Focusing on a Focus

Update by Tom Suddard to the Ford SVT Focus project car
Jun 30, 2014

After lots of thought and a few Craigslist ads, we bought this Focus SVT for $3500.
The SVT trim level is fairly rare and comes with goodies like a high-compression engine, a stainless-steel header, a six-speed gearbox and stiffer springs.
This car has faded paint on the top of the rear bumper, but every other red Focus we looked at had the same issue. Why buy a red one, then? Because it's our favorite color.
A good way to judge the quality of a car's paint is to look down the side of it. Any "waves" or irregularities in the reflection indicate shoddy paintwork.
Ooh, SVT! We generally steer clear of modified used cars, but we were pleased to see this one was unmolested.
When looking at a used car, it's a good idea to bring a few friends. Besides providing safety in numbers, friends can distract the seller while you look at what's important.
Always bring a flashlight and pens, and don't leave until you have everything you need from the seller. Assume the seller is going to be abducted by aliens tomorrow.

If you’re reading this, chances are you like sporty cars. We do, too, but they also come with some problems. Limited funds, a lack of parking space, and a need for practicality make owning a sports car tough for many people. We’d all love to have a three-car garage with a race car, a daily driver, and a pickup truck in it, but that isn’t possible for everyone–including us. How could we satisfy our need to play with cars, but also get back and forth to work and school with all of our stuff? The answer was obvious: It was time to buy a hot hatch. Pioneered by cars like the Volkswagen Rabbit GTI, this genre of automobile is all about compromise, and it generally features milquetoast hatchbacks with factory performance improvements.

A full story about why we chose a Focus SVT is coming in a future issue of Grassroots Motorsports, but to make a long story short, we decided it fit our criteria. After looking at a few on Craigslist, we found this one about an hour away from home.

Besides some faded paint on the rear bumper, it’s in nearly perfect shape. The only downside? The odometer reads 250,000 miles, which is more than a bit scary, especially on a little econobox like this. On the bright side, the Focus came with every service record since new–including the original SVT certificate of authenticity. Somebody obviously loved this car, as it even had a clear paint-protecting film all over it. We decided to take our chances and paid $3500.

And, so far, we’re thrilled. This Focus has almost every option, so the stereo is awesome, the seats are comfortable, and the windows have switches instead of cranks (that was a little unsettling at first). Normally we don’t buy project cars with this many options, but this was a special case: in addition to regular motorsports events, we’ll be putting almost 100 miles per day on it commuting back and forth to work and school. We know weight is the enemy, but on this project we aren’t willing to go without creature comforts just for the sake of lap times.

But don’t think we’ve gone soft on you just yet. In stock form, this little Focus can scoot from zero to 60 in 7.5 seconds–not bad for something that can carry a couch and get 30 miles to the gallon. Of course, under our stewardship it will only get faster. Follow this project to see what a high-mileage commuter car is really capable of.

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