1970 and 80s Brazil was a unique market isolated from the rest of the world. Its closed market effectively prohibited car imports from 1976 to 1990, making it a propitious terrain for small “exotic” car companies. To satisfy the needs of those wishing something different, cooler, these companies created sporty cars using what was available then, basically VW Beetle/Brasilia mechanics. So, as you already figured out, they had the looks but not the performance. But hey, you can’t have everything in this life, right? Anyway, thanks to this, now we can all rejoice with these unusual and unique cars. Here is one of the most interesting, in my opinion: The PUMA
You can say whatever you want about Puma, but no one can deny, this is one of a hell good looking car.
Puma origins are within DKW-Malzoni, a relatevely succesfull sports and racing car using DKWs 2 stroke engine and Karmann-Ghia’s platform. After DKW was bought by Volkswagen and stopped producing DKW engines, the car, which had already been renamed Puma, had to be totally re-designed. Inspired in the Miura (the Lamborghini), Puma was produced from 1966 to 1995, using a glass fiber body, Karmann-Ghia and Brasilia platforms and VW boxer 1500 to 1600cc engines, optionally being tuned up to 2000cc. On its prime, Pumas were exported to South America, North America and Europe, most of them as kit cars. It was even produced in South Africa.
Puma GT DKW – The last with DKW engines
GT (1968 – 1969) – In 1967 Volkswagen bought DKW in Brazil. Without DKWs engine, Puma created a new car using VWs 1500 air cooled engine and a shortened Karmann-Ghia chassis. Launched in 1968, it was named Puma 1500 GT. It’s boxer engine received double carburetors and a sports exhaust reaching 60 hp and 150 km/h.
1968 Puma 1500 GT & Puma advertisement
GTE/GTS (1970 – 1979) – In 1970 the engine was upgraded for a 1600 cc being named GTE (E for Export). On the next year, the convertible version GTE Spyder was launched, being renamed GTS and GTS Spyder over the years. In 1973 a face lift was made to keep Puma competitive. Meanwhile, VW ended Karmann-Ghias production in Brazil, forcing Puma to redesign its model. In 1976 a new Puma was launched using a wider VW Brasilia’s platform. The new Spyder wasn’t well received, being nicknamed “fallen-bottom” in a literal translation, Puma corrected the design on the next year. The 1600 cc engine produced 70hp with a top speed of 165km/h, 1700cc to 2000cc engines were also available as optional.
1972 Puma GTE in Switzerland for a photoshoot
1974 Puma GTE
1974 Puma GTS Spider
1976 “Fallen Bottom” & 1977 Puma GTS Spider
1978 Puma GTE & Puma advertisement
GTI/GTC (1980 – 1986) – In 1980 a new design followed new names, the coupe was now called GTI and the convertible GTC. New contemporary “Porsche 911” bumpers replaced the chrome units, taillights came from the Volkswagen Brasilia and the doorhandles from the Alfa Romeo Ti 4. These were the last models before Puma was sold and changed hands. It was the beginning of the end.
1984 Puma GTI sold for 18,000$ on EBay and Puma GTI>C advertisement
Over the following years, and under a couple different managements, new versions were launched, eventually ending using VWs water cooled 1800cc engines. But it never achieved the same success, until finally, in 1995, Puma shut its doors.
This could have been a sad end for this once glorious car, but there is still hope. A couple of years ago, Puma announced they are back! And in great style, with a racing car! Don’t believe it? Check it for yourself here Puma Website. I don’t know in what stage the project is but we wish all the luck to them!