V-8 Focus, ATI's Focus strikes like a Cobra: Fast and Hard
From Nose to Tail
By ANDREW LUU
(Photos by Alvin Haas)
DESPITE A SHARED LOVE affair with “more power,” there has always been some animosity between muscle car enthusiasts and the sport compact tuner crowd. Even though many pocket rockets thrashed V8s on the road and at the track, their tuners would inevitably hear the argument: “There’s no replacement for displacement.” So here’s a replacement with displacement.
Accurate Technologies Inc., based in Wixom, Michigan, took delivery of a Focus SVT and started asking the “more power” question. A stock SVT is an entertaining package with a high-compression 2.0-liter inline four with 170 hp and 145 lb-ft of torque.
That’s great for the class but sedate even when compared to the base V8-powered, 260-hp and 302-lb-ft Mustang GT. ATI sales manager Richard George said exceeding those figures would stretch the four-banger’s limit. The company built one Focus with a supercharger, but ATI also wanted something that would be more special.
Accurate Technologies does a lot of Ford work, so the natural thing to do was swap in Ford’s most powerful engine: the SVT Mustang Cobra’s 390-hp, 390-lb-ft, supercharged 4.6-liter V8.
Problem solved—and then some. The result is called the Terminator Focus.
With custom stainless-steel headers, a larger single-blade throttle body and a smaller pulley on the supercharger (to increase boost pressure), George says this V8 now boasts upward of 500 hp and 500 lb-ft. Coupled with a curb weight of about 3200 pounds, it doesn’t take an engineer to put two and two together and figure out what that does for Focus performance.
This strategic move also silences another frequent criticism of pocket rockets: that true sports cars are rear-wheel drive. Yes, this baby lights it up out back. And if you’re consoling your big block by thinking this is just another “project” car, think again because ATI offers this Frankenstein transformation to the public, along with a two-year/24,000-mile warranty.
The 4.6 fits snugly in the engine bay without any compromise to the firewall (and the stock hood still slams shut), so the only significant modifications necessary were to spread the suspension strut tower mounts outward a little and then widen the front of the exhaust tunnel to 18 inches to house the tail of the Cobra’s T-56 transmission. The driveshaft installs cleanly through the existing exhaust tunnel, which is so spacious that George believes Ford already had plans brewing to power the rear axle in an all-wheel-drive model.
ATI also beefed up the suspension with a racing-style tubular K-member, adjustable struts and springs, and a Cobra antiroll bar and steering rack up front. In back, the Terminator gets adjustable shocks and the Cobra independent rear suspension, all in an
effort to maintain the Cobra’s handling geometry. Taking no chances with the increased power, the subframe has been reinforced and deceleration chores are delegated to Cobra brakes and calipers with Performance Friction brake pads, enhanced with driver-adjustable brake bias.
Turn the key and the familiar Mustang burble brings the Terminator to life. As soon as we graced open roads, we drove cautiously, short-shifting the six-speed into second and third. Once in third we felt confident that it would be safe to just plant the throttle on the floor—wrong.
Instantly the Terminator leapt forward with the front hopping from the thrust, the rear tires spinning for 25 feet and the rear wagging all the way as we wrestled with the steering wheel.
That shouldn’t have come as a surprise, thinking about the Viper-like power. Perhaps our perception lapsed, because aside from the 18-inch rims, the appearance is all stock SVT Focus, complete with a/c, stereo and factory gauges. The only hint of the massive power is the super-wide rear 295/30R-18 Michelin Pilots. It’s a classic wolf in sheep’s clothing, with little to give away the power that lurks beneath.
George estimates that, as equipped, this baby will tackle the quarter-mile in high 11s. There’s so much power that, when we lined it up for a photo, he cautioned, “If you want to do a burnout, use second gear. It’s much easier.”
So we did and it was like child’s play. The power caused the rear to pivot violently and we had to aggressively countersteer to keep it from snapping around. When we got sick of inhaling burnt rubber, we drove around trying to envision this beast as a daily driver.
Apart from a clutch stiffer even than that on the SVT Cobra and the firm ride that you’d expect from a tuner car, you could make runs to the grocery store. Even though the battery is relocated to the trunk, ATI preserved all the Focus utility by fabricating another trunk floor—although it does have a tad less space. The rear seats still fold down and the performance suspension all bolts into the existing tire wells. Just keep shifts around 3000 rpm and things are fairly civilized.
Most of the Focus’ neutral handling is intact, but take a tight right-hander with a decent dose of throttle—like we did—and the rear will step out in no time. Despite the extra front weight, steering is extremely quick and it is easily controlled. The ample torque also allows for further throttle manipulation. Just don’t open it too much
or the laws of physics will take precedence.
Owning this rear-wheel-drive sleeper of a Focus would certainly be a blast—from drifting through corners to sending stoplight shivers down the spines of both muscle and sport compact car drivers. But, as in other areas of life, there is a big price to be paid for extreme individuality. The fully souped Terminator Focus tested here costs
$69,500, plus the donor Focus.
A huge burn in the pocket, but you could do worse searching to squeeze the same output from the stock engine. If you already own a SVT Focus (or find a used one), you could probably sell off the SVT engine, transmission, suspension, rims and tires to some ZX3 driver and recoup some of that cost.
However, consider this in the words of a popular TV commercial: Custom 18-inch HRE rims, $4,500; Eibach springs and performance suspension, $5,200; SVT Mustang powertrain swap, $35,000; pulling into a weekend import tuner car meet, dropping the clutch, mashing the throttle and seeing all those puzzled faces—priceless.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....