By John Kiewicz
Photography by the author
The Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute are strong sellers in the compact sport/utility marketplace--and this fact has not been lost on the aftermarket. California Car Cover Company, an outfit best known for its quality car covers and nifty car dusters, has a bunch of good stuff available for these corporate cousins (and a lot of other models, too). Case in point is this CCCC-ized Escape, built for up-and-coming pop vocalist Jaci Velasquez.
This project began with removing all the stock body cladding, sanding the panels smooth, and fogging on a layer of retina-scorching yellow paint. A set of WAAG front and rear brush guards were installed for protection and a tough-guy look. More tricks include a set of PIAA driving lights and WAAG tube-style running boards that also got the yellow-hue treatment.
Lower/stiffer springs from Eibach bring the Escape closer to terra firma, while ASA JS5 alloy wheels with Bridgestone Dueler H/O 255/55R18 tires fill the wheelwells. The combination provides a notable improvement in handling--a solid 3.5-mph increase through our slalom course--and predictability to an already solid platform. The grippier 18-in. tires help reduce 60-0-mph braking by over 5 ft.
Output of the stock 3.0L DOHC was also addressed. Thanks to a Vortech centrifugal supercharger (installed by Area 51 Fabrications) and a Gibson performance exhaust system, 0-60-mph acceleration was reduced by an impressive 1.32 sec over stock. However, toward the end of the quarter mile, the "check engine" light illuminated, and we quickly backed out of the throttle to avoid the potential of parts scattering caused by engine detonation. Revisions to the spark/fuel software (which will be completed by the time you read this) should cure the problem. Solid 15-sec e.t.s likely will result.
Inside, the Escape is treated to Classic Soft Trim custom leather seats and door panels, Nifty Products floor liners, and a Steel Horse pet barrier for the rear cargo area. An Alpine sound system with a dash-mounted, pop-out video screen offers stereo-functions adjustment along with a GPS map setup. An Alpine DVD system completes the entertainment improvements.
As a package, the Escape upgrades provide a nice balance that pleased our staffers. You can also thumb through a CCCC catalog to build a customized SUV of your own.
'02 Escape CCCC Escape
0-60 MPH 9.06 7.74
1/4 MILE 16.75/77.0 16.08/82.5
BRK, 0-60, ft 125 119
SLALOM, MPH 59.0 62.5
California Car Cover Escape
·Nice power boost
·suspension mods deliver solid, predictable handling
·real-world upgrades that don't rub, scrape, or look lame
·Needs more ECU calibration
·confusing aftermarket stereo controls
·high-profile blazing-yellow hue
California Car Cover Co.