Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Associate Editor
9/29/15 2:42 p.m.

We woke our 2003 Ford SVT Focus up from a summer of rest, then took it rallycrossing at the FIRM. By the end of the day, we had a massive exhaust leak, a sloppy shifter, soft brakes, no handbrake, and fenders with less paint than before.

It was time to spend a few nights in the garage. First up: the exhaust leak. A little digging revealed lots of scrapes on the stock, rattling catalytic converter, and a distinct lack of gaskets before or after it. We figure it dragged on the ground a few too many times, and managed to work the gaskets out of the system. We ordered a new cat from RockAuto, as the car's ECU seemed to think it was worn out, anyway.

For some reason, the new piece lacked a bung for the upstream oxygen sensor, even though it was specifically listed as fitting a Focus SVT. So, we hacked the bung out of the old catalytic converter, welded it in, and called it perfect. Time for the next problem: the sloppy shifter. We accidentally grabbed the wrong gear a few times while on course, so we asked our friends at Massive Speed System what they'd recommend. They sent a new lower engine mount, with urethane bushings already installed. This mount stops the engine and transmission from rocking back and forth, and should prevent wheel hop and help us find the right gear.

Next up: brakes. We put a set of Hawk HPS Brake pads on the car before the last event, but ran out of time to change the fluid. We bought some DOT 4 fluid, and went to work. Long story short: the old fluid was pretty nasty, and the rear brakes weren't even working until after we bled some nasty clumps of who-knows-what out of them. Now the pedal feels much better, and having the rear brakes working will hopefully adjust the rear pistons enough for the handbrake to function correctly.

Last on the list: fenders. Our rally tires fit fine on the street, but the FIRM's bumps generated lots of rubbing. We massaged the front fenders slightly with the wooden handle of a hammer, but they clearly needed more attention. So, we hit each front fender with our Eastwood Fender Roller. This tool stickers for $89.99, and is a must-have if you're going to be squeezing giant tires under tiny cars.

Next on the SVT's schedule: A double-header, with a rallycross and then a track day at Sebring. Wish us luck!

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rcutclif Dork
9/29/15 2:47 p.m.

Wish my cat looked like that underneath. I'm pretty sure when the time comes I will be 'sawing' it out rather than 'unbolting'.

Lof8 HalfDork
9/29/15 2:57 p.m.

Awesome! Whats the next rallycross you've got on the calendar?

irish44j PowerDork
9/29/15 4:57 p.m.

You guys have done more repairs after one rallycross than I've done in four full seasons, lol...and my car is 18 years older!

Also, just a Focus tip: One of our local fast Focuses actually broke his engine dogbone mount (aluminum) BECAUSE of the (almost new) poly inserts in it. It broke violently on course and destroyed a bunch of other stuff in the process. I would suggest you stick with rubber because apparently it's the metal part of the mount that is the weak point on the Focus. He switched back to rubber, IIRC, and has not had any problems since.

Here's his thread with more information:

post #40 in the thread....broke the dogbone 5 months after putting a poly mount in it.

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