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2001 Ford Focus SVT Protoype - Dream Team

Ford's Special Vehicle Team looks to tug on Honda's cape with the Focus SVT

Moe Durand
Aug 1, 2001
Photographer: Alan Hall

It’s no secret. Even golf club swinging, blue-hairs in plaid pants have wised up to the fact that Honda currently dominates the import-performance tuner market. The show scene reveals a Honda-to-anything-else ratio of about 10:1, and the same proportion seems evident on the streets and dragstrips of tuner-happy America. Privately, we’re rooting for Renault LeCar comeback, but even the most optimistic on the staff is beginning to lose faith. With the Honda in mind, Ford’s Special Vehicles Team set about transforming the Focus ZX3 hatchback into a specialty model intended to butt heads with the next Civic Si (or anything else in the price category for that matter). In creating the SVT Focus, Ford also hopes to have some of its performance image rub off on the base focus, and enlighten tuners to the fact that the basic Focus ZX3 is a great platform that’s begging to be modified.

The soul of this SVT Focus resides under the hood. Ford’s special vehicle engineers were unleashed on the base Focus’s DOHC Zetec inline-four-cylinder motor, and they achieved sphincter puckering 170 hp @ 7,000rpm, and more importantly 145 lb-ft of torque at 5,500 rpm. The majority of this torque (85 percent) is available at only 2,200 rpm. It is this emphasis on low-end power, in conjunction with the proper gearing that will make the SVT Focus so much more fun to drive.

The increased power is achieved with a revised cylinder head featuring higher flowing intake ports, larger valves, and increased valvespring rates. In addition, new performance camshafts featuring variable valve timing on the intake side help recreate the Zetec into a VTEC-slaying superhero. A new dual stage intake manifold varies intake runner length, and optimizes power across the entire rpm band. The Zetec’s cast-iron block receives unique forged steel rods, while higher compression hypereutectic pistons help increase compression to 10.2:1. The SVT Focus gets a stainless steel header from the factory that uses a single less restrictive underbody catalytic converter to reduce backpressure and improve breathing. In addition, exhaust pipe diameter has swelled to 58mm, ending in a 75mm polished chrome tip.

The born-again Zetec rev-happy mill gets a Getrag six-speed transmission, the first of its kind in a front-wheel-drive Ford product. The dual mass flywheel attached to the engine is also the first ever used on a North American Ford product and will reduce the four-banger’s vibration, yield smoother transmission engagement.

In creating an overall driver’s package, the handling is improved with a revised suspension that is helped with higher rate springs, specially tuned shocks, and larger sway bars, which dramatically improve the car’s handling without compromising ride quality. In addition, the Focus SVT is also blessed with extraordinary stopping capability. Front brake rotors measure an impressive 300mm (11.8 inches), and rear rotors are boosted to 280mm. A larger contact patch appears courtesy SVT’s five-spoke 17x7 inch alloy wheels wrapped in 215/45-ZR17 rubber.

Beyond the special mechanical sauce, the SVT treatment adds unique front and rear fascias, a liftgate-mounted spoiler, and new rocker panel moldings. The SVT makeover also adds a few new wrinkles to the car’s exterior. A black leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and groovy metallic pedal covers complement a titanium-faced electro-luminescent gauge package expanded to include an oil temperature and pressure gauge. The SVT Focus seats feature either red or blue cloth inserts, trimmed in black leather with improved padding and support over the stock seats, as well as color-trimmed door panels.

The most stunning figure regarding the SVT Focus might be the $18,000 Ford expects to charge for the privilege of ownership. For this modest sum (really a meager sum considering its specifications), the SVT Focus brings a big stick of performance to a brewing car rumble that will include the new 160hp Civic Si, and the 170 and 180hp versions of the Sentra SE-R, and the 140hp Mazda MP3.

Since 1991, Ford’s Special Vehicles Team has been exploring new ways to design and market a limited number of high-performance cars that deliver fun in abundance.

These early designs, based on the Mustang platform, armed the enthusiast/consumer with a driving machine several shades hotter than the standard Mustang GT. SVT vehicles had always been intended to provide the utmost driving enjoyment in a distinct, complete package for less than it would have cost the consumer to modify a base model themselves. Their ability to conceive, design, and bring such products to market so quickly is based on the SVT personnel and flexibility. The SVT members have the ability to draw on Ford’s vast resources (in addition to aftermarket suppliers) to help create the best possible vehicle to fill a niche.

The staff is comprised of bonafide car enthusiasts who share and understand the core SVT goals of offering performance, exclusivity, substance, and value. Vehicles are examined as entire systems for the enthusiast, with brakes receiving equal attention as drivetrain, suspension, and exterior packaging to yield the most desirable overall package for the money.

Since 1993, SVT has turned out over 85,000 wearing their badge. This organization’s success at competently modifying cars and be marketing to a fervent niche of auto enthusiasts has been reinforced with every new SVT model. Now, with the new SVT Focus, the group intends to apply some of their special brand of blue oval magic to the compact performance set, and perhaps the enthusiast’s perception of the Focus will forever be changed.

By Moe Durand
10 Articles



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