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Friday, May 31, 2024

Once Upon a Time: The Golden Era of Italian Kit Cars

Once Upon A Time - It began with curiosity about the car pictured below, rumored to be a Puma kit car, but to this day, its exact identity remains unknown. Any idea, what car is this? Regardless, as we all know, Italy, renowned for its culinary delights, hospitality, and stunning landscapes, also boasts a rich history in the automotive industry, particularly known for its exotic cars. 
It began with curiosity about this car, rumored to be a Puma kit car, but to this day, its exact identity remains unknown. (Picture from: Autopuzzles)
These Italian cars are celebrated globally for their design and performance, produced by some of the most prestigious manufacturers in the world. Interestingly, Italy also has a history of producing kit cars, which are less highlighted but equally fascinating.

One notable player in the Italian kit car scene is Stabilimento Puma Roma, commonly known as Puma. The story of Puma begins with its founder, Adriano Gatto, an Italian gentleman born in 1943, who became captivated by the Dune Buggy during a trip to the United States in 1965
The Puma GTV 033-S was the 3rd series of the GTV sports car made in 1985. (Picture from: Autobelle)
Enchanted by its unique style, Gatto imported a Dune Buggy kit to Italy and began modifying it on his father's estate in Ronciglione, Central Italy. A Dune Buggy, also known as a beach buggy, is a recreational motorized vehicle popular in America, designed for sand dunes, beaches, and off-road use. 
The Puma GTV 033 was the 2nd series of the GTV sports car made in 1983. (Picture from: Reezocar)
Gatto didn't just reassemble the kit; he reimagined and reshaped several parts, creating his own fiberglass pieces. His first buggy, once completed, garnered significant attention in Rome, leading to its eventual sale to a friend.
The company's first made car named Puma Gatto Spiaggia built in 1968. (Picture from: Puma Club Italia)
Recognizing the potential, Gatto began importing more kits and assembling them into what he named the Puma Gatto Spiaggia. The demand grew, and by 1968, Gatto established his company, Puma, in Rome. Beyond the Dune Buggies, Puma also produced sports and off-road cars, all based on the Volkswagen Beetle chassis.
The Puma GT or Puma Gatto built in 1973 which took its name for its rougher lines than the previous model. (Picture from: Puma Club Italia)
In 1973, after moving to a new factory in Via Nomentana, Puma introduced the Puma GT, a model with a more modern and aggressive design compared to its predecessor. The Puma GT featured a wedge-shaped front, partially recessed headlights, and an angled windshield, enhancing its front-end grip and overall aesthetics.
The Puma GTV was the 1st series of the GTV sports car made in 1978 powered by an 1,200 cc Volkswagen engine which has been upgraded by Domenico Lombardi to 1,385 cc for increased its performance, but had no luck. (Picture from: Puma Club Italia)
By 1978, Puma had ventured into sports cars with the Puma GTV, designed by Richard Oakes under a license from Nova. This car, built on a Volkswagen platform, featured a 1,200 cc engine upgraded to 1,385 cc by Domenico Lombardi, though it didn't entirely meet expectations for its sporty appearance. 
The Puma GTV was designed by Richard Oakes under licensed of Nova and also has unique features such as the access into the cockpit is looks similar to the Nova Eagle has. (Picture from: Tumblr)
The GTV had unique access features, with the roof and windshield raising forward to allow entry into the cockpit. Despite its innovations, only about 100 units were produced, with just 52 known to exist today.
1982 Puma Ranch inspired by the American Jeep Wrangler by exploiting a German-made engine that is mounted uniquely on the rear, while the trunk is in the front. (Picture from: Puma Club Italia)
In 1982, Puma introduced the Puma Ranch, an off-road vehicle inspired by the Jeep Wrangler but with a German-made rear engine and a front trunk. This was followed by the Puma GTV-033 in 1983, which featured different bodywork and a 1,186 cc engine from Alfa Romeo Alfasud.
The Puma GTV 033 was the 2nd series of the GTV sports car made in 1983 powered by an 1,186 cc water-cooled 4-cylinder boxer engine of the Alfa Romeo Alfasud. (Picture from: Puma Club Italia)
In appearance, this car features a shorter nose than the first series, with the headlights hidden within the body, resembling the front of the Puma GT. The rear of the car has a more squared design, with the sides no longer rounded at the bottom but forming new angles inspired by the side skirts of racing cars from that era.
Despite its modern look, the GTV-033 did not resonate as well with the public, leading to a redesign in 1985 with the GTV 033-S, which combined the original GTV style with a more powerful engine, and produced until 1991.
The Puma GTV 033-S was the 3rd series of the GTV sports car made in 1985 powered by an 1,186 cc water-cooled 4-cylinder boxer engine of the Alfa Romeo Alfasud. (Picture from: Puma Club Italia)
Throughout the 1980s, Puma also dabbled in dragsters and by 1990, introduced an electric car called the Puma Boxer 90, showcased at the Bologna Motor Show
The Puma Boxer 90 electric-powered sports car built in 1990 and had shown off at the Bologna Motor Show. (Picture from: Puma Club Italia)
In 1993, they produced a single unit of the Puma 248, featuring a new chassis and a 1,700 cc engine from the Arese company with a luxurious interior.
The one-off Puma 248 built in 1993 by using a newly designed chassis and is powered by an 1,700 cc 16V engine from the Arese company. (Picture from: Puma Club Italia)
Despite their popularity in Italy, showcased in numerous domestic films, strict regulations in 1993 forced Puma to close. Adriano Gatto sold the Puma brand to Ford, unable to meet the costly homologation and bureaucratic demands. This marked the decline of kit car production in Italy.😢
2004 Puma Tiger electric-powered microcar is said suitable to fulfill the needs of people living in big cities. (Picture from: Puma Club Italia)
Today, Adriano Gatto and his son Gianluca continue to innovate in the automotive world with the Puma Tiger, an electric microcar designed for urban living. The project, highlighted in Quattroruote magazine in April 2013, signifies a new chapter for the historic Puma brand.
Through pictures and videos, we can appreciate these unique Italian-made Puma kit cars. Hopefully, this story of passion and innovation inspires many future endeavors in the automotive world. Ciao!
Any idea, what car is this? (Picture from: LB-Photo)
By the way, if anyone has information about the car pictured above, please share it with us in the comments section below.👀  *** [EKA [13102021] | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | PUMA CLUB ITALIA | AUTOBELLE | REEZOCAR ]
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