Had the opportunity to have a little TD of the Puma M26 couple of days back.
Based on a Tata 407 4X4 chassis, the end result is nothing like i've seen before.
The only tell tale signs are the tata dashboard/steering wheel/seats/pedals & gear levers
First off from the outside the puma looks every bit of a menacing ugly beast with angular lines & monstrous proportions. From no angle would you call this looking good but then its built for a purpose & hopefully it does that well (no chance of proving itself though, thankfully)
The tyres were truck sized Michelins, having atleast a foot clearance from the fenders, with the doors located atleast 6 feet off the ground & one requiring to perform some acrobatics to open the door handles & then getting oneself inside the vehicle by means of 2 piddly foot rests placed oddly & some grab bars. Since the doors are so heavy they are attached to pneumatic struts to swing them open but one needs all his/her strength to then manage to close the doors. The door sills are like a meter high & yet again one has to like 'jump through hoops' to go over them & land inside the vehicle without banging your head on the roof
Tall people will have a nightmare! Luckily the foot wells are deeply recessed, otherwise it would a catastrophy to sit normally inside this vehicle! Seats are plain average bucket seats, mildly changed from the original tata ones provided. The Steering wheel is angled oddly with one having to hold like almost horizontally, it sure felt weird
Front Windshield is Compartmentalised into 2 pieces one for driver & the other for co-driver & are really small, with one barely getting a view out of them to see where one is going & no idea of what is below or next to this vehicle. Starting the vehicle was typical tata fare, nothing interesting. Luckily the vehicle had airconditioning with cool air blowing out of 2 huge boxes having vents on top of them, placed behind the driver & co-driver's seats, else one can get baked alive in this vehicle! The rear portion of the vehicle had some seats & tons of equipment all spread around in sealed plastic bags. The Roof top in the centre had a circular duct opening presumably for a gunner to do his job with bracketing in place outside for attaching the big gun
The Gear box was really hard to operate, especially slotting into gear & its difficult to concentrate keeping an eye on the shift on one hand & try to get some judgement from the poor view afforded from the tiny windscreen, wonder how the driver would be able to do so in a war like situation Adding to this confusion, reversing this vehicle with absolutely no view is a massive undertaking in itself. The wing mirrors provided are too small for the job at hand
At the end of it, as long as its good for the intended purpose, everything else is secondary!
Will put up some pics shortly!