£500 Chal­lenge: Puma races a tube train – which com­muter wins?

James pits the Puma against the Un­der­ground in a cross-Lon­don dash

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Living With Classics -

JAMES SADLIER A friend of mine claims that the Lon­don Un­der­ground is the fastest and least stress­ful way of get­ting around the na­tion’s cap­tial. So when he re­cently said that he had to get from Cock­fos­ters to Heathrow on the Pic­cadilly Line, I chal­lenged him to get to his des­ti­na­tion faster than I could in CCW’s £500 Ford Puma. He said that this was un­fair be­cause I could cruise around the M25 and eas­ily get to Heathrow first, even in heavy traf­fic. So I agreed to drive via Hol­born tube sta­tion and take roughly the same route as the train be­fore meet­ing up with him at Hat­ton Cross tube sta­tion car park.

While he ran in to Cock­fos­ters sta­tion to get his ticket, I had to wait to get out of the car park – not a great start – but the drive through East Bar­net and East Finch­ley to Cam­den was smooth and quick. Traf­fic lights were turn­ing green en masse and I sensed that I was ahead of the train, which I reck­oned would be slowed down by stop­ping at sta­tions to al­low the cap­i­tal’s com­muters to dis­em­bark.

The Puma was in its el­e­ment on north Lon­don’s busy ur­ban streets, but I hadn’t ac­counted for most of the roads south of King’s Cross be­ing jammed with stop-start traf­fic. Fre­quently not know­ing which lane I was sup­posed to be in didn’t help ei­ther, but the lit­tle Puma darted through nar­row gaps in the traf­fic and al­lowed me to ac­cel­er­ate quickly into the right lane. I even got the the bet­ter of a few black cabs. So long, guv’nor!

The traf­fic be­gan to thin out be­yond Soho, West­min­ster and Bel­gravia and the A4 through Ham­mer­smith beck­oned en route to the M4 be­yond. I’d lost so much time in Lon­don that I knew I’d need a mir­a­cle to reach Heathrow be­fore my tube-trav­el­ling friend, so it was a re­lief to find only light traf­fic on the mo­tor­way. Im­pres­sively, the Puma felt as per­fectly at ease here as it had ear­lier in all that city traf­fic.

As I pulled in to Hat­ton Cross tube sta­tion car park, I could see my friend wait­ing and grin­ning with vic­tory. He’d made the jour­ney in an easy 91 min­utes, whereas I’d taken an hour and 46 min­utes.

Still, driv­ing the Puma through heavy Lon­don traf­fic had been great fun – it was the per­fect car for the job.

James found the CCW Puma’s twin brother on the way home from Lon­don – though it was a lot dirt­ier! The Ford Puma on the start­ing line at Cock­fos­ters un­der­ground sta­tion. Traf­fic here was light, but that wouldn’t last for long…


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