When you think about cars named after big cats, what comes to your mind? Probably Jaguar, the most known brand named after a big feline. But Brazil had its cat share as well with the Puma, which is the subject of this Feijoada Friday. Want to know more? After the jump!
The Puma wasn’t the realization of a single man. Big names joined forces in 1964 to create the very first truly Brazilian sports car: Jorge Lettry, chief of Vemag’s racing dept., Genaro Malzoni, the chief engineer and experient coachbuilder, Anísio Campos, racing driver and designer, Luís Roberto Alves da Costa, Mílton Masteguin and Mário César de Camargo Filho, a very sucessful race driver from the Vemag team. Their first car was called GT Malzoni, and it was powered by a three cylinder, two stroke DKW-Vemag engine. With early GT Malzonis you could spot the 4 ring Auto Union badge on the front! The car was nicknamed Puma DKW a short time after. The story about this car will be a future FF post!
In 1967, when VW absorbed DKW-Vemag in Brazil, the dream of 10 in 10 teenage boys débuted. The brand new Puma GT, heavily influenced by the Lamborghini Miura, and powered by a 1500 cc air cooled VW engine. Actually, the chassis, suspension and engine were from a Beetle, so the Puma GT is essentially a Beetle. Puma spiced the engine with two Solex 32mm carburettors, and fiddled with other things to increase its power. As with any sports car, in the frunk there was the spare wheel, the fuel tank and space for, maybe, three toothbrushes.
Its interior was something no Brazilian has saw before. Stitched leather on the steering wheel and five instruments on the dashboard (with emphasis on the rev counter)! It was like the European cars we saw on the magazines and movies!
In the first year they made 151 GTs, number that was more than doubled the next year. In 1970 it got a beefed up 1600 cc engine and it was rebadged as the Puma 1600 GTE. But if you had the monies you could zoom by our roads in a 1700cc or even 2000 cc Puma! That year also marked the beginning of its international career: It was an immense success when it was exposed on Sevilla auto salon. In ‘71 a convertible option was offered, the Puma GTS. At the time, the only convertible available, since the Karmann-Ghia wasn’t offered anymore without roof...
However a fiberglass convertible car wasn’t a very good idea. When it rained, it poured on the inside, and when you cornered, the entire car twisted. Plus, the noisy beefed up air cooled engine was heard on the convertible as if it was your passenger!
In 1973 Puma was making around 800 cars per year, and they sold like popsicles in the summer. And this car is a model from this golden era, the Puma GTE Coupé! This puma is popularly known as the Puminha, or little Puma in english, since it is a Beetle with a prettier shell. In 1975, though, the Beetle chassis was swapped for a Brasilia chassis, so the GTE grew a bit.
Not only the Puminha, in 1972 Puma showed in São Paulo Auto Salon the Puma GTO concept, that was released as the Puma GTB (and nicknamed the Pumão, or big Puma). Instead of using a weak air cooled VW engine the GTB got a much more powerful Opala SS 4.1l inline 6 heart, with 140 hp! It made so much sucess that, despite being the second most expensive car in Brazil (the Galaxie Landau being the most expensive) there was an immense waiting line for it!
The GTB could reach 170 km/h. Later, when they swapped the engine for a even more powerful Opala engine, with 171 hp, it could touch 190 km/h!!!
In 1974, another concept for São Paulo’s auto salon: The Mini Puma, to be powered by a DAF engine with variomatic transmission. It was supposed to be a city car, but administrative problems cancelled the project. So sad :’(
The GTB got a facelift in ‘79, and was renamed Puma GTB S2. Way prettier than the earlier GTB, that had a big gaping mouth like a Mk.2 Camaro. Still with the same engine it had pretty much the same specs.
But Puma’s good times were ending... After a batch that was exported to the US was rejected due to emissions and safety regulations, nobody else in the rest of the world wanted a Puma. We were entering difficult economic times also, and the factory passed literally through water and fire: There happened a huge fire and, shortly after, a flood. In 1985 they almost went bankrupt.
Not quite a bankrupcy, it was something called concordata, and I don’t know how it’s called in english (sorry!). When a business ask for a concordata the bankrupcy process is halted and you get some time to raise the money to pay your bills. Puma actually sold themselves to Alfa Metais, and was renamed Alfa Metais Veículos. A new Puma the AMV AM4, actually a GTB S2, with a VW watercooled engine from a Santana was introduced, along with some light, fiberglass trucks.
AMV produced cars until 1990, shortly after the import ban was lifted, but kept producing trucks until 1999. A very sad ending for such important, awe inspiring and manufacturer of great cars.
The Europeans are just like Brazilians: They lust to buy imported cars.
Puma GTE and GTS: The only Brazilian sports car imported by the Netherlands, England, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and Belgium. And also by the United States, United Arab Emirates, Guatemala, Japan, Australia, Paraguay, South Africa, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Angola, Uruguay and Kuwait. Now also by Argentine. How you see, lust after imports isn’t only a Brazilian privilege.
The Europeans and the Americans build the best sports cars of the world.
But import the best from Brazil. More than thirty countries import Puma. People used to Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Matra, Corvette, Camaro. And you can be sure that this isn’t only by its cute looks.
Quatro Rodas thought about its responsibility before raffling the 3 GT-4Rs between its readers.
The winners can go crazy.
How much does a car like this costs? There’s no money that could pay for them, because only three are being made, for the readers of Quatro Rodas. For a long time we are showing you such wonderful cars that it’s our turn to give you one. The Puma GT-4Rs are being built specially to you, and the first draw will be in october (we got a straightjacket ready for the occasion).
You only need to get two coupons found on the Quatro Rodas editions. When you get two, send them for us. You have three chances to win a GT-4R.
The only problem winning this car is that you probably will need to move, get new friends, a new name... Maybe even changing your wife!
Driving a car like those on the streets, even Claudia Cardinale will want to date you.
edu-petrolhead note: How cool was a car mag to design and make a exclusive car to draw to their readers???? Below are the 3 GT-4Rs made. Legend says there is a fourth somewhere, that Quatro Rodas made for them and that was sold for a lady years after.