The Ford Focus didn't make a clean break from the gate in 2000 when Ford's 'world car' hit U.S. shores. On the strip, a non-existing engine program caused a well-built, full-tube chassis to flounder down the quarter mile. To pump up the volume on the street, Ford dealt out one-dollar cars like a blackjack dealer in a decrepit downtown Las Vegas casino. While most of the Focus project cars were more flash than substance, one stood out as a powerhouse: HKS' red rocket. This boosted Blue Oval eventually landed at Vegas' own Silver State Motorsports in the capable hands of Mike Arnett.
474 WHPThe car was originally built by HKS with Jon Kuroyama when he was with Fastrax Turbos," Arnett says. "The first thing we did was install 1000cc injectors from RC Engineering. Then we performed a re-tune on our Dynojet that yielded 447 whp. Shortly after, the engine suffered the catastrophic effects of piston-to-head clearance problems, totaling the block and destroying the combustion chambers. After rebuilding the SVT block from my 1999 ZX2, adding a Tial blow-off valve and sending the head to Baker Cylinder heads, the new setup was complete."
The SVT block is stronger in critical areas and features under piston oil squirters, which cool the pistons and add reliability by fending off detonation. The block was machined at Kroyer Race Engines and then assembled with the same HKS GT3037S turbo and custom stainless steel turbo header as before. "This combo with lower compression and a better flowing head yielded 474 whp and 406 lb-ft of torque with a few tweaks of the HKS F-CON Pro at the same 23 psi," Arnett says. "Some fine tuning with the timing gears widened the powerband by 600 rpm."
The aforementioned Baker modified head had been fitted with .5mm-over Ferrea stainless steel valves, and Crower springs and titanium retainers after getting a full port-and-polish treatment. The intake manifold is a Ford racing offering modified to work in conjunction with the turbo conversion.
The Ford's exterior plays up the car's sleeper demeanor to a tee. There is no bulging body kit, just a custom fiberglass bumper to facilitate the exit of the car's custom HKS Super Drager exhaust system, but, by the time you see this body mod the Focus is fading into the horizon. Other than that, it's all stock.
Arnett addressed the underpinnings by swapping out the commuter-tuned OE shocks for a set of KW Suspension coilovers. Traction was enhanced with the addition of a Quaife limited slip differential and 35-series Toyo Proxes tires. The 215/35-18s are wrapped around old school Axis Touring Cup five spokes in a clean silver finish.
The interior is a flood of Sparco red as the front buckets, rear seats and other surfaces have been wrapped in the company's infamous seat material. The car runs a Sparco Pro2000 seat on the driver side and a Rev5 on the passenger side. Both offerings are rigid-back, wraparound race designs with the Pro2000 sporting adjustable lumbar support padding to ensure a more comfortable driving position. The dash is a full custom concoction with the OE gauges replaced with an Auto Meter tach and boost, and HKS oil pressure and water temperature readouts. Crow harness and an Autopower roll bar round out the interior mods.
The red rocket is no stranger to the track having unleashed its fury at numerous Las Vegas Motor Speedway Midnight Mayhem events, test-n-tune nights and Street Wars races. "The very first time out at the drag strip, I was joking with people about breaking into the 15s," Arnett says. "On the second run I posted an 11.3 at 127 and all the giggling stopped. So far, e.t.s have been consistent 11.2s at 129 mph, spinning first through third gears. After working out the traction issues, 10s should be in the near future. Driving the car on the street is a whole different story. With the average torque being so high, spinning the tires on the freeway at 80 mph is something you just get used to. Even better is doing that while passing proud V8 guys. The thing people don't understand is how much isn't done to this car. There are some flashy parts on this, but the Focus, in reality, could be duplicated for a lot less. I'm still on the original driveshafts, ignition, radiator, transmission, and all but one motor mount. No blown head gaskets or sleeving the block here. I'm not even using the higher flowing SVT head. We've always believed in function over looks. This car has been nothing but reliable and it flat-out goes to prove that there are other solid platforms than the typical and expected cars that you see all day long."
Ford is up against the ropes, taking a beating and bleeding profits like an out-classed journeyman boxer. The company has little currently to entice import enthusiasts and nothing at the recent round of auto shows indicates things will change in the future. While the Focus is certainly not a frontline trooper in the sport compact scene, this creation vividly illustrates that there is potential behind the Blue Oval when well-selected hard parts and boost join the fight under the command of a precise tuning regime. For the feverish Ford fanatics out there, low-mileage 2000 and 2001 ZX models can be had for under $5000. So if you have to have a Blue Oval, we offer the Silver State Motorsports Critical Focus as the target to lock-in on. Turn and burn.