Ford Focus duo: Ford Focus MK2 ST & Ford Focus MK3 RS
The cult of the hot hatch has been inspiring enthusiasts and spurring them on for generations. Ever since the genre first broke into the mainstream in the 1970s, the idea of having a sensible shopping hatchback that can also dominate a B-road and embarrass your posh neighbour’s widehipped sports car has held a perennial appeal.
Hot hatches democratised performance; they meant the ability to go fast and enjoy yourself in a car wasn’t just limited to the moneyed classes – these perky little hatchbacks knocked down social barriers (and also, frequently, actual barriers. Torquesteer is a harsh mistress).
The Ford badge has been inextricably intertwined with the concept for almost as long as it’s existed, with assorted XR, RS and ST models transitioning from bedroom poster to driveway project with enthusiasts across the globe.
And the Focus, in its various guises and generations, has come to represent all that a hot hatch should be: rapid, agile, tuneable, practical, tuneable again, and even more tuneable still. The two cars we have here prove the point pretty conclusively: one is a Mk2 ST, the other a Mk3 RS, both of which have been tweaked for fast road thrills.
They’re not the most extreme cars you’ll have seen in these pages, but instead represent the zeitgeist of modern hot hatch tuning – sensible mods to create silly performance. And judging by the smiles on their owners’ faces, it’s all working out very well indeed. See, these guys have been into hot Fords from day one.
Ford Focus MK2 ST
ENGINE 2.5-litre turbocharged five-cylinder, Collins Performance Stage 2, blockmod, Airtec plenum, Airtec Stage 2 intercooler, Dreamscience induction kit, Turbosmart recirc valve, RS vac pipe, blue hose kit, Mongoose downpipe, Mongoose decat, KMS Thunderstormcat-back systemwith 5in tails, gloss black header tank cover, RS plugs
POWER 320bhp (owner’s estimate)
TRANSMISSION Stock ST with RS clutch
SUSPENSION Eibach 30mmsprings, polybushed arms
BRAKES MTec drilled and grooved discs,Mintex pads
WHEELS & TYRES 19in RS wheels, 235/35x19 Landsail tyres
EXTERIOR Customwrap by Blueprint, RS rear spoiler, Zunsport grilles,WRC bonnet vents, RallyFlapzmud flaps, RS wing vents, wind deflectors, gel badges, RS Parts splitter kit
INTERIOR Recaro heated front seats, Auto Specialists roll cage
“I passed my driving test about three months after I turned 17, as my late father – who passed away in December 2018 – was an ex-driving instructor and lorry driver; I followed in his footsteps and got my Class 1 licence,” says Stephen, owner of the Mk3 RS. “I had my first car when I was 16 and it sat on the driveway for nearly a year before I learnt to drive in it – a G-reg Orion 1.3 Classic. Having passed first time, I then fitted a WRC front bumper to it, Dezent 5 spokes, a Peco exhaust, and neons everywhere.”
Classic moves, and after that strong start Stephen went on to own various other Orions, a Mondeo ST24, and then a Mk6 Escort that got a lot of love: slammed, big bumpers, 17in Wolfrace wheels, twin 5in Rage exhaust… All very of its time, and you can see the seeds being sown. After a brief dalliance with BMW, he came back to the fold with three different Focus ST225s before ending up with the holy grail: the Mk3 Focus RS.
He grins, “The RS came up at the right price at the right time. It was owned by a YouTuber, B7TMY; I’d watched his videos and seen him doing various bits to the RS. I’d also met him at Ford Fair and had my picture taken with him. To be honest, I wasn’t that into the car at first as I thought the back end looked ugly, but when I saw him strip it back to standard and put it up for sale, I wanted it.
“I contacted the company selling it, Imperial Cars, and five days later I was holding the keys. And from then, it was time to fix up the various niggles (like the holes in the side skirts where the splitter kit had been fitted) and carry out a few mods to make it my own.”
Stephen likes to be as hands-on as possible with his cars, so he knows all the work has been done to his exacting standards, and having acquired an extensive bundle of upgrades from Airtec, he set to work. The mechanical spec is now extremely strong, boasting an Airtec intercooler and big boost pipe pack, Airtec Stage 2 induction kit with Velossa Tech Big Mouth ram-air kit, Airtec oil cooler and rear diff cooler, and a full Cobra Sport non-resonated exhaust with sports cat and valves. An MSD 420 Multi-Maps setup via the Cobb AccessPort V3 furnishes him with somewhere in the region of 420bhp, which is more than enough to plaster a smile across his face every time he flexes his right ankle.
Ford Focus MK3 RS
ENGINE 2.3-litre EcoBoost, Airtec intercooler and big boost pipe pack, Airtec Stage 2 induction kit, Velossa Tech Big Mouth ram-air kit, Turbosmart Kompact shortie dual-port BOV (VR08), Airtec oil cooler, Airtec sound suppressor, Pro Hoses 16-piece hose kit, Mishimoto catch can, oil cap breather, Cobra Sport non-res valved exhaust system with sports cat, Airtec rear diff cooler, Airtec bonnet lifters, PaintModz carbon-effect engine covers, Cobb AccessPort V3 with MSD 420 Multi-Maps
POWER 420bhp (owner’s estimate)
TRANSMISSION Stock RS, Airtec torque mount
SUSPENSION Stock RS shocks, H&R 20mm springs
BRAKES Stock RS Brembos
WHEELS & TYRES 8.5x19in Sparco Assetto Gara wheels, 235/35x19 Kumho PS91 tyres
EXTERIOR Maxton Design lower splitter kit and top-level spoiler lip, black vinyl roof, window tints
INTERIOR Stock RS, Sync 3 touchscreen with custom upgrade to play video, RS mats from Logo Car Mats
The car looks supremely purposeful too, dropped by 30mm on H&R springs over Sparco Assetto Gara wheels. The Maxton Design lower splitter kit and top-level spoiler lip are an exercise in measured aggression. “I use the car as a daily driver,” he assures us. “I was using my Mk2 ST for a while, but it actually worked out cheaper to daily the RS – strange but true.”
The visual onslaught of the Mk3 is undeniable, with that angry wide-mouth face and crop-scything stance, but it’s hard to ignore the counterpart that’s simmering with rage beside it in the form of the fully liveried Mk2 ST. This one’s owned by Stephen’s buddy Neil, and it’s fair to say that Neil also knows his onions when it comes to hot hatches in general and Fords in particular.
His first car was a Mk2 XR2, and he’s also owned XR3is and various other retro treats; back in 2016 he won a trophy at Ford Fair for ‘best maintained’ with the Focus he had at the time, although sadly that car got written off a few short weeks later.
Neil says, “I love the shape of the prefacelift Mk2, and of course the noise of the five-pot. I’d wanted one for a few years, and really came across this one by chance. After my last Focus was written off I’d bought a Subaru Impreza, but it wasn’t really for me and I decided to sell; someone contacted me offering to swap this Focus ST for it, so we did a deal and that was that.”
It was a very attractive deal, as the engine spec was extremely impressive. Benefiting from the essential block mod, the car’s running a Collins Performance Stage 2 state of tune, working with an Airtec plenum and Stage 2 intercooler, a Dreamscience induction kit, and a Mongoose downpipe and decat mated to a KMS Thunderstorm cat-back system to really bring the noise.
Naturally, the RS-baiting power has been bolstered by some aggressive aesthetic upgrades, and it’s here where Neil has played his trump card: the various RS accoutrements are joined by a full wrap by Blueprint, and it’s not exactly shy. The interior’s what we like to call mullet-spec (business up front, party in the back), with a set of heated Recaros and full dash at the sensible end, and a whacking great roll cage behind.
Neil beams, “I put the RS wheels on too. I’m starting to get it how I want it. I’ve been using the car to get to the Essex Ford Meet, which is a nice drive out and I’ve met many a good friend there, including Danny Smith and Dean Lewis, who has a lot to answer for.
“He awarded me the trophy at Ford Fair, and that pushed me on to keep improving. It’s always been my ambition to get featured in Fast Ford.”
Well, there we go: never let it be said that we aren’t dream-weavers. It’s all well deserved, of course, and Neil’s keenness to keep pushing for better and brighter things should serve as inspiration to us all – he’s taken a strong base and made it his own.
And the same can be said for Stephen: “I just want to add that every part on this car has been paid for by me,” he assures us, “and not one single item – not even an air freshener or a sticker – was given to me. I have worked so hard to pay for this build.”
Inspirational stuff indeed, and this all works to highlight the most important part about hot-hatch life: these are high-performance cars for ordinary people like us. The colourful everyday thrills get woven into the greyscale of day-to-day life; there’s no cash-rich collectors buffing their rarefied trinkets here.
Blue-collar horsepower for B-roads: Neil and Stephen have got the formula nailed.