Some people yearn for Ford to build cars like the old Galaxie 500 or Gran Torino again. After all, what is there to hate about a ginormous American rear-drive car with a big V8 out front? Because those vintage Fords are so likeable, it's understandable that someone would want them to brew up a new one.
But, as much I might like the idea of a new big rear-drive car from Ford myself, I'd honestly rather see them bring back a car from their more recent history; a car that seems to be undeservingly forgotten about. Everyone, meet the Puma.
If you live in Europe, there's a likely chance you've ran into a Ford Puma at some point, so you're probably already aware of it. However, if you're like me and you live in the United States, you've probably never seen one in person before. That's because when Ford introduced the Puma right before the turn of the century, it decided that We The People were too consumed with buying four wheel drive sumo wrestlers to enjoy a small and cheap two-door sports car, so you Europeans got all the spoils. Again.
So, you might be wondering, why do I pine for the return of a car never sold in the US that I've only seen through the internet and in old Tiff Needell instructional videos? Good question. Let me begin answering that by first reminding you of what the Puma was, since it's probably crossed your mind as often as swine flu and Jason Biggs' career after American Pie.
The Puma was based on the fourth-generation Ford Fiesta that debuted for 1995. By looking at it, though, you'd never be able to tell. What Ford did first to turn the Fiesta into the Puma was take almost everything other than the Fiesta's floorpan and dashboard, crumple it up and just throw it in the nearest waste bin. After that, they started the rebuilding process.
The Puma had not one, but four different bespoke four-cylinder engines all tuned by Yamaha. The only transmission you could hook one of them up to was a no-nonsense five-speed manual, so if you couldn't suck it up and learn to use that third pedal, you had to stay home and hope you could find a shred of your manhood in your wife's purse somewhere between the Revlon and Juicy Fruit. The suspension was honed for more spirited driving and it was all wrapped up in sleek feline-like styling cues befitting of the name tacked to the b-pillars.
The end result was the younger, scantily clad blonde sister to the homely "my mother doesn't want me dating until I'm older" brunette. And while a stripper Puma would cost almost double that of a basic Fiesta, it was still affordable (from what I understand; I'm not wading through all of that inflation and exchange rate bullshit right now) and one also could argue it was almost twice the car.
Jeremy Clarkson drove one on Top Gear before they began kenneling racing drivers, calling it "a serious driver's car." I'll take his word for it. The ingredients label listed above and the fact that this car offered "only the basics" certainly seems to support that notion.
Then there was the excellent ad campaign where Ford performed an act of pure witchcraft and resurrected Steve McQueen. And there was also the Racing model with its insane flared wheel openings and grip oozing out out every exterior orifice thanks to yet another redesigned suspension from Ford Racing Europe. The Puma even had a bonafide rally pedigree.
Starting to understand why I want this car to come back now? One of the Detroit auto giants needs to build a cheap, small sports car. Sure, Ford also has the Mustang, but its a larger car that fulfills a slightly different niche, and I think a new Puma would carry the same levels of cool without carrying all of the mullet-and-Budweiser-garnished baggage.
Unlike the Gran Torino, Ford has the means to properly build it again. After all, they still make the Fiesta. I also have reason to think it would cost less than the Mustang if it were built, since a base model Fiesta only stickers for around $14,000 and Ford wouldn't have to bother with shipping engines to Yamaha since their Ecoboost engines are already great as is.
Could you imagine a new Puma in ST form? Don't tell me that wouldn't be something special. And since most European Fords are sold Stateside these days, there's a very likely chance we'd get in on the fun this time. Bring back the Puma, Ford.
Blake Noble manages Ignitionist.com, which you can find on Twitter @ignitionist. In less than a decade, he's owned more than a handful of derelict and less-than-devine automobiles, including two barely functional Camaros and an '80s Buick having a post-midlife crisis. That is, really, in no way impressive and is just plain sad, you're right. All hate mail, tips, and kudos can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks so much for reading!