Dale Amy
July 6, 2006
Why hold JetFest at a tire distributor? Because Tire Rack's impressive headquarters facility not only has sufficient parking area to easily accommodate all participants and exhibitors, but it also boasts its own on-property road course justified by its weekday use as a test-bed for the company's huge array of tires and rims. Saturday saw it festooned with orange cones that laid out a challenging autocross course, testing the limits of Foci and their drivers. The objective? Post the single fastest lap time without killing any cones. Besides, Tire Rack's colossal 530,000-square-foot (or 12-acre, if you prefer) office/warehouse/installation building made for an interesting place to ogle like a tourist or simply escape the heat.

Focus Fact: If you couldn't make the event, you may be able to watch the movie. That's right-BlckXenonZx3 (screen name) was there filming a documentary on JetFest '05, and he's considering selling a DVD. Track him down on Focaljet.com for the latest on the video.

It was the largest gathering of Foci we've seen so far, at least short of the vehicle-storage areas at Ford's Wayne, Michigan, or Hermosillo, Mexico, assembly plants. We're talking about JetFest '05-the Focus love-in staged last summer at Tire Rack's unique facilities in South Bend, Indiana, and orchestrated by Focaljet.com's Ron Myers. More than just a car show, JetFest provided the opportunity for Focus fanatics to not only show off their rides and check out others', but also take on the stopwatch in a little friendly autocross rally-type competition if they so desired. Not counting vendors' exhibition vehicles, more than 200 Focus hatchbacks, sedans, and wagons (along with the odd Mazda 3, and even a 4.6-powered '65 Mustang) registered for the two-day party on a warm and sunny final weekend in July.

A surprising number of participants arrived with their cars festooned with some form of SCCA decals and filled to the gunwales with spare wheels/tires, brake components, and jacking equipment. So it seems the Focus is developing a healthy road-course/autocross following. And why not? The C170 is such a great platform to start with, and it can be honed for just about any conceivable track duty by an ever-expanding aftermarket. Speaking of the aftermarket, though the number of parts vendors on site wasn't huge, major players such as Ford Racing, PowerWorks, and F2 Focus Performance were present and had plenty of temptations on display worthy of anyone's Focus wish list.

But perhaps the best aspect of JetFest was the opportunity to simply hang out with like-minded Focus fanatics for a weekend. Demographically, we didn't know quite what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that Ford's smallest enthusiast car (at least on this side of the big pond) apparently appeals to a broad swath of humanity from all age groups. And it seemed like a pretty happy swath, as this was one of the best-natured car gatherings we've ever had the pleasure of attending. On Friday and Saturday nights, large and small clusters of cruising Foci greeted one another all over South Bend with a flurry of headlight flashing and hand waving. With fanatics like these, the Focus should have an enthusiastic future.

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At Ford Racing's invitation, we made a pit stop in Dearborn on the way to JetFest to pick up this tasty SVT Euro for the trip to Indiana. While it may look stock save for its black-finished Euro wheels (PN M-1007-S177B), the Competition Orange three-door was, in fact, fully dialed in with three recent upgrades, which together conspired to make this one powerfully pleasurable weekend companion. First on this triple-dip into the FRPP catalog was the new high-boost SVT version of the familiar Jackson Racing supercharger. After spending a few days and a few hundred miles with this comprehensive power-adder kit, we can safely and enthusiastically pronounce it to be tremendous bang for the buck. It adds buckets of much-needed torque to the SVT's resume, has OEM driveability, it doesn't harm highway fuel mileage (if you behave), and it's emissions legal to boot.

This newfound strength went hand in hand with the throaty but unobtrusive note from FRPP's new two-muffler stainless after-cat exhaust system (PN M-5200-ZX4) manufactured by Borla. Much quieter on a long drive than the original Borla single-muffler system, this setup is ideal for highway commuters who don't want the dreaded 70-mph drone.

Also on the little orange beast was a suspension system combining FRPP's latest spring/damper kit (PN M-3000-ZXM) with its 22mm/25mm antiroll bar package (PN M-5400-Z3). It's a step or two more responsive in lateral reaction and noticeably lower in ultimate understeer than a stock SVT, but it will still leave the old kidneys perfectly intact for future organ-donation purposes. Ride-wise, if they hadn't told us about a new suspension being onboard, the only clue might have been a little more obvious reaction to expansion joints.

After spending four days with FRPP's hot-rodded SVT, we would have no hesitation in adding any or all of its intelligent modifications to our own ride. This one was hard to give back.