Prior to producing the VW powered Pumas, the original Puma company built cars based on DKW components. When Volkswagen of Brazil took over the Brazilian DKW operation, which was known as Vemag, VW basically inherited the relationship between the two companies. Volkswagen could have abandoned Puma, but instead decided to continue to supply components to the small company. Two evolutionary models were built with DKW components. The original GT Malzoni was produced in small numbers as a sports racer. A few street cars were also built. Only about 35 Malzonis were made before it was replaced by a restyled version that was renamed the Puma GT. Both models were front wheel drive powered by DKW three cylinder two stroke engines.

The two persons most closely associated with the early days of Puma are Genaro ("Rino") Malzoni and Jorge Lettry. Rino Malzoni was an Italian immigrant who became successful as a lawyer and a sugar cane and cattle farmer. Malzoni liked racing and fast cars, and he set out to build his own racer with the help of Jorge Lettry, who headed the Vemag racing department. It was Lettry who tweaked the small DKW engines to produce upwards of 100 horsepower from 1000 cc's in the racing Malzonis. By all accounts, these cars did quite well against their larger displacement rivals. Although Vemag disappeared from the scene, Malzoni and Lettry continued their association, with Lettry suggesting the Puma name and becoming Puma's production chief. The success of the early DKW powered models paved the way for the VW based Pumas.

1966 DKW GT Malzoni

This was the predecessor to the DKW Puma GT.
Photo by Joao Paulo Lopez provided by Jason Vogel.
Owner: Paulo Lomba

Two Malzonis at the Monterey Historic Races

Three Brazilian Malzonis competed in the 1999 event at Laguna Seca.
Scan from Classic & Sports Car, November 1999.
Owners: Boris Feldman and Eduardo de Mello

GT Malzoni in Racing Trim

Another shot of Eduardo de Mello's outsanding GT Malzoni.
Rear view shows the simple round tail lights used on the early cars.
Scans from Auto & Tecnica, Classic Cars, Ano 3, Numero 32.

Paulo Lomba's GT Malzoni

Same Malzoni with a 1971 rally specification Puma GTE.
Paulo Lomba owns both of these outstanding cars.
Photos by Jose Rodrigo Octavio provided by Jason Vogel.

GT Malzoni Sports Racer

Malzonis were built prmarily for racing.
This is an old photo from the 1960's.
Photo provided by Jason Vogel.

1967 DKW Puma GT Coupe

This was the immediate predecessor to the VW Pumas.

DKW Puma GT Factory Photo

The new car was aimed at the sports GT market.

The Last DKW Puma GT Coupe

Owner: Ricardo Prado

This is the last DKW powered Puma GT that was produced. Anisio Campos redesigned the Malzoni and the name of the car was changed to the Puma GT. Ricardo Prado's father, who worked for Vemag (the Brazilian DKW producer), assembled the chassis of this car at home. It then went to the Puma factory in Sao Paulo to receive the very last body. By that time, production of DKW powered cars had stopped, and the prototype of the rear engine VW powered cars was being prepared. Factory improvements to Ricardo's car include a special dashboard, disk brakes, crankshaft damper, and reinforcements to the chassis structure. Total production of the Puma DKW GT was approximately 136 units.

Dash and engine bay of Ricardo's DKW Puma.

DKW Puma GT Racer

From a recent classic car race at Interlagos.
Photo provided by Jason Vogel.
Owner: Dinho Amaral

Another DKW Puma GT

Carrozine photo used by permission of Jose Geraldo.

Several articles have appeared in recent years in Brazilian auto ethusiast magazines regarding these cars. Auto & Tecnica, Classic Cars, Ano 3, Number 32, has an extensive five page article on the GT Malzoni. O Radiador, December 1999, has a detailed article on the three GT Malzonis that went to Monterey that year. The best article I have seen on the Puma GT is in the March-April 1996 issue of O Radiador. All of these are in Portugese. I have original copies of these articles. If anyone knows of additional sources, please let me know.

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Updated 9/12/07