the wilds of deepest Wales, where a couple of car-loving friends and I ventured last weekend for a bit of full-throttle fun.

Firstly that everyone there, even when we had to ask for an extraordinary amount of help after a breakdown, is lovely. With the exception of a slightly surly barmaid in Aberyswyth each and every person seemed to bend over backwards for us - in fact one pub landlord, upon hearing we needed something to seal a punctured radiator, actually ventured up to his farm to fetch us some araldite. What a guy!

But the one lingering memory I'll have of enjoying the twisty mountain roads around Dolgellau and Llangurig won't be the relentless rain we had almost all weekend, or the stunning scenery. It'll be the Ford Racing Puma and the rally-bred buzz of its exhaust note. Most of you will have forgotten the Racing Puma even existed, overshadowed by the Escort Cosworth that went before it and the go-faster Focuses that followed.

Ford took a normal 1.7 Puma and gave it to tuning firm Tickford, who then rebuilt it from scratch at great expense, which is why it cost more than a significantly more powerful Subaru Impreza Turbo when it was new. As a result only a couple of hundred were ever made, meaning that it's not only spine-tingingly quick but incredibly rare these days.

Sure, its sharpened-up steering rack means it's a pain to park at Sainsbury's but in Wales it ruled the roost, even though it was up against my neat 'n' nimble two seater roadster, a Rover Metro GTi - don't laugh, it's much faster than you think - and a Volkswagen Polo equipped with a supercharger which cost more than the engine it was attached to. On the face of it, it's still just a Puma (which is itself a great little car) but it's only on really demanding roads that you realise where all the £23,000 asking price went. Every single component, from the splitter to the wildly flared arches, has been designed with devouring B-roads in mind.

It's a shame the Racing Puma's been almost erased from non-petrolhead memory, because it is a frantic future classic in the best fast Ford tradition. Oh, and the people of Wales all told us they loved it. See, I told you they were lovely...

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