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Puma

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File:Puma-Logo.jpg

Defunct
Puma was a Brazilian specialist car manufacturer who built cars between 1967 and around 1997. High import tariffs effectively closed Brazil during much of this period to foreign-built cars, and the vehicles available to the average Brazilian were limited to those built in Brazil either by foreign manufacturers, such as Volkswagen and General Motors, who established Brazilian manufacturing plants, and the products of local companies.

The origin of what was to become the Puma was the DKW-Malzoni, built by Rino Malzoni of Matão in São Paulo state from around 1964. Malzoni was a keen auto racer and began building his own competition cars based around a DKW straight-3 two-stroke engine with a light, fiberglass-skinned bodyshell. The cars began to sell in quantities larger than he himself could build, and Malzoni founded a company with a group of other auto enthusiasts. Production at first was around 35 cars a year, increasing to more than a hundred within a couple of years.

1967 saw DKW bought out by Volkswagen and the Brazilian production of DKWs ceased. With no DKW engine available, a new car was designed, based around the rear-engined, air-cooled Volkswagen Karmann Ghia sold in Brazil. The car was named Puma and the company was likewise renamed, and it sold relatively well for a specialist sports car.

A convertible version, the Spyder, was added in around 1970 and cars began to be exported around that date, to other South American countries, North American and Europe. Many of the exported vehicles were kit cars - actually substantially complete bodyshells, but lacking engine, transmission, axles, wheels and other mechanical parts. All cars sold in Brazil were complete.

Another model, the Puma GTB, used a front-mounted Chevrolet straight-6; this model was not exported.

VW stopped production of the Karmann Ghia in Brazil during the mid 1970s, and the car was switched to take from the Volkswagen Brasilia instead. Pumas began to be assembled in South Africa around this time. Bodywork was restyled in 1977.

The 1980s saw harsh economic times in Brazil, and this hit Puma hard. In 1985, the rights to the Puma were sold; a year later, they were sold again. Production continued in small numbers, but the opening of the Brazilian market to foreign cars in the early 1990s was the final blow, The last commercialized Puma was a AM4 in 1997.

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