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Brazilian Beauty: 1978 Puma GTE

 

In the world of sports cars, it’s not unusual to see efforts that marry the mechanical know-how of one culture with another nation’s talent for design. A number of examples of American/European partnerships spring to mind: the DeTomaso Pantera, for example, or the Jensen Interceptor. But what about a car that pairs the engineering of the Old World with the style of the New? Such is the package offered by this 1978 Puma GTE. This South American import is up for auction here on eBay, with the bid resting at $6,600 at time of writing. With over three days left to go on the auction and the reserve as yet unmet, it remains to be seen whether this rare Brazilian coupe will be headed for a new home.

The Puma brand began almost accidentally, when the Brazilian government sought to spur native industry by banning imports of automobiles to the country. Several foreign automakers responded by setting up shop in the South American country, including the German firms Volkswagen and DKW– one of the forerunners of Audi. Rino Malzoni, lawyer and self-taught automotive designer, created the first of his GTs using the DKW 3-cylinder, two-stroke platform. The car’s success on the racing circuit set in motion a series of events that ultimately resulted in the founding of Puma. When Volkswagen gobbled up first Autounion, and with it DKW, in 1965, and then the Vemag factory (which had been producing the DKW chassis and drivetrains that Puma was using) in 1967, Puma was forced to switch platforms. They ultimately settled on the VW Karmann Ghia, and the Puma GT was born.

This car, the GTE, is the export version of the late-60’s GT, and consists of mostly Ghia fundamentals matched with the fiberglass body shell from Puma. The engine would have been a Volkswagen 1.6L Type 1, likely making 60 horsepower, but giving the lighter car more sprightly performance than the Karmann Ghia. No doubt its performance has improved dramatically with the modifications detailed by the seller. The Wolfsburg logo on the steering wheel probably isn’t original: although these cars were sold in the U.S. as kits, they were factory-produced in Brazil. The kit designation might have been more of a means to skirt United States regulations on auto imports– they arrived missing the drivetrain and front suspension, but Puma could either provide these through suppliers stateside or the owner could source their own. By all accounts, in all other ways the cars were complete.

The look of the car is definitely European, seeming to evoke elements of Porsche design while the location of the turn signals suggests the Lotus Europa. Definitely a car that will get attention, if not the recognition that a more common sports car might bring. It does manage the neat trick of being both extremely rare and easy to maintain, thanks to its VW roots. And thanks to those roots, if the current setup doesn’t inspire, there are any number of options and upgrades that are available. With the low cost of entry, beautiful lines, racing pedigree, and readily available parts, the Puma might be the perfect classic sports car.

Comments

  1. Philip Lepel

    Ive found these cars intriguing. Basically a factory built kit car.. beautiful lines, economical engine that can be built up or replaced with a bigger version for some real performance.

    Like 5
    • moosie moosie

      The listing in eBay says it has a 2,074 CC Gene Berg motor in it among other mods, I bet it does FLY.

      Like 3
      • Christopher Gentry

        Reminds me of a Renault Alpine

        Like 7
    • BlondeUXB Member

      Truly great styling.
      Subaru swap might mean truly great performance…

      Like 2
      • Quidditas

        The Mazda rotary is the preferred choice in South Africa. With done fettling of the suspension, they take on some illustrious sports cars

        Like 1
  2. Alexco

    Like this car but don’t think you could license it in CA. Don’t think it would pass smog.

  3. Howie Mueler

    Very cool, i hope it sells.

  4. chrlsful

    got my vote for ‘best of the 15″ on front page this post.

    From “B” back = Italian; from “A” forward German, where’s the door from? Doesn’t matter “it all fits” for me ! Drop in 5 speed’n WRX, do some breaks, suspension wrk? Nice SCCA mo’chiene (all ways 3rd priority I never get to after a 2) wrk vehicle & 1) my commuter). 8^ (

    Beer budget, champagne dreams as even tho 2nd highest production yr (3K+) out of 20 or so – still rare, foreign and a good long while ago (’64/84). I hate auctions. Combine it w/internet sales’n Im left in far behind dust~

    Like 4
  5. Mike Hawke

    Getting parts is interesting. Some parts must come from Brazil. However, a foreigner cannot simply find a vendor in Brazil and order parts online. You have to have a Brazilian address and a tax registration number with the Brazilian IRS. So, you have to deal with someone who does have the proper paperwork to export and pay a premium over prices advertised by Brazilian online vendors.

    Like 2
    • Quidditas

      South Africa manufactured the Puma until recently. Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president, had a stake in the company.

      A small niche manufacturer

      http://wj2d.100megsdns.com/africa.html

      Like 1
  6. Quidditas

    South Africa manufactured the Puma until recently. Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African president, had a stake in the company.

    A small niche manufacturer

    http://wj2d.100megsdns.com/africa.html

  7. Quidditas

    The Mazda rotary is the preferred choice in South Africa. With done fettling of the suspension, they take on some illustrious sports cars

    • Andy Parrish Andy Parrish Staff

      That would be an interesting swap. I was thinking about a turbo Corvair flat-six. With the Ghia underpinnings, should be a fairly straightforward operation.

  8. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    Ended, RNM at $9400

    Not surprised that the owner would not part with it at that amount.

  9. t-bone BOB

    Ended: Nov 14, 2021 , 6:08PM
    Current bid:US $9,400.00
    [ 17 bids ]
    Reserve not met
    Located in:Centereach, New York

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