To mark my return to normal life, I'll share with you the history of Puma, one of the greatest brazilian auto makers. Its history is rich, and plentiful of great cars. Some of you may know a bit about Puma, but you probably don't imagine that Puma made a light truck and three unique cars as a special order from a magazine!

It is hard to precise when and how Puma started, but all sources agree that was when Genaro "Rino" Malzoni, an italo-brazilian gearhead, decided to build a sports car in 1962. In the 60's, the brazilian auto industry was starting to walk by itself, and the vast majority of our cars were imported. Malzoni was so determined in his dream that, when he got an Austin for birthday, he took the car to his mechanics for modifying! At the time, very few people in Brazil had such a car so, naturally, many tought he was crazy.

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(Malzoni I, his first car, made of metal, instead of fiberglass, as usual for brazilians fora-de-série)

He began experimenting with fiberglass in 1962, as a viable alternative for producing, altough in small scale, cars for sale. For 1964, Malzoni developed the Malzoni III for the Vemag racing team, which was tremendously successful, winning 5 races. The Malzoni III was made of metal and used a two-stroke, 3 cylinder 981 cm³ DKW-Vemag (brazilian arm of DKW) engine with less than 100 hp.

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(Malzoni III, the victorious prototype who gave birth to the Puma and maybe the brazilian fora-de-série industry also)

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Anísio Campos, one of Vemag's team race drivers, knew João do Amaral Gurgel (yeah, that Gurgel), who had experience with fiberglass, to help to produce the molds for the now called GT Malzoni. They produced 3 cars for the Vemag team in 1964. They were so successful that Rino Malzoni, Marinho and Milton Masteguin (owners of a DKW-Vemag dealer) and Luís Roberto founded the Lumimari (Luís, Milton, Marinho, Rino) in the end of 1964 for saling the GT Malzoni to the public. Tought as a racecar, without basic internal comfort items, the success was so immense they decided to enhance the internal finishing and selling to the public.

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(Above, the presentation of the GT Malzoni in 1966 Salão do Automóvel Brasileiro (brazilian auto expo), by Rino Malzoni himself)

Malzoni gave Anísio liberty to recreate the GT Malzoni, which after some minor touches was called the Puma GT. The Puma GT also used a DKW-Vemag engine. A so-called Puma-DKW, or Puma GT-DKW is quite rare and valuable these days, because in the following year they debuted the new Puma GT 1500, now built over a VW Karmann-Ghia, with an aircooled 1500 cm³ engine.

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In 1969, the brazilian magazine Quatro Rodas (the most traditional car mag in Brazil, with more than 50 years of history) ordered three exclusive cars, named Puma GT4R (4R stands for 4 Rodas), a 2+2 sports coupé with an aircooled 1600 cm³ engine, which were drawn to the readers. The cars were metallic green, metallic blue and bronze. Curiously, a fourth car was built to expose in Puma's factory, which was sold to and very insistent old lady.

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A convertible version debuted in 1971, the Puma GTS. In my humble opinion, this is one of the finest brazilian sports cars ever made. Without the roof, it was noisier and more fragile, but more beautiful and desirable. In this year, the 1500 cm³ engine was substitued for a 1600 cm³, also aircooled engine, and the Puma GT was now the Puma GTE. It was also exported to Europe and North America, after being a sensation in an auto expo in Seville, Spain.

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After the Karmann-Ghia was discontinued, the Pumas began to use the VW Brasilia's chassis, in 1975, which was wider than the previous chassis. This gave an even more sportive look to the Puma. In the 1972 Brazilian auto expo, Puma shown the project P8, or Puma GTO, which was later called Puma GTB, built over a Chevrolet Opala chassis and using its 4.1 liter inline 6 engine. The top speed was something around 170 km/h, what very few cars could do at that time. It went on sale in 1974, and it made so much success that, despite being the second most expensive car you could buy in brazil, the waiting list was huge. In 1978, with the 250-S engine, it could achieve 190 km/h.

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At 1974 Brazilian auto show, Puma presented the prototype of the Mini Puma, with a DAF engine, with that incredible variomatic transmission, which can make the car goes backwards as fast as forward. However, it never passed the prototype phase. The Puma GTB received a facelift in 1979, and was renamed Puma GTB 2. The engine and the power were the same, but the front was way prettier than before.

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After some problems with taxes and debts, a fire in the plant, floods and a problematic lot recused by the US inpection, Puma went bankrupt in 1985. They continued the production until 1990, when our borders were opened and our market flooded with imported options made their production inviable and they closed their doors.

But I promised writing about the trucks! Parallel to the sports cars business, they also built fiberglass truck cabs. Some companies like Ultragás and Coca-Cola, suffering with rust problems after trips near the litoral, ordered some custom made fiberglass cabs. It was so successful that Puma decided to project, build and sell trucks also! They build two types of cabs, single and double. Not only trucks, in 1981 they build some sugarcane ethanol powered microbuses. I couldn't find much information about those, but I believe they weren't good, because the ethanol Dodge trucks we had in the 80's made 800 meters per liter of ethanol.

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Before I finish, if you really want a Puma, you can order one from South Africa. They're being made there now: http://www.pumacars.co.za/That's it!

I hope you liked. If you want to know more, my sources were (all in portuguese):http://www.pumaclassic.com.br/2012/02/micro-…