Hot stuff up north

Chris takes our bar­gain Puma on a 500-mile jaunt. But we for­got to tell him that the air­con’s bro­ken

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

CHRIS HOPE I’ve been itch­ing for a go in our £500 Chal­lenge Puma. The rest of the CCW team have given our res­i­dent Ford coupé plenty of pos­i­tive re­views, but so far all I’ve been tasked with is the trou­ble of re­plac­ing its wind­screen. So when my wife and I needed to visit the in-laws three hours up the road in Gateshead I did the sen­si­ble thing, nab­bing the keys when no-one was look­ing. X147 OBV was fu­elled up and ready to hit the A1 but there was dis­s­ap­point­ment as I’d set­tled into the driver’s seat. It was a hot sum­mer af­ter­noon with tem­per­a­tures were up past 20 de­grees in many parts of the UK, but the air con­di­tion­ing wasn’t work­ing. It’s a fault which I’ve since dis­cov­ered has been men­tioned in

CCW be­fore but which hasn’t as yet been re­solved ( Sorry about that - Ed).

This left me mind­ful of news ed­i­tor Mur­ray Scul­lion’s warn­ing that the driver’s side elec­tric win­dow oc­ca­sion­ally takes the day off, es­pe­cially as my in-laws opt not to use their garage for its in­tended pur­pose. Thank­fully the electrics be­haved as im­pec­ca­bly as the car it­self han­dled the task of fer­ry­ing us there and back.

The Puma’s fuel econ­omy is im­pres­sive, too. I’m not one to work out mpg fig­ures ac­cu­rate to the near­est sin­gle dec­i­mal place, but hav­ing left Peter­bor­ough with a full tank, it made it to Gateshead with the gauge read­ing just over a quar­ter of a tank. Re­fill­ing it again cost less than £25. Try do­ing that in our S280!

The jour­ney it­self, aside from al­ter­nat­ing be­tween be­ing ei­ther noisy (with the win­dows down) or sticky (win­dows up, blow­ers blast­ing us with warm air) was de­light­fully un­event­ful. The ride’s come in for some crit­i­cism when things be­come twisty, bumpy, choppy or all of the above, but there was no sense of that on the smooth dual-car­riage­ways and mo­tor­way sec­tions I was us­ing.

It gives a good ac­count of it­self at cruis­ing speeds, too. I’d as­sumed that there was a 1.7-litre VCT en­gine un­der the bon­net – it wasn’t un­til Mur­ray and I com­pared notes back in the of­fice that I dis­cov­ered that it was ac­tu­ally a 1.4-litre Zetec. It says some­thing for this smaller en­gine’s gusto that it does a good job of mask­ing the 33bhp deficit.

As a way of doc­u­ment­ing our trip, we de­cided to nip into New­cas­tle for a wan­der and a cof­fee by the city’s fa­mous Quay­side, now sadly mi­nus the in­fa­mous Tuxedo Princess –a for­mer car ferry con­verted into a float­ing night­club, com­plete with ro­tat­ing dance­floor – but we did at least get to cross the Tyne via the Grade II-listed Swing Bridge. It would seem that the Puma, which has now been out of pro­duc­tion for 15 years, has be­come a rare enough sight in these parts to grab the at­ten­tion of passers-by as I took pho­tos of it be­neath the Tyne Bridge. That said, more than 90 per cent of its pro­duc­tion to­tal has been taken off the road ac­cord­ing to how­manyleft.co.uk. Or maybe those who spot­ted it while out were merely dis­gusted by the sight of the Puma’s orange-orange

fl ecked rear whee­larches. I’m pleased to add that the Puma’s wind­screen hasn’t been chris­tened with its first stone chip ei­ther. I know I’ll hit the roof when that day comes…

Wind noise at 70mph or slowly cook? Poor Chris curses us for not fix­ing the air­con. Some time­less de­sign here – and the Baltic Cen­tre for Con­tem­po­rary Art. The Tyne Bridge is rather more solid than our £500 Puma.

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