Although I'm a few years away from retirement, I'm looking for a project car to tinker with on a day-to-day basis.
I'm after an early 80s Escort Sport. I have fond memories of the two-door Escort that I had during my 20s.
It was a MkII, although a previous owner had discarded the Kent engine and replaced it with an Mk1 twin-camshaft, eight-valve, Lotus head unit. It was a bit of bodgy job, the engine had so much compression it was hard to start on a cold day, and it seldom ran smooth. Also, the differential never enjoyed the extra power.
Nevertheless, when it wasn't being temperamental, the engine was a delight, and it performed with a sound that only those early twin-cammers can deliver.
In many ways I was reminded of that old Escort during the time I was driving Ford New Zealand's most recent release, the Focus ST. The ST is the sports/performance car of the series and it gets a twin-camshaft engine which delivers forcefully thanks to a turbocharging process, and it delivers with strong engine sound and character.
I'm not saying it is noisy, it's not, the sound is well isolated but it is there to heard, the engine is angry under load and it is a sound that encourages throttle use, it is pleasant to listen to. Not only does it have aural delight, it also is useful in terms of output. Ford claim 184kW with a strong torque figure of 360Nm developed widely through 2000rpm to 4500rpm.
In contrast to my old Escort, the Focus ST drives through the front wheels, and even though the wide and low profile Good Year F1 rubber (235/40 x 18in) works hard to keep direction there is a bit of torque steer under load; it's not dramatic, but it is there to remind the driver there is a lot of power heading out the front end. It doesn't bother me I like to know there is something special under the bonnet and the high power flows are there to entice the driver. Everything about the Focus ST is structured for performance, not only will it cut out a 7sec time to meet 100km/h but it will also blast through a mid-range overtaking manoeuvre in 4sec.
The ST is quick and it is also quick through a corner, the grippy tyres turn-in precisely with little steering effort. If more lock is required you can rely on the tyres to bite and maintain direction. The Focus ST sits low and doesn't move around on the suspension, therefore gravitational changes don't load the tyres, nor does it affect the way the suspension operates in a corner, if uneven surfaces are encountered there is composure and certainty within the steering process.
I took the test car on a Port Hills loop, they are perfect roads for a performance car.
English Fords have generally been regarded has having supple chassis balance, the ST doesn't disappoint. It also rockets between corners with a powerful surge and swift retardation thanks to a performance brake package. Through the corners it has balance and accuracy akin to a true sports hatchback.
The hatchback also embodies the spirit of Ford's Focus, the ST is still the handy five-seater which pleases in the everyday role as well, but any prospective buyer should be prepared to be noticed. The ST stands out with its bold wheels, body kit and spoiler and, on the inside, black and red Recaro seats. The latter offer strong mid-riff support.
The Focus ST lands here at $52,490, it is a fun package for that price and comes extensively equipped. Major items include satellite navigation, voice recognition communication, cruise control with speed limiter, and all of the items you'd expect today for comfort, convenience and safety.
Ford claim a 7.2l/100km (39mpg) combined cycle fuel usage average for the ST. I couldn't get anywhere near that at around 10l/100km (28mpg), which would suggest how much I enjoyed the ST's enthusiastic acceleration and ability in a corner. However, it will return a 7.6l/100kmn (37mpg) instantaneous reading at 100km/h (engine speed 2250rpm) which provides some respectability.
I've long appreciated Ford's sporty cars, those which aren't out of reach for buyers who want a little bit of performance with their purchase. I also relate well to the Volvo-powered five-cylinder Focus Turbo which has been a wide-ranging hit worldwide.
While that engine is no longer used in Focus downunder, the ST encapsulates everything that car represented. Make mine bright red.