£500 Challenge: How many shows can the Puma cram in to one day?
David attempts to discover how much Drive-It Day you can cram into a single outing – and wonders nervously whether the Puma can cope
DAVID SIMISTER So our Puma has a few tricks up its sleeve. It can survive rutted tracks better suited to Land Rovers and amaze everyone by making a gallon of petrol last an unlikely 51 miles on its trip to Wales ( CCW, 26 April). And now it’s the winner of our unofficial £500 Challenge popularity contest.
If ever there’s an errand to be run, X147 OBV’s keys almost always get picked up before the S-class’s (too thirsty) and the MG’s (too firm). Which is why my buttocks returned to the Puma’s driving seat only a few days after I’d handed it back – I needed a car comfy enough to survive a car show marathon, and nimble enough for the roads I’d encounter on the way.
The challenge was going to be as tough for me as it would be for our feisty Ford. If you read last week’s issue you’ll know that Drive-It Day is the biggest date in the classic car calendar, but I was determined to find out just how enormous the initiative, spearheaded by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, really is. So I decided to see how many of its shows I could cram into a single day.
It started with a trip back to Blackburn, where we picked up our 1.4-litre Puma last July. Even then we knew it was suffering from acute Rusty Rear Arch Syndrome – a potentially fatal condition that affects virtually all Pumas out in the wild – but we hadn’t banked on the succession of niggles, from rattly trim, central locking with a mind of its own and tired bushes. But it’s never put a foot wrong mechanically, and delivered me to the town’s Northern Sports Club, where more than 60 classics were preparing for the Lancashire Automobile Club’s Drive-It Day run.
The Puma’s sprightly steering would’ve gone down a treat on their tour past Pendle Hill, but I had another event to get to – Wigton Motor Club’s classic gathering, held nearly 80 miles away in the Lake District. It’s one of the North’s biggest Drive-It Day events, but to get there the Puma would have to excel both on the long cruise up the M6 and on the twisty roads towards Dalemain, the stately home used as the venue. The 1.4-litre Zetec felt a little thrashy on the former, but it was superb at the latter, threading its way through the A592’s bends with ease. It arrived bang on time, and my reward was seeing a sea of classics stretching right the way across the grounds.
Not that I had long to enjoy it – after picking up a few snaps for our Drive-It Day coverage it was time to head south towards Lancashire.
The Puma’s third destination was the Leisure Lakes Vintage Rally in Tarleton, and thanks to its ability to chomp through long stretches of motorway without becoming too jarring, it arrived with an hour or so to spare before the 4pm closing time. The event’s real draw is its steampowered machinery and commercial vehicles, but there’s always a healthy turnout of classic cars.
Against the odds the Ford had managed to squeeze three classic car shows into a single day, and was still going strong when I pointed its nose back on to the motorway for an even longer jaunt – I still needed to press on back to CCW’s home city of Peterborough, and it managed that without a whiff of complaint.
Its 51mpg might have gone for a burton, but I was hugely impressed with its surefootedness over 12 hours and more than 300 miles. But not as wowed as I was by how many cars were being enjoyed on Drive-It Day at shows and on the many roads connecting them. This was only scraping the surface of a nationwide success story – it just goes to show how big our hobby really is.
‘I was impressed with the Puma’s surefootedness over 300 miles’
The office mule can deliver 51mpg and 300 miles in 12 hours – but not at the same time.
David made it to Dalemain in time for one of the North’s biggest Drive-It Day displays.