The last thing we want to do is lie to our readers, so here's the truth. When the Turbo staff first saw the Ford Focus, we thought it was pretty much out of its league from a styling standpoint when compared with the Civic or Integra. (Though it did have the Yugo beat hands down.) When we were offered Project Focus by Ford, we figured power can be pulled out of anything, depending on the size of the wallet, but style can be harder to come by. Let's face it, it was like trying to turn a wiener dog with no teeth into a prize-fighting pitbull with man-eating chompers. One thing we have learned is never doubt the scene. While our build-up engine was receiving the Crower and JE treatment, we decided to put the challenge to the aftermarket.
We enlisted the help of Wings West, because it has a reputation for bringing out the best in any car. Hella was tapped for a pair of its trick light pods. Everyone knows the effect that rolling stock can have on a ride, so we contacted Nitto Tires and Axis Sport Tuning.
Rolling on stock 15-inch wheels might work-if the car was for grandma-but for us bigger is better. We bolted on a set of 18-inch Axis Se7ens wrapped with Nitto NT450 205/35-18 rubber. With the difference in circumference and weight in the wheel compared with the stock 15-inch wheel, we noticed a major difference in off-the-line performance. Since most of our previous dyno tests were done on the stock rims and tires, we will have to get a new baseline to figure out how much power we lost from the added enhancement.
The Wings West body kit proved to be a savior. The Focus package includes a front chin spoiler, side skirts, rear hatch wing and rear lip spoiler. Thanks to Ernie Bunnell and Wings West, our Focus body kit was pre-painted to factory silver and ready to be installed. The Wings West crew handled the duties of applying the kit to the car and, with their expertise, the Ford was back on the road in no time at all. All that was required for the install were a few self-tapping screws, a drill, acetone to clean the area of application and all the body pieces that are included in the kit.
Last in the exterior makeover department was the addition of Hella headlight pods. Hella advises that these are not legal for on-road use in the United States and should be used for show or race use only. The projector-style lights utilize one beam for low and one for high, with additional wiring to run both at the same time. The light assembly is a bolt-on affair that lined up to all factory mounting points and all of the wiring plugged directly into the factory harness with the exception of the optional light feature.
We sent our light pods out to San Diego Car Salon to have the exterior shell of the pods color-matched to our factory silver. Once the pods were color-matched, it was up to John Tanga to install the lights, which took a mere 50 minutes.
Under the banner of power enhancement, we had incorporated a custom one-off exhaust using a Tanabe N1-style muffler and custom 2.25-inch piping. We now have a production piece offered through APEX Integration. The exhaust system is a three-piece affair that comes with a stainless-steel muffler, 105 mm tip and 60 mm powdercoated piping. Luckily for us, the APEX exhaust tip just cleared the exhaust molding on the Wings West body kit.
Wings West and Hella should be rewarded, as many of the staffers at Turbo are now eating crow over the styling potential of the Ford Focus. Our Blue Oval has what it takes to stay alive and thrive in a world full of body-tuned Civics, Integras and Diamond Stars. With most of the cosmetics out of the way, we can now concentrate on making more horsepower. In our next installment of Project Focus, we will add a Kenne Bell Boost-A-Pump, Crower cams and a Venom nitrous kit to extract a few extra ponies while Crower and JE finalize the fortification on our second motor. Stay tuned.
Although the Axis Sport Tuning 18-inch Se7en wheels and Nitto tires helped Project Focus look like a champ, we felt that the car's bodylines could be further enhanced with a body kit.
Since there is no factory wing on a Focus hatchback, this aftermarket Wings West offering gave the car a unique look. The Wings West unit is a three-piece proposition and requires drilling holes into the hatch for installation.
Side skirts require removal of the factory unit and the addition of a 90-degree aluminum bracket to bolt the new skirt in place.
These Hella light pods were originally designed for the European Focus, but since there isn't a major physical difference between a U.S.-spec and Euro-spec Focus, we decided to give ours a pair of new Hella colored contacts.
Removing the front headlight requires unbolting one pop tab and three 10mm bolts. With all bolts and pop tabs removed, the light harness is unplugged from the light.
The Hella light pods plug directly into the factory harness, which makes wiring as easy as plugging a toaster into a wall socket. Beam adjustment is necessary once the pods are mounted to the car.
Before (driver side) and after (passenger side)-Hella yeah!