The Mini Puma was created by the Brazilian automobile company Puma from São Paulo. The two-seater city car was made using Volkswagen passenger cars components, which company produced under the license. The car was equipped with a 760 cc two-cylinder engine with a capacity of 30 hp. It was half of the engine from the Volkswagen 1500. The carburetor was a 30 mm Solex.
It should cost Cr $ 15,000, against Cr $ 22,577 for thr VW Beetle 1,300 and Cr $ 29,090 for the Chevrolet Chevette in 1974. The official presentation of the Mini Puma took place in 1974. It was also planned to start mass production, but the management of the company was unable to find investment.
The company also met a big problem. It would not be possible to produce large volumes of cars with a fiberglass body. Purchasing expensive presses to stamp steel sheets would require resources that the young manufacturer did not have.
Even so, Jorge Lettry, one of Puma’s collaborators, when he returned from a trip to Europe, brought the news that the Reliant built up to a thousand cars a month (in fiberglass) thanks to a process of “chemical cure”. Thus, the project for a national minicar returned to the drawing boards and Miltom Masteguin (technical director of Puma) and Wilson Drauzio Brasiliense coordinated the team that would make the prototype.
For reasons that only fate knows, Wilson died in an accident while driving a racing Puma. In 1971/72, the minicar, now called “Project W”, attracted the interest of a foreign bank to grant a loan to Mini Puma, but the transaction never materialized. The reason is that the loan was subject to an endorsement from the Central Bank, and it was denied several times. Thus, the Mini Puma project was once again shelved.
In 1974, the prototype of the Mini Puma with yellow body and 4 seats was presented to the then President of the Republic. Luís Roberto Alves da Costa, who was the CEO of Puma, complained about the lack of government support for the initiative to build a national mini-car, which would be perfectly suited to the chaotic traffic of cities and would help to save foreign exchange with the import of expensive and rare oil.
The Mini Puma was almost a minivan with a very steep windshield and a large glass area. The headlights were round while the taillights were small and square. The small engine was cooled by small rectangles hollowed out at the bottom of the panel where the headlights were fixed. The door handles were very small.
The front suspension was based on the Ford Corcel and had cross bars from side to side at the rear with adjustable attachment points, which could be lifted or lowered easily. The chassis was made of folded steel sheets. The manual transmission had 4 gears, the first 3 being very short and the last quite long. The steering was rack and pinion, and the drum brakes were the same as those used on the Ford Corcel Standard, with a choice of disc brakes on the front wheels. The smooth magnesium wheels had a 5-inch splint.
The panel was made of injected plastic. With 2 + 2 capacity (two adults and two children), the prototype had high seats covered in black and yellow fabric. Despite the small dimensions of the body (2.66 m long, 1.48 m wide and 1.37 m high, wheelbase 1.75 m) the interior seemed spacious and well lit. Weighing just 500 kg (260 kg less than a Renault Gordini, which had an 850cc engine and 40 HP of gross power), the Mini Puma promised a top speed of 100 km/h and consumption of up to 20 km/l of gasoline – and this it was his main appeal in the face of the oil crisis, which would extend for many more years. The tank had a capacity of 30 liters, giving great autonomy.
The car would be built in a factory located on a 300,000 m2 site in Franco da Rocha (25 km from São Paulo), but that never happened. 1979 was the best year in the company’s history, with 3,609 vehicles manufactured, including 179 trucks. But in 1980 Puma received a major blow that shook his financial health. A strong flood in the city of São Paulo, in the region where the Puma factory was located, and then a fire caused serious and irreparable damage. Production was reduced from 3,042 cars (assembled in 1980) to 471 in 1982.