£500 Chal­lenge

Ford Puma

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

DAVID SIMISTER

A state of emer­gency had been de­clared in the CCW of­fices. The tea and cof­fee so vi­tal for keep­ing Nick Larkin caf­feinated were in plen­ti­ful sup­ply, but our stash of cheese and crack­ers to nib­ble on had vir­tu­ally run out.

Reg­u­lar read­ers will know I’ve a soft spot for the brightly coloured dairy snacks, but it can’t just be any old spot of su­per­mar­ket fod­der. Which is why our £500 Puma found it­self be­ing pressed into ac­tion for an­other im­por­tant mis­sion – sniff­ing out the na­tion’s finest cheese, no less.

A few months ago the search for savoury snacks took X147 OBV out to Ched­dar to stock up – but I now reckon it’s not the best op­tion out there for keep­ing the likes of Nick from go­ing hun­gry.

So I took a tip from Wal­lace and Gromit and ven­tured up to York­shire in­stead – home of Wens­ley­dale, of course. The fact that the dairy has some of the na­tion’s great­est driv­ing roads on its doorstep had ab­so­lutely noth­ing to do with it. Hon­est.

Two hours af­ter point­ing the Puma’s pert nose on to the A1 it was hap­pily scur­ry­ing through the tiny vil­lages of the York­shire Dales, where it re­ally did come into its el­e­ment. The sharp, snappy steer­ing and the beau­ti­fully con­trolled cor­ner­ing man­age to make Peter­bor­ough’s round­abouts fun; but up north on some proper roads the en­joy­ment fac­tor was on an­other level.

The only place it strug­gled was on the ini­tial sec­tion of the But­ter­tubs Pass, which clings per­ilously to the scenery be­fore drop­ping 1700ft into Hawes, the pic­turesque mar­ket town where Wense­ley­dale has been made for cen­turies. As the 1.4-litre Zetec en­gine fizzed its way past 4000rpm on the long slog to the sum­mit, I won­dered how much of a dif­fer­ence hav­ing the ex­tra 300cc of the orig­i­nal Puma would’ve made, but in the cor­ners and on the down­hill sec­tions I’d say our cheaper car is just as good at the grins-per-gal­lon fac­tor.

Nor did I have any wor­ries about bits of trim fall­ing off or electrics pack­ing up. I’ve come to ex­pect the Puma to chuck a cou­ple of mal­adies our way on these big ad­ven­tures, but this time the mis­chievous cen­tral lock­ing and var­i­ous other trou­ble­some bits de­cided to be­have them­selves, with only a slightly para­noid wind­screen washer sen­sor trig­ger­ing a dash­board warn­ing light.

’The ver­dict’s still out if the team will en­joy Wens­ley­dale’s cheeses...’

Maybe the fresh air up north’s been do­ing it good.

More im­por­tantly it reached the Wens­ley­dale Cream­ery in­tact, ready to cart the pre­cious sup­plies back to the of­fice. Af­ter some im­por­tant prod­uct test­ing – which in­volved loi­ter­ing a lit­tle too long around the free sam­ples – I de­duced that the Wens­ley­dale with­out any ad­di­tional flavour­ings was just what we needed, plus a size­able batch of the in-house oak-smoked ched­dar. The lat­ter’s some­thing I’d hap­pily drive two hours to fetch – it’s re­ally some­thing.

The Puma’s taken some of Bri­tain’s tough­est roads in its stride, but the ver­dict’s still out on whether the team will en­joy Wens­ley­dale’s cheeses as much as Ched­dar’s. If they don’t, I’ll just have to take the Puma out and sniff out some­thing bet­ter.

No pres­sure, then…

Made it! David lands at the Wens­ley­dale Cream­ery just in time for a spot of dairy shop­ping.

X147 OBV pauses for breath at Rib­ble­head, where the Set­tle to Carlisle rail­way line crosses Batty Moss.

David and the Puma ven­tured to Ched­dar last year to sniff out cheese – will York­shire’s be any bet­ter?

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