Dale Amy
November 1, 2002

Horse Sense:
The Progress Group doesn't only offer Focus coils-it recently introduced a complete Mustang suspension kit with sway bars, control arms, and springs.

One of the things that really sold us on our Focus was its canyon-carving surefootedness-something totally unexpected in a market segment generally regarded as basic transportation. Thanks to carefully tuned struts in front, working in harmony with a short-long-arm rear suspension and stabilizer bars at both ends, right out of the box our SE Sport wagon made us eagerly anticipate each curve in the road. That was with Ford's typically high-water ride height and stock 15-inch Eagle RS-A rubber, a combination that allowed both reasonably sporty handling and a silky ride quality that even Detroit's 19th-century road surfaces couldn't spoil.

But, hey, the Pygmy Hearse is a project car, so we couldn't leave it alone, could we? Our first modifications added some power and torque, thanks to a Borla Power Set, a JBA header, and a Paul's High Performance chip ("Sharpening the Focus," Jan. '02, p. 131). We knew the ever-expanding Focus aftermarket could make the wagon handle even better, but the trick was to do so without losing a kidney in the process. After all, this is no California creampuff that will see only glass-smooth pavement. It's a daily driver that spends more than its share of time on Detroit's tortured, decaying, concrete and asphalt oxcart paths. We wanted a combination with which both car and driver could survive this Motor City madness.

With that in mind, we chose our components carefully. At the moment, there aren't many aftermarket struts and shocks yet available, so we opted for Progress Group lowering springs that are engineered to work with the factory damper rates. We also ordered a slightly thicker rear stabilizer bar from the same company. And though there are some tempting 18-inch rims out there, we figured the necessarily low tire profiles would cause butt blisters at the mere sight of a pothole. So we went with stylish, five-spoke 17-inchers from Focal Wheel teamed with 215/40ZR17 Nitto NT-450s, high-performance rubber that is also quite capable in the wet conditions that often accompany daily driver duty.

Every once in a while a plan comes together, and this time the result was exactly what we had hoped-great handling, a supple ride, and a just-right muscular stance that has us looking back over our shoulders as we walk away from the little wagon in a parking lot. Even the installation was straight-forward, as you'll I see in the accom-panying photos.

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