Nobody takes on a project car with the intention of coming in last. Wanting to win and having what it takes to beat the kings of the aftermarket industry are two different things. What does it mean to be able to modify a car that hasn't even hit showroom floors yet?
How do you balance an impossibly tight deadline, camera crews, an ever-evolving vehicle, and your own vision for what the car should be? If you're the team at FocusSport competing in SpeedTV's Street Tuner Challenge, it takes more than a little help from the suits at the Ford Motor Company to get things right. It takes focus.
Back in 2007, Ford found itself disappointed with its performance in the sport compact car segment. With a lackluster presence in the community, the boys in Detroit found themselves needing to prove exactly what the '08 Focus coupe would be capable of. We say "would be" because the car hadn't even hit full production yet. Instead of relying on Scion-esque marketing to up the car's appeal to the tuning crowd, the Blue Oval decided to hand over a pre-production version of the car to FocusSport in Anaheim, Calif., to compete in SpeedTV's Street Tuner Challenge. FocusSport's engineering and wrenching ability would be on display for an international audience, and Ford's redesigned compact would be scrutinized down to every nut and bolt.
With a trial by fire of mythic proportions on both companies' hands, FocusSport got down to business. They would only have 13 weeks to turn the car from a rough version of what a '08 Focus might look like--what Ford refers to as a "crusher"--to a serious looking and performing tarmac beast. What's worse, they could only work on the car while SpeedTV's cameras were about, making limited time even tighter.
The guys in Anaheim got started by jumping in on the engine and transmission. The show has a slew of categories for teams to earn points in and FocusSport knew they wanted to take the overall horsepower section. They started by tearing apart the stock engine--mating FocusSport 9:1 pistons and rings to forged Cosworth rods. The guys knew the stock crank was good for some serious abuse, so they bolted everything in place and moved onto the top end.
Thanks to their ties with Ford, FocusSport was able to land a Ford Racing cylinder head with stock cams and Ford Racing valvesprings. The trick head helped to handle the epic amounts of air the team had in store for the 2.0L. To help keep things flowing right, the guys modified a Cosworth intake manifold to work with the new car's engine bay in preparation for the next step. With years of boosting Ford four-bangers under their belts, they knew forced induction was a must. The guys pulled a FocusSport turbo kit off the shelf and started swapping parts for maximum power.
The team decided on their cream-of-the-crop Garrett GT2871R turbo, accepting the greater lag for the more efficient 71mm compressor to boost power over 300 ponies. The kit uses a Forge Motorsport internal wastegate and a Turbosmart diverter valve to keep things in check. Intake gases are fed through custom 3-inch piping into a FocusSport intercooler and exit via a cast FocusSport manifold into a trick 2.5-inch exhaust fabbed by the shop.
All of the parts in the world would be useless unless the team could manage to reprogram the car's ECU. The car's brain was the first of its kind for Ford, and something completely oddball for the tuning world. Instead of relying on a standalone unit, FocusSport vice president, Randy Robles, stepped up and dove into the control unit. "The biggest challenge was the engine management," he says. "The goal was to win everything, and we couldn't do that unless we reprogrammed the ECU." In the end, Robles was able to crack the code with the help of SCT's David Posea.
With the car breathing easy and thinking straight, the team turned its attention to feeding the beast they just created, relying on a stock fuel pump and regulator to feed a set of Siemens 60 lb/hr injectors. At this point, FocusSport had managed to pull 396 hp from the wheels, a full 284 more than stock, and an unholy 347 lb-ft of torque. Knowing the stock clutch wouldn't stand a chance against those numbers, the team dropped a chromoly steel flywheel and Exedy hyper single pressure plate and six-puck cerametallic clutch in its place. FocusSport installed a Ford Racing torsion differential to keep both wheels kicking the stock axles.
Of course, the Street Tuner Challenge isn't a drag race competition. The producers are looking for the best overall car, so factors like handling and stopping prowess had to be addressed too. The team tackled stopping their American rocket by bolting a set of Brembo calipers up front squeezing on good-sized 328mm rotors. Out back, the team went with a set of Ford SVT clampers gripping 280mm discs. All four corners are pushed by fluid running through slick custom stainless braided lines made in-house.
The guys turned to H&R for their suspension needs, dropping the car with a set of coilovers from the company using 400-pound springs rates up front and 514-pound in the rear. FocusSport bolted on H&R 24mm antiroll bars front and back to keep the car planted through the twisties, and turned their attention to wheels and tires.
The team knew they wanted to go with an eye-catching, orange-on-black paint scheme, so they went with a set of Pro Race 1.2 rollers from Team Dynamics. The 18x8 black wheels dipped in BFGoodrich R1 rubber give the car a sinister stance and some serious grip to match.
With the mechanicals solid on the car, the team could turn their wrenches on the interior and exterior. Outside, the guys relied on Corvette Specialty in Riverside, Calif., to install a custom body kit fabbed up by 3dCarbon. Complete with a front lip, side skirts, a rear valance, and low-slung spoiler, the guys managed to change the car from commuting mule to track-lap champion. The boys at FocusSport even managed to work cooling ducts into the front fascia for those massive Brembos. Once the kit was installed, Corvette Specialty slathered the car in retina-searing orange and flat black paint.
With the paint out of the way, Corvette Specialty laid into the interior, ripping out the stock seats in favor of a set from MOMO. The rest of the interior was reworked with a custom orange, gray, and black scheme, all wrapped around a custom FocusSport rollbar. A Turbosmart boost controller, J&S Electronics knock detector, and Innovative Motorsports wideband gauges wrapped up the changes to the instrument cluster. A full Sony sound system was dropped in place to keep the car kicking.
So how did the car stand up against the competition? The FocusSport team managed to fend off serious efforts, which included a trick Mitsubishi Evo IX and a serious Mini Cooper S for the win. While proving their mettle to an international audience and dishing Ford up the credit they needed was important, the FocusSport guys also managed to demonstrate that just because the nimble hatchback Focus of old is gone doesn't mean the new coupe isn't a worthless brick.
The team can't legally drive the car on public roads thanks to its "crusher" status, but the blaze-orange beast has made more than one appearance at Willow Springs Raceway, managing a blistering 1:33 lap time with a top speed of 131 mph. The reception at this year's Focus On The Beach proved that the new coupe was worthy of being accepted into the Focus brotherhood too, with crowds surrounding FocusSport's effort. Positive proof that American metal isn't dead.
Garrett GT2671R turbo, Custom 3-inch piping, FocusSport intercooler, Forge Motorsport internal wastegate, Turbosmart blow-off valve, FocusSport forged pistons, FocusSport rings, Cosworth forged rods, Cosworth forged rod bolts, FocusSport oil cooler, Ford Racing cylinder head, Ford Racing valvesprings, Cosworth intake manifold, Siemens 60 lb/hr fuel injectors, FocusSport cast exhaust manifold, FocusSport 2.5-inch exhaust
Chromoly flywheel, Exedy hyper single six-puck cerametallic clutch, Exedy hyper single pressure plate, Ford Racing torsion differential
Front: H&R 180mm coilovers, H&R 24mm antiroll bar
Rear: H&R 120mm coilovers, H&R 244mm antiroll bar
Front: Brembo calipers, 328mm rotors
Rear: Ford SVT calipers, 280mm rotors, FocusSport braided stainless brake lines
Wheels And Tires
Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.2 18x8 (front and rear), BFGoodrich R1 225/40-18
3dCarbon side skirts, 3dCarbon front lip, 3dCarbon spoiler, 3dCarbon rear valance, Custom orange paint
MOMO Street Racer GT seat, MOMO Daytona seat, MOMO harnesses, Custom orange, gray, and black interior, FocusSport rollbar, Turbosmart boost gauge, J&S Electronics knock detector, Innovative wideband