Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
June 1, 2002
Photos By: Michael Johnson

Horse Sense: Though Sean Hyland Motorsport is based in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, the company's turnkey cars-such as the Focus EVO, the Mustang GT S2, and the Cobra S4-are manufactured in Brantley, Alabama.

One thing's for sure. Times are changing. While we will never fully understand it, V-8-powered, rear-wheel-drive cars have largely fallen out of favor with the general public. Sure, in our world the Mustang rules the road, but these days it's simply a niche vehicle. It's the strongest of an endangered species, with the Camaro riding off into the sunset. So, despite the enduring popu-larity of the Mustang, especially as a platform for modifications, many companies long associated with the Mustang are broadening their scope to include Ford's little import fighter-the Focus.

While the SHM-exclusive body kit and wing certainly set the EVO apart, two signatures that stand out are the Hella four-beam headlights and 17x7 five-spoke wheels. While the benefits of brighter lights in a trick housing are obvious, the 17-inch wheels are attractive, fit the Focus, weigh only 22 pounds, and are available for $599 a set. On the EVO, they are fitted with 215/40-17 BFG KDWs. While the wheels and tires are part of the $3,950 base package, the headlights are an $850 option.

A fine example is Sean Hyland Motorsport. Sean's outfit is best known for jumping hard on the modular while all the naysayers were demanding in vain for Ford to reinstall a pushrod motor in the Mustang. These days the company packs a stout brand-association punch. When you think of SHM, you think of modulars. With that in mind, it's not too much of a stretch for SHM to expand its tuning of high-winding 4.6s and 5.4s to include the high-winding Zetec 2.0. Still, when SHM called and asked us to drive one of its new tuner cars, we couldn't help but ask if it was a GT or a Cobra.

The Focus EVO was a surprise, but certainly not a disappointment. We've had experience with stock and modified Foci before-they seem to be the next big thing in Ford performance. So we took the opportunity to see what was in store for the future. As it turns out, we were pleasantly surprised.

Inside, SHM spruces up the basic ZX3 package with aluminum pedals, a leather shift knob, and leather seat upholstery. While the pedals and shift knob are part of the base EVO package, the leather upholstery is a $1,725 option.

With a base platform packing impressive handling, a solid chassis, and a free-revving engine, the Focus-much like the Mustang-provides an excellent basis for modification. Naturally, the first thing we do when a new test ride arrives is jump in, floor it, and power shift at the top of the tach. We weren't initially blown away by the EVO's 20 more bolt-on horses, but as we logged driving time, the allure of the high-revving engine was obvious. So, while the EVO was a kick to drive, we'd still prefer a bit more scoot courtesy of a supercharger or turbocharger. But we're just jaded power junkies, after all.

Though we felt it could use some more muscle, the EVO really stretched its legs in the turns. Since most of the package is based on springs, shocks, sway bars, wheels, and tires, it was only natural this little rocket liked to buzz around the corners like a go-cart. However, while taut, the suspension dynamics certainly weren't harsh, and the stock binders even acquitted themselves nicely. We didn't get a chance to drive this car on the road course, but that's where it would have been a blast. And, man, do those KDWs ever stick.

Of course, we couldn't resist testing those KDWs on the dragstrip. We headed down to Bradenton Motorsports Park in Bradenton, Florida, on a muggy Thursday night and inadvertently entered a sport-compact bracket race. There, yours truly fought the wet-noodle stock shifter and turned in some less-than-impressive times, while in-house hot shoe Michael Johnson managed a best pass of 16.67 at 80.72. SHM says the car has run a best of 16.2 at 83, but it wasn't happening for us. Still, the Focus impressed the local sport-compact crowd. A few informal inquiries had the local stockers running in the 17s, so the SHM car was looking good.

Looking tight was how the young crowd described the EVO to us. Several members of the sport-compact crowd asked us about the car. Did it come with the leather seats? Where did we get the ground-effects package? What's it got under the hood? When we explained that's the way the car came equipped from Sean Hyland Motorsport, they seemed impressed. Apparently tuner cars are still a bit rare in that individualist crowd, but they liked what the EVO had to offer-and so did we.

SHM's engine package consists of a basic selection of proven bolt-on parts, which add 20 hp on top of the Zetec's base 130. The 150hp package includes a high-flow exhaust, underdrive pulleys, a cold-air kit, and an SHM chip. Oddly, power-adder options weren't part of the EVO lineup at press time. The complete package adds $1,785 to the price of your EVO.