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2002 Ford SVT Focus - The Ax

Vortech Transmogrifies Ford's Commuter

You've probably heard the story about George Washington's ax. You know it's still around, 265 or so years after he used it as a boy to chop down that cherry tree. Sure, it's on its eighth head and 12th handle since George last touched it, but it's George Washington's ax. Right?

Vortech Engineering calls our subject here an SVT Focus, but just because it started as an SVT Focus, is it still an SVT Focus? The wheels are different; the tires are different; the suspension is different; much of the bodywork is different; and, while it's the original engine, the addition of Vortech's supercharger kit definitely changes the way it performs.

It still sort of looks like a Focus, but the SVT-ness is tough to find until you run across the badge on the tail gate or count the number of gears in the six-speed transmission. At some point, this car evolved into a different animal. The question is whether what it is is better than what it was.

The heart of this transmogrification is, naturally, the reason this car was modified at all-the supercharger system.

The blower is Vortech's own gear-driven centrifugal supercharger in V-5 SQ F-Trim configuration. Tapping that into the decoder ring, we find out this is one of Vortech's smaller V-5 supercharger units measuring a scant 8.93 inches wide and 9.72 inches tall. The "SQ" indicates it's engineered for super quiet operation. And the "F-Trim" impeller design will spin up to 60,000 rpm while cramming up to 700 cfm of air into an engine with a maximum boost pressure of 20 psi at a claimed adiabatic efficiency of 72 percent.

In the Focus, Vortech's blower nestles in on the driver's side of the engine bay, where it's driven by a driveshaft that reaches across to the right side to turn along with the normal engine accessories. In this particular car, the blower feeds into Vortech's optional air-to-water dual-pass charge cooler to bring intake temperatures down. An integrated bypass valve keeps the huffer from heaving into surge while an OBD II-compliant engine management system (hooked up through the stock ECU's monitoring port) keeps everything mannered.

With its billet-aluminum brackets, polished cases (that's optional, too) and slickly routed plumbing, the Vortech system for the Focus has a visual impact akin to a flash bulb going off every time the car's hood is opened. And it works well with the otherwise untouched SVT 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve Zetec four, despite its elevated 10.3:1 compression ratio.

In easy-breathing form, the rating of the SVT Focus Zetec is 170 hp. Vortech claims its supercharger-slamming through its charge cooler, controlled by the Vortech engine management system, and exhaling through a Bassani cat-back exhaust-whacks that number up to 276 hp. And it thumps the torque peak up from 145 to 204 lb-ft.

Our Dynojet chassis dyno reported 220 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque at the wheels-still a substantial improvement from stock.

Beyond the always-appreciated power swell, Vortech ladled on plenty of pieces to shout out the car's increased performance. Wings West supplied one of its four-piece Avenger body kits to surround the car's lower parts and spoilers for both the trailing edge of the roof and along the tail's midline. The carbon-fiber hood, taillights and headlight system are from APC.

Vinyl Mayhem's graphics pile more fuel on the visual fire, while inside an Eclipse head unit with DVD player and flip-out monitor feed a Boston Acoustic amp and companion speakers through Scosche wires. It's all very loud and very obvious, which is no surprise in a car that's trying to be loud and obvious.

On the performance side of the aftermarket shopping list, Eibach supplied its Full Pro kit, consisting of springs and anti-roll bars that lower the car about an inch and stiffen the ride significantly, while Steeda contributed its caster/camber plates. Auto Meter threw in boost and fuel gauges to monitor the mechanical maelstrom.

The wheels are 18x7-inch O.Z Superleggeras and they're covered in 225/40R-18 BFGoodrich g-Force KD rubber. Baer Eradispeed brakes (13.0-inch diameter vented, cross-drilled and grooved units in front with similar 12.0-inchers in back) keep velocities in check.

With our tester in the driver's seat, the Vortech Focus ripped down the quarter mile in 14.9-seconds at 92 mph. That compares to the 15.7 seconds at 88.5 mph of the last stock SVT Focus SCC tested and lends plausibility to Vortech's power claims.

Sure, the ride is stiffer, but the handling feels relatively neutral and the brakes feel like they could stop the Earth's orbit around the sun. It also retains at least 90 percent of the everyday driveability of the stock SVT Focus-the engine doesn't bark, barf or betray its jam-packed intake system in any significant way.

Handling tests were split between matching and improving upon the SVT's more-than-adequate stock numbers. Around our 200-foot skidpad, the Vortech Focus equaled the not-so-outrageous .87 g of the stock car-odd, considering the improvement in rubber from Continental Contisportcontact to BFGoodrich g-Force KD. Through the slalom the Vortech-motivated Focus was 1.6 mph quicker (70.0 mph vs. 68.4 mph).

Ultimately, this car isn't really an SVT Focus any more than that ax is really George Washington's. The $4,722.95 price of the Vortech supercharger kit (satin finish, no charge cooler) isn't cheap, but it does produce a truly refocused Focus. A better car for those of us among the performance hard core.

Vortech Engineering 2002 Ford Svt FocusEngineType: Inline four, aluminum block and headExternal Modifications: Vortech V-5 SQ F-Trim supercharger, air-to-liquid intercooler, Bassani exhaustEngine Management Modifications: Vortech OBD II controller

DrivetrainLayout: Transverse front engine, front-wheel drive

SuspensionFront: Eibach springs and anti-roll bars, Steeda caster/camber platesRear: Eibach springs and anti-roll bars

BrakesFront: 13.0-in. vented and slotted Baer Eradispeed rotors, two-piston calipersRear: 12.0-in. slotted and vented Baer Eradispeed rotors, one-piston calipers

ExteriorWheels: 18x7-in. O.Z Racing SuperleggeraTires: 225/40R-18 BFGoodrich g-Force KD

PerformanceAccelerationQuarter Mile: 14.9 sec. @ 92 mphHandlingSlalom Speed (700-ft. slalom): 70.0 mphSkidpad (200-ft. slalom): .87 g

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