We know! This isn't strictly a European car. Although we could argue it's as European as US-built VW Passats, Mercedes ML and BMW X5 as well as Mexican-built Jettas. Furthermore, many Europeans consider the Focus to be their own since they are built and designed in Europe for that "home" market.
In the past, US consumers were offered watered down products to help Ford meet CAFE standards, while overlooking the more exciting ST and RS products. However, all that changed when it was announced the first Focus ST would arrive here in summer 2012.
Thanks to globalization and a new desire for fun, affordable, economical cars, drivers around the world all share the same hot hatch, no matter where it's built or sold.
Sure, it took Ford three generations of Focus to acknowledge there was a need for a performance hatchback in its own domestic market, but we aren't ones to hold a grudge.
The 2012 SEMA automotive show was poised to be the ST's big moment. It would enjoy the spotlight along with other new products like the Toyota FR-S, Chevy Spark and VW Beetle.
Along with its traditional Mustang and truck offerings, Ford would concentrate on its new Focus ST at SEMA. The 252hp 2.0L turbo four-door was poised to make a big impact, particularly with its European reputation for a class-leading chassis and a 0-60 time of 5.9sec. It was easy to understand why Ford was eager to emerge with both barrels blazing and invited us to be part of the action.
With Editor Emmerson having owned both a Sierra RS Cosworth and Focus RS, we were excited at the prospect of adding Ford's hottest-ever US hatchback to our garage. However, it needed to be for SEMA on our terms. We weren't going to paint musclecar stripes over the hood and pump Springsteen from the stereo. Our plan was to highlight the ST's European roots.
Our vision was of a typical Porsche-themed makeover that many VW enthusiasts might execute on their GTI. So it would need Porsche-style wheels, pulled fenders, stretched tires, GT3 RS paint, a black leather and alcantara interior, carbon body additions, etc.
We enlisted the help of several seasoned European car specialists, but had one name at the top of our list. It was the VW tuners at Euro Sport Accessories in Anaheim, CA. They've built large numbers of modified VWs and Audis, manufacturer their own parts and entered our Tuner Grand Prix as often as we've run it. However, you might be unaware they also run FSWerks from the same premises. This division concentrates on the Ford Focus and brings European sensibilities to tuning the car. In the past they've completed many Focus builds for SEMA, so knew the size of our daunting task.
Stepping up to the plate, the team at FSWerks developed a 3" downpipe, 3" cat-back exhaust, Cool-Flo race intake system, SCT ECU flash that's programmed in-house, as well as a rear engine mount to help eliminate wheel hop and smooth gear shifts.
All the development parts are now available to ST owners and should see the ST nipping at the heels of the 275hp mark.
To help keep temperatures down and horsepower up, Forge Motorsport kicked in a front-mount intercooler a few days before the show, and it sat behind the front spoiler with minimal mods.
Obviously, stance was a big part of the equation, so we started with H&R coilovers to lower the car. Again, these were the first units in the country so we didn't know exactly how the car would sit. Unfortunately, it didn't drop the car as low as we'd like for the SEMA show, but on the street at least it seems to ride well.
For added performance, Steeda threw in a prototype rear sway bar. Better known for its Mustang mods, the company has a range of Focus parts and was happy to be involved.
The choice of wheels was a critical one to pull off the transformation. We looked at many designs, including the classic BBS RS but decided to stick with the Porsche theme. Fortunately, Privat Wheels has its Kup design based on the Porsche Cup wheels. However, the Ford's 108PCD and ET50 offset would prove challenging.
We started with a set of 18x8.5" front and 18x9.5" rear Kup wheels, which were re-drilled to fit the Ford PCD by LTMotorwerks. This is a relatively common practice where adapters aren't available, but should only be undertaken by a wheel specialist.
The silver centers were color-matched by LTMW before being wrapped in 225/45 (front) and 245/35 (rear) Falken FK-453 tires. To gain extra clearance, but also give it a Euro-look, the tires have a slight stretch on the wheels.
Getting a pre-production car for the SEMA build brought many challenges throughout the process. The biggest problem was that parts didn't exist, so everything was either custom-made or delivered at the last minute once available to us. When it came to the body mods and unique aero package, we turned to the talented team at LTMotorWerks in El Monte, CA.
Best known as BMW specialists, the company's in-house bodyshop and paint booth means it can adapt to any scenario. In this case they tackled our Focus with gusto, despite a very tight deadline that gave them a matter of weeks to complete it.
Undeterred, they didn't cut any corners and developed a custom carbon fiber front spoiler, side skirts, rear diffuser and rear wing from scratch. The fenders also needed pulling to cover the dished wheels, and the factory bumpers were modified to follow the new lines.
At the same time, body kit manufacturer Advan Carbon Technology in Rancho Dominguez, CA developed a carbon fiber vented hood for us. We had a pair of carbon Focus RS vents shipped from SFS in the UK but Advan's Modular Multi Piece CWT Design hood included molded vents, so they were never needed. And despite all their work, the hood was painted body color because we believe carbon should be shown tastefully, although the integral vents were left exposed
After the aero kit was developed, LTMW sprayed the entire car in iconic Porsche GT3 RS Grey Black. It's a unique color with a great heritage and a strong link to the Euro community.
Once painted, the car needed some contrast so LTMotorwerks took the Volcano Orange paint from the Focus ST as inspiration and used a similar orange as a highlight. It appeared in the body line circling the car as well as on the stock calipers.
While the brakes remained stock, we'd been talking to a couple of leading brake suppliers to fit a four-piston kit. However, our unique wheel fitment and insufficient time to test fit anything meant we ran out of time for a big-brake kit.
There was time, however, to work on the interior. So the rear seat and door cards were removed by LTMW and trimmed in black leather and alcantara to match the wonderful Recaro Sportster CS seats we fitted up front on custom rails.
The seats are similar to the OE Recaros offered by Ford as a new car option. However, we preferred the classic approach of the Sportster CS and the more subtle finish of the colors and materials.
Developing the parts and painting the car took us to the edge of our deadline. With a transporter waiting outside to deliver the Focus to SEMA, the front bumper was damaged while loading the car. And despite a frantic fix and repray, we didn't have time to complete the car exactly as we'd hoped.
Despite the last minute hitch, our ST was en route to Vegas for SEMA 2012 where it was displayed in the main Ford area alongside the Ford drifting demonstration. Fortunately, it didn't go unnoticed and we were delighted to discover it earned the attention of big brother magazine Motor Trend, which named it one of their Top 5 Favorite Fords at SEMA.
The future for our Ford is undecided. We have a number of new performance parts from FSWerks, Forge Motorsport and others to dyno test. But after that its unclear what we'll do. While we hope to take it to a few SoCal shows, we're also thinking about running it as a track car, possibly building it for multiple events like time attack, autocross, , SCCA, NASA and local club events.
Whatever is decided, our new ST has made its mark on the show scene and now its time to prove itself on the tarmac.
2013 Ford Focus ST
Engine 2.0L four-cylinder16v turbo with FSWerks Cool-Flo air intake, 3" downpipe and cat-back exhaust, SCT ECU flash and lower rear engine mount, Forge Motorsport front-mount intercooler
Drivetrain six-speed manual
Brakes stock, painted calipers
Suspension H&R coilovers, Steeda rear sway bar
Wheels & Tires 18x8.5" f, 18x9.5" r Privat Kup wheels, 225/45 R18 f, 245/35 R18 r Falken Azenis FK453
Exterior LTMW custom carbon fiber front lip, side skirt, rear diffuser, rear wing, Advan Carbon Technology Modular Multi Piece CWT Design carbon fiber hood
Interior Recaro Sportster CS front seats, rear seats and door cards trimmed in matching leather and suedette
Thanks Ford Motor Company, FSWerks, LTMotorWerks, H&R Suspension, Forge Motorsport, Privat Wheels, Falken Tires, Recaro, Steeda, SFS Performance