Spitting flames and howling like a jet fighter through a screamer pipe while it deploys a riotous 515bhp directly to the tarmac, Danny Tanton’s tuned Focus ST Mk2 certainly fulfils his ambitions of building a car worthy of that infamous ASBO nickname.
Feature from Fast Ford. Words Jamie King. Photos Jason Dodd
If there’s one car that sums up the fast Ford scene today, the Mk2 Focus ST is it. It’s a car that’s as comfortable on the school run as on a weekend track session; as confident on the summer show ground as it is the supermarket car park.
And the best bit is the Focus ST can – and usually does – combine all those things into one very neat, very capable package. No wonder it’s the backbone for modern fast Ford culture.
But let’s face it, the real reason we all love the Focus ST is because it’s a little hooligan of a car. Of course, being labelled the ASBO by Jeremy Clarkson helped set the ball rolling, but like all stereotypes it had to be based on an element of truth, otherwise it simply wouldn’t stick.
And that was 15 years ago, talking about a car with the factory 222bhp. Things in the ST world have come a long way since then – getting faster and faster, and becoming ever more powerful – but one thing that has remained a constant is way the Focus ST is viewed as a tearaway of the hot-hatch market.
Perhaps not as technically adept as some of its (more expensive) German rivals, the ST has something not many other cars have: character, and bags of it. In this case, an anti-social hooligan personified by boisterous paintwork and a thunderous five-cylinder soundtrack. And that, ladies and gents, is the real reason we love the Focus ST.
“It’s true,” confirms owner of this particular ASBO, Danny Tanton. “I only got mine back in 2016, but I’ve wanted a Focus ST ever since I first saw one in the Ford showroom. Of course, it had to be Electric Orange too.”
Danny came very close to buying a brand-new Electric Orange ST, but he’d just put down a deposit on a Fiesta ST. As it turned out, he then had a change of heart and stepped back into his faithful Escort RS Turbo. “I still miss that old tin,” he laughs.
Fast forward to 2016 and Danny finally became an ST owner. Purchasing the car from a friend (Jason, who was selling up to make space for a Focus RS), he knew the Focus had been well looked after, so jumped at the chance to become its next owner.
Danny remembers, “It had already been modified with some nice bits; stuff like the K-Sport brakes, exhaust, and the block mod, and it was maintained to a high standard. But it was just lacking some of the ASBO-ness I was after…”
So, the plan was always to build something of an anti-social thug for the streets, then? “Err, not at first. My original plan was to keep it sensible with just a few cosmetic mods. Obviously, that very quickly went out of the window,” laughs Danny.
As a tunnel fitter by day, Danny spends a lot of time working away from home, where a dangerous combination of an abundance of free time in evenings away from the family, and a smart-phone with internet access to various tuning websites wreaked havoc with any notion of ‘cosmetic upgrades only’.
Danny recalls, “My first few mods were actually purely cosmetic: Maxton Designs splitters and skirts, Zunsport grilles, light brows and so on. My first performance upgrade was swapping the lowering springs for a set of BC Racing coilovers.
“But the biggest changes started to come when I was working away from home a lot; I had time on my hands after work, and I would sit in my digs looking through the Auto Specialists website saying, ‘I want that’, before promptly ordering loads of bits.”
The next few years saw Danny chopping and changing any bits he could. The mapping was swapped to Dreamscience Mod XRS software (complete with the anti-social ‘pop and bang’ add-on, naturally), and a host of bolt-on performance upgrades found their way under the bonnet. Part of this process saw Danny and Andy at BRC Performance become good friends, and with Danny always knowing he wanted to go for more power eventually, Andy proved an invaluable source of knowledge and advice.
Then, one fateful day, the time came for those big ideas to become reality. “After four years of abuse, the stock turbo blow itself to pieces,” recalls Danny, “but this served as the perfect opportunity to go for it, and pull the engine out to forge it ahead of chucking some serious power at it.”
The engine was duly removed, stripped and inspected by Andy and Jamie at BRC Performance, before a set of Wossner pistons and PEC conrods were added – along with Newman cams in the refreshed cylinder head – and the five-cylinder was dotingly rebuilt in anticipation of a significant power hike.
At this point, the turbo was a BorgWarner K16 from a Mk2 Focus RS and the software was the tried-and-tested Revo Stage 4+.
“That only lasted while I was running-in the new engine, though – about 200 miles, I think. I managed to get my hands on a Garrett GTX3076R turbo setup, and Andy at BRC came back with a new Ecumaster EMU Black engine management system and complete wiring harness,” remembers Danny.
Things had just gone up a notch. Unlike the direct-fit RS item, the massive GTX turbo meant Danny needed to fit an external wastegate system too. And that lends itself to another of this ST’s hooligan upgrades – the screamer pipe that exits at the back of the bonnet. Not only does it sound like a jet fighter about to launch, it also spits huge flames all over the windscreen. Not your average optional extra.
But this isn’t your average tuned Focus ST Mk2. It’s been built with thrills and giggles in mind from the very start, and after Romain at Race Cal had tweaked the very clever EMU Black ECU the ST produced a raucous 515bhp.
“We’re not finished there, either. We’re currently running a development BRC fuel pump, so there’s definitely more power to come yet once that’s dialled in. We’ll probably cap the power at around 550bhp – that’ll be plenty. The noise, the power, the flames out of the bonnet, and the way it scares passengers already is awesome,” admits Danny.
But then, Danny drops a bombshell. “I do wonder what it would be like with this power and all-wheel drive…”
Blimey. Sounds like this story is far from over. Which brings us to what is perhaps the biggest reason so many of us love the ST – its ability to constantly evolve, and the seemingly limitless tuning possibilities. While wider society may frown upon cars like Danny’s tuned Focus ST Mk2 for their antisocial nature, in a bizarre paradox, it’s precisely these kinds of cars that bond us enthusiasts and help form the fast Ford society. It’s a funny old world…
Tech Spec: Tuned Focus ST Mk2
2522cc turbocharged Duratec five-cylinder, Wossner forged pistons, PEC forged conrods, block mod, Newman high-lift cams, BRC Performance ‘development’ fuel pump, 1000cc injectors, Garrett GTX3076R turbo, Turbosmart external wastegate, Focus RS oil cooler, Funk Motorsport turbo heat blanket, BRC Performance custom downpipe and screamer pipe exiting at rear of bonnet, Anembo Engineering inlet plenum, oversized throttle body, Airtec ported lower inlet manifold, Airtec intercooler, Airtec breather kit, Hardrace and Powerflex engine mounts, Pro Alloy big boost pipes, Syvecs MAF-less crossover pipe, RamAir Proram filter, KMS Thunderstorm exhaust, Auto Specialists engine dress-up kit, hydro-dipped engine bay plastics, DnA custom bonnet prop, Ecumasters EMU Black engine management system
515bhp (will be capped at 550bhp after further tweaks)
Focus ST Getrag M66 six-speed gearbox, Quaife ATB limited-slip diff, Helix Motorsport six-paddle clutch, B&M short-shifter kit, Hardrace uprated mounts
BC Racing coilovers, Hardrace lower arms and track-rod ends, Summit strut brace and rear subframe brace, Hardrace rear anti-roll bar, Whiteline front anti-roll bar, Powerflex bushes
Front: K-Sport 356mm drilled and grooved discs with eight-pot callipers and EBC Yellowstuff pads; rear: Focus ST callipers with drilled and grooved discs and EBC Yellowstuff pads; Goodridge brake lines all round
Wheels & Tyres:
8.5×18 Cruize Blade alloys in gloss black with ET42 offset, 225/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres
Focus ST in Electric Orange, Maxton Designs lowline kit, Zunsport grilles, Maxton Designs RS-style rear spoiler with extension, Climair wind deflectors, custom rear diffuser, DRL switchbacks in headlights and fogs, direction arrows behind wing mirror glass, custom grille lights, underbonnet mirrors, Rally Flaps mud flaps, RS bonnet vents
Focus ST, custom floor mats, custom flat-bottom steering wheel, orange and black leather seats, hydro-dipped interior plastics, custom dial faces to match hydro-dipping, ST puddle lights, ‘ASBO’ custom door sills, custom boot liner and parcel shelf, Alpine head unit, Edge 6x9s, tweeters and mids, 1000w amp and 10in JBL sub in custom enclosure