Garden Find: 1980 Volkswagen Puma GTE

UPDATE – The seller of this Puma messaged us with more photos and info on their car! You can find both below.

Pumas are a rare sight in the U.S.A., but we’ve featured them numerous times over the years. These South American-built, VW-based coupes often looked far more sporting than their humble drivetrain would suggest, but that’s a problem easily remedied by any number of aftermarket solutions for air cooled engines that help to ensure the performance matches the racy looks. Regardless, that process is eons away for this cheap garden find Puma in Oregon, where it’s been pulled out of the tree line with its rear quarters missing. This is a GTE model, which the seller claims was limited to 500 examples. Find it here on Facebook Marketplace for $750.

The bodywork is in shambles, and it’s hard to say exactly what caused the rear fiberglass section to break off the way that it did. The seller mentions that most of the needed parts for “copying” purposes are included, so presumably, he has some idea what caused this extensive damage. The Puma has an interesting history, as it wasn’t just another case of a VW-based kit car that some shadetree mechanic built in his garage. The Puma brand sold fully-assembled models in its native Brazil and even offered buyers the option to upgrade to a “tuned” engine with hotter pistons and other tweaks. By the way – those wheels aren’t included.

The company began exporting its products as kits to North American customers in 1970. Volkswagen even honored the warranty for the drivetrain parts, as the engine was typically from a Karmann Ghia and sitting on a shortened chassis. The brand also introduced convertible models as well, flexing its muscle as a small-scale manufacturer that could build pretty coupes and drop-tops and export them to a global marketplace. While the company would later suffer through poor management and other issues that seem to plague limited production brands like these, there’s still a surprising number of Pumas running around today, which begs the question: should you just hold out for a complete car versus restoring this one?

The seller likely doesn’t want you to answer that question. It seems he had the best of intentions for restoring this air-cooled rarity, noting that he installed a front beam and what I assume is a rear cross member; however, he notes that both parts need to be removed as they are bent. So, in general, this is a pile of parts at the moment with even the replacement components needing replacement. The front seats are said to be in great shape and it does come with a door with glass, which is missing from the driver’s side in the photos. For $750, it’s certainly a cheap project, but how much pain will a rare basketcase like this one inflict on the next owner?

From Seller – I originally purchased the car only a month or two ago, from a property that was being scrapped out. The property included motors, transmissions, body parts, Porsche parts. All sorts of VW parts. If it was still there after a week, it was to be scrapped – including the puma. I picked the car up as nobody else wanted it, and simply wanted it saved. I’m not selling it for the money, just to get back some of what I spent, but to pass it on to somebody that can do something with it. I have far too many projects to ever get to this. The front beam I installed is bent – the only one I could get for free, however, the transmission is not, just needs to be rebuilt from sitting outside a long time. 

While the wheels aren’t included – they’re simply not mine to sell. I’ve borrowed them to get them on and off the trailer. The owner would likely sell them for a little extra, they’re just not mine to sell as-is. 90% of the rear fiberglass is available to recreate the rear end, and I’m really not sure what happened to the car in the first place. As the tags state it was last registered in 86 – 6 years new – here in Oregon. The gentleman I bought it from had a total of 3 pumas he parted to make one good one, likely why the rear hatch and some of the glass like the windshield is missing. All in all, it’s in good shape besides the rear – of which you can get sections from places like Samba classifieds. The pan seems to be solid, and 90% of the interior is intact, down to the original carpet, a very nice dash pad, seatbelts, and more. 

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Comments

  1. Rick

    Not worth the effort. Too many other complete Puma’s out there for what you’d spend on trying to restore this one.

    Like 9
  2. Scott

    Appears like it may have met the concrete after leaving the trailer w/o ramps?

    Like 4
  3. Fred

    interesting. never heard of these before

    Like 1
  4. Steve Clinton

    ‘Garden find’ Looks like it needed more water…or less.

    Like 5
  5. banjo

    OOF! I’d love to have one of these and I’m the king of buying dirt cheap major projects, but even if this were $200 I don’t think I’d get involved with this mess.
    Then again………

    Like 2
  6. Gary Hoffman

    Does the $750 asking price include the trailer?

    Like 7
    • stevee

      Always wondered where my Puma might have wound up. Car under 2,000#, alloy wheels w/ nice wide tires, great look. But not in the wet: Passing an 18 wheeler, looking up at the lug nuts, aquaplane the worse I ever have. Decided this was a dry country car, sold it ASAP.

      Like 3
      • stevee

        PS— I lived about 75 miles from where this car is, and my aquaplane incident happened about 20 miles from Where it now is. Easiest end-around attempt I have ever experienced.

        Like 2
  7. DON

    I’m not seeing a car here , just a pile of broken junk. Looks like it may have been used for a parts car at one time. The flipper may be hauling this one off to the dump

    Like 4
  8. Kollynn

    Hey – I’m the owner of this car. I picked it up with the intent of not letting it set anymore. It was buried up the top of the hood in dirt, on a property where everything was getting scrapped in a week. I put the trans and beam in so we could get it off the trailer and whoever bought it could load it on theirs. As far as the rear damage goes – I have no idea. As the plates state this car was 6 years new the last time it was registered here in the states. Most of the pieces of the rear end are in tact, so I’m guessing someone just finished ripping it off. The gentleman I got it off had a total of three, including this one, which he parted to build one good car. I’m not in it for the cash – I’m in it to save a hard to find car. Many components of the interior are in good shape, including the dash. The front beam is bent, however the transmission is not – it needs rebuilt however as who knows how long that sat outside at the parts place I put it together. As for the wheels they do not belong to me, only reason they’re not included. While there are plenty of pumas still available – including the last one produced, still brand new, on Samba – I wanted to save one more. They’re not cheap, hard to find, and often have to be imported. Feel free to reach out to me at kollynnbaryo@yahoo.com and I can provide additional pics if you’d like. Thanks.

    Like 2
  9. steve

    Parts it is..Somebody will moaning someday because they didn’t buy this and ended up needing that front clip..

    Like 2
  10. Scott

    Good point! Reminded me of yrs back,remember buying a 93 Dodge Colt,just because I had one and you never could find anything for it. It didn’t matter if you called a parts store or went junkyarding and I lived in a high deer populated area!

    Like 1
  11. Richard Kirschenbaun

    Might be a decent start for a 356 Porsche Replica build if the wheelbase matched. It’s the only replica i would consider owning,
    What are the chances of a match on WBs?

  12. John

    Parts car. I’m guessing it took a HARD hit in the rear.

    Like 1
  13. DeeBee

    A perfect example of the old saying: there’s nothing more expensive than a “cheap” project!

    Like 3
  14. Kollynn

    Not sure if this comment will post from my phone – I’m the owner of this car. I picked it up completely buried in dirt with no suspension at all. It was due to be scrapped with the rest of the parts on the lot – transmissions, motors, Porsche parts, body panels, engine tin. The lot. I couldn’t let that happen to such a hard to find car. I put the beam and trans in it just to make it a roller, I’m not even sure if they were originally wide five. The beam is bent however the trans just needs rebuilt, it was outside a very long time on the same property. As for the wheels not being included, they’re simply not mine, and thus not mine to sell. I’m borrowing them from a friend so it can get on and off the trailer easier than when we loaded it up (we used 3 hand dollies, a lot of tow straps, and 4 people to load it, along with some logs to make it roll on the pan. What a pain in the butt!) If you’d like more photos or info about the car please feel free to contact me through the facebook ad or through here I guess. I just want the car saved, I’m not in it for the cash, just to make what I can back from it. According to the plates it was last registered when it was 6 years new – ’86 is the last tag on an Oregon plate. The carpet and interior details are still there, such as the tunnel cover, seatbelts, the dash which is in surprisingly good shape. There’s a lot of good in the car. I know it can be brought back by someone who really wants one. Thank you for writing about my car, even if the article is a little on the downer side.

    Like 3
  15. Howie Mueler

    Maybe that is $7.50.

  16. Gerard Frederick

    Even at $7.50, it would be an insult.

  17. John Debiasi

    I have never seen one but ironically on a recently episode of Caffeine and Octane there was one on the show. Honestly it was a really good looking car and being a kit, the guy had a Corvette engine in his.

    • Dickie F.

      They were not quite a kit. In Brazil and South Africa they were complete cars.
      Stateside they were imported minus a few driveline components.

      Like 2
  18. Scott

    Kollynn,it’s not all negative,am the one who posted it looked like it had a accident with the road after it departed from the trailer(I honestly thought thats what might have happened) You wouldn’t be the first to loose a load! Am 57 and consider myself a old school motorhead and I don’t ever recall seeing one of them,in person anyways.Hows this for something on the positive side,,thanks for being a standup kinda guy and not selling your buddy’s wheels with it,because in this day the way people are,I only have 4 people in my life that I would trust and that includes family so hats off once again!Goo d luck on the sale and thanks for saving the car!

    Like 3
  19. Kenn

    Scott, that’s so very sad. Although, my dad taught me that those that don’t trust other people are untrustworthy themselves.

    Like 1
  20. Gerard Frederick

    We humans project our own personality onto others. So your dad was right. Someone who mistrusts others is himself not trustworthy. That´s a law of nature, like a guy who mistreats animals will also mistreat other people. Trust your instincts and you will rarely go wrong.

    Like 2
  21. Gerard Frederick

    What on earth are you going on about? ¨Start to write american and steal the propaganda?¨ First of all, your english language usage is atrocious and secondly your rant makes absolutely no sense. This blog is a car blog, a blog for guys who love all things with wheels attached to them, all manner of machines – shall we stick to that, don´t you think?

    Like 1
  22. George

    Kit cars do not have to have all of the current safety equipment and pass emissions. That’s why the ones sold in the US came without engines. At the time, without just that one component they could be sold in the US.

    Like 1
  23. JohnSSC

    Killer comments! The dude obviously loves cars, saw one that he thought could be saved by someone in some way and is trying to save it. Meanwhile he’s getting roasted here on everything from the price to the state of the Puma. If you don’t want to purchase it, cool!. But geez, don’t torture the guy for thinking: “Maybe someone could save this one.” I hope someone buys it either for parts or to get it rolling again.

    Like 2
  24. Steve the bus guy

    These are fun little cars. All the drive train components are vw, beetle mostly with some ghia. Even switches handles etc are taken from various other manufactures like fiat. To make it a roller all you need is a swing axle and beam from a 70s era beetle. The body is fiberglass, so sculpting a new rear end is not out of the realm of possibilities for most home mechanics. All the side and rear glass is flat and can be cut by any decent glass store. The only down side is the windshield is special order from Brazil, they do one run a year on these and the cost is around $2000 US. I own 4 of these in varying states of repair and if this wasn’t on the other side of the continent I’d be picking it up in a heartbeat. You get a sportscar with beetle restoration prices.

    • Dickie F.

      I agree with you Steve.

      For the front windscreen, you may want to investigate the Puma company that may still be operating in South Africa.

      I do not have links at present, but the last time I spoke to them, they sold brand new versions of the complete, on the road air cooled Puma car, for $13k ? Makes the $2k windscreen kind of pricey in Brazil.

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