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Purrfect cat.

FIRST of all, it was simply wicked. A car whose looks stopped everybody in their tracks stone dead.

The Ford Puma is the sports coup of the beautiful people.

Honest, it is true. You rarely see an ugly person behind the wheel. I've probably opened up a can of worms with that statement, but never mind.

Now those masters at Ford are delving beyond the realms of sensible motoring.

In fact, they are being downright evil. How else can you explain the Ford Racing Puma, which is hotter than a night of passion with heavenly Canadian songstress Shania Twain.

My theory is that the newcomer started out as a sinister ploy by Ford engineers one wet Friday afternoon. With nothing better to amuse them, they devised ways of transforming the Puma into more of a hell cat.

And the emphasis was obviously more on the hell than the cat. Because the end result is certainly no shy pussycat, that's for sure. It is a beast alright, and one guaranteed to deliver heartache with its outstanding performance.

Labelled the ST 160 Concept, the ultimate Puma made its debut as a possibility at the Geneva International Motor Show earlier this year. Even then, when quizzed, the Ford top brass were undecided as to whether they should unleash this amazing work of art on an unsuspecting public.

THANKFULLY, the Ford hierarchy have decided to go for broke, and the Racing Puma is being put into limited production later this year.

Only 1000 are planned - ensuring exclusivity. But the good news is they will also be sold only in Britain.

Mind you, with a price tag of pounds 23,000 this devilish little flier will really only be within the reaches of the well-heeled brigade.

So, what do you get for that hefty price tag - which could buy you a small and boring executive express or an off-roader that you'll never lose in a supermarket car park?

The racing car extends Ford's distinctive New Edge styling of the bog-standard model. It comes with a unique front splitter, wider wheel arches and larger alloys wheels, 17 inches to be exact.

Furthermore, it comes in just one colour, which is probably bad news for one part of Glasgow as it is strictly Ford Racing Blue or zilch.

Apart from deft touches inside the cabin - such as aluminium foot pedals which match the gearknob and dashboard surround, and specially sculpted sports seats - the main changes take place to the running gear.

The 1.7 Zetec SE engine has been tweaked so much that it must feel just like Cher does. Ouch! The engineers have employed proven tuning techniques to raise the power output and deliver well in excess of 150 bhp.

And, just for the petrol-heads, the modifications improve breathing and allow a higher rev capability.

Sadly, there are no breathing instructions for the driver, which would be helpful, as this little babe will take your breath away faster than a snog with Jennifer Lopez.

Although the ride and handling of the Puma has never been at fault, Ford have revised the suspension with better springs and dampers.

More importantly, they have also uprated the braking system which, considering the capabilities of this beast, is probably the wisest move.

Standard power assisted steering will ensure easy manoeuvring of the Ford Racing Puma, particularly at low speed.

The car is very well equipped with sufficient creature comforts such as air conditioning, CD player, power heated door mirrors and a passenger airbag all as standard - no doubt thrown in as a bid to justify the price tag.

But there is no denying that the newcomer is an exciting prospect even at such a price.

With the current crackdown on high speeds - justifiable in safety terms - you wonder at the need for such a beast. But, then again, life is just so short, which probably answers the question admirably.

Hail those brave folk at Ford.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Caven, Bill
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 3, 1999
Words:655
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