£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

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

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.

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