John Karnon the designer of the Puma Clubman
I lived my formative years in West Kingsdown, Kent which rather handily was only half a mile to Brands Hatch Circuit. First went there in 1951 as a 6year old. I was lucky to see the likes of Stirling Moss, John Surtees, and Mike Hailwood in their early years. My father chose to buy second hand Bentleys, Rolls Royce and Jaguars rather then a new Ford Zodiac or Vauxhall Cresta so I grew up with V12 Phantom 3 Rolls, and Lagonda Rapides. In those early days they were seriously cheap although the running costs were heavy. Emigrated to Australia in 1071 BC :) as a ten pound pom and started working in the motor trade. Went to New Zealand in 1976 and started a business called Vital Parts specialising in used Jaguar parts. That of course led to an XK 120, E Type, Mk 2 3.8 and a V12 XJ 12 fitted with 6 downdraft webers courtesy of Ron Beatty of Forward Engineering in the UK. It also had cams, manual transmission and XJS rims. A serious car with a huge thirst. Classic car racing followed with a succession of Lotus's: a Mk 1 Lotus Cortina, Escort Twin Cam and a Series 4 Super 7. I also rebuilt a Lotus 23B, Lancia Stratos, and a Cooper Bristol. Returned to Australia in 1987 and built 4 Replica Cobras. This led into the beginning of Puma Cars.
Performance:- A sub 4second 0 – 100 time is achievable together with a standing quarter of 12 seconds or better. The power to weight ratio of the Puma is better than nearly all Ferrari’s and Porsche’s.
Puma Cars started in 1997 when I came into contact with Ron Champions Book whist visiting the UK. The book was purchased along with a nose cone and brought back to Australia. The original prospectus for the car was to build something that a full size person could fit into and drive. I am 6 foor three inches and weigh about 100kgs so that size became the criteria. More power was obviously going to be needed to compensate for the bigger, heavier car so a Nissan SR20 Turbo was measured and found to be perfect. Over the next 18months a chassis was built then discarded as being too small and another constructed 75mm wider, 25mm higher, 50mm longer. This enabled the use of a Borg Warner 8.5' diff to be used (LSD”s are common). The chassis was strengthened almost everywhere to compensate for the extra weight and power that we were looking to produce. I guess that the integrity of the chassis has been proven as we have had no issues with the chassis over the last 15years. With the Nissan engine package being North/South, it lent itself very well to our Australian situation. It also made the unit very cost effective as there was no need for additional bell housings, re-baffling sumps etc that are needed when turning an East/West engine. The existing computer, wiring harness stays too – so a market for savvy auto electricians sprang up very quickly.
Over the years the car has evolved into what you see today. This is the third series of bodywork and I am still not totally satisfied. There are a few angles that I would like to re-do. Mechanically the car runs a Nissan SR20 Turbo VVT and a 5 or 6speed gearbox. The diff is the aforementioned Borg Warner with a LSD and 3.89 to 1 ratio. A 5 link rear with rose joints at one end of the arms support the diff. GAZ shocks with locally produced springs support the car. Front suspension used to be Australian Cortina but now we use the Rally Design alloy upright with local axles and caliper brackets. The original Cortina uprights can still be used. This means that the local Holden Commodore rotors and disc brakes (front and rear) are used.
This also gives us 5 stud wheels to the Commodore pattern. Currently 17 or 18's are used for street use (smaller for racing). Steering is Rally Design quick rack with locally made intermediate splined shaft connecting to a Mazda collapsible column.
Generally the cars weigh approximately 680kgs and have 200 rear wheel horsepower so they are an entertaining car to drive. We do have a couple of big powered cars – one has more than 350bhp at the rear wheels. At present I stand at 49 chassis – not bad for a retired bloke in a shed!!