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Project Focus SVT - 2003 Ford Focus

Part 4: Another Step Toward Resurrection

Photography by Jay Chen

Putting the "project car" label on any of the cars in our fleet doesn't make them immune to making strange noises, smelling, breaking, blowing up, or all of the above. It's quite the opposite. Most of the project cars you haven't seen in a while aren't missing out of complacency. They're just in a long queue of project cars that need to be fixed.

Such is the case for Project Focus SVT. We started work on it in June 2003. Then, nearly a year ago, in a state of newfound turbo-induced excitement, we managed to blow it up. More precisely, melt a piston to the point that it's now a prized paperweight that everyone has to pick up and examine. We didn't even get to dyno it.

Project SVT is now in its 10th month of sitting in the back corner of FocusSport's parking lot. The engine has been pulled and sits in pieces on the shop floor. We haven't forgotten our goal of beating a Cobra SVT around a track with our front-drive econo-box derivative; this setback actually gives us the not-so-welcome opportunity to find some additional power we know we'll need against the Cobra. It's also a good excuse to get work done on the car that we would have never undertaken because of the disassembly and down time involved.

Head Work
If the engine weren't already disassembled, we probably never would've thought to send the 2.0-liter Zetec head to Cosworth Racing for porting, polishing and a valve job. It's a costly procedure that would just add unnecessarily to the expense of beating a Cobra. But this opportunity couldn't be passed up-even if it's only an excuse to tour Cosworth USA's facility to see head work done at its best.

Cosworth Racing has long been associated with Ford high-performance engines from Europe. Stateside, it's best known for the CART engines that come from its machine shops. Cosworth's recent disassociation with the Blue Oval badge turns out to be a boon to import aftermarket enthusiasts. The company is now free to make affordable, high-end, off-the-shelf products for any manufacturer. Cosworth's extensive work with Ford's Duratec and now 2.0-liter Zetec engines is what attracted us.

Our 2.0-liter, 16-valve head was delivered from FocusSport to Cosworth's U.S. facility in Torrance, Calif.; a massive modern engine shop equipped to build race motors en masse. Since the head is from the less common SVT, Cosworth had to hand port and machine it instead of using a CNC porting program that would be used on a Duratec head. Our head was given to Steve Chiapparine, one of 20 engine/head builders and the only person working on it from disassembly to cleaning, machining, porting and final re-assembly.

Cleaning and Preparation
The head is disassembled and arranged in labeled trays so that each spring and valve goes back to the port it came from. All parts are soda blasted to remove large chunks of grease, dirt, gasket material and even scorched-on carbon deposits. An ultrasonic cleaning bath using an alkali solvent removes the remaining oil.

The parts are bake dried and cooled with steel components before being coated with a fine layer of WD40 to prevent corrosion. The new-looking head is then taped to protect the gasket surface from burrs and scuff damage. Each part is subsequently inspected for wear or damage and replaced as needed.

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