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.