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WIDE-ARCH FOCUS RS MK2: SHADOW BOXING

Posted by Matt Bell on 25th November 2021

It may share a garage with a purple 1010bhp Focus, but this yellow wide-arch Focus RS Mk2 is no shrinking violet. In fact, with a track-focused spec and show-car looks, it really is boxing clever…

Feature from Fast Ford. Words: Daniel Bevis. Photos: Ade Brannan

This wide-arch Focus RS Mk2, vivid and vibrant acid-yellow as it is, goes by the nickname Shadow. It might sound like an incongruous and bizarre name for something that’s so in-your-face it might as well have spilt your pint in your first post-lockdown pub trip, but the fact is that it comes from another age.

This Focus wasn’t always this boisterous, and it was always assumed it would live in the shadow of its more raucous stablemate.

This isn’t the only Focus RS that its owner, Grant Butler, has lavished great care and attention upon. The other is a car you may well be aware of – it’s deep purple and has 1010bhp, so you can imagine what a game-changer that was when he pulled off the covers. How could any other RS match up to such Veyron-shaming power? Of course this Focus was going to live in its shadow.

Or, at least that’s what Grant thought. But the passage of time can change all things. And if there’s one thing any Focus RS isn’t, it’s a shrinking wallflower. These are shouty, aggressive cars. They refuse to be consigned to the shadows. They always find a means of punching their way out.

You see, time has a habit of altering our perceptions. Take the Escort RS Cosworth as an example – in 1992, the idea of a family hatchback with four-wheel drive and 227bhp was something to get excited about. But today, circa-220bhp is the kind of power you get from a mainstream warm hatch, along with a lengthy warranty, no turbo lag and some impressive mpg figures. Do the old Group A homologation models now seem a bit rubbish?

Of course not. The Cossie is anchored in its own era, but it’s still just as much of a scintillating, scenery-blurring thrill-ride as ever. You’ve just got to take it for what it is.

The pressure pushes on the RS badge itself as well. Having dominated pretty much every rally they entered in the 1970s, and created all manner of hairy-chested road cars, Ford’s old-school RS models set quite a precedent for Rallye Sport machines of the 1980s and Nineties. And when the Mk2 Focus RS arrived in 2009, building on the respect for the mould-breaking Mk1, it really came out swinging: massive engine with a juicy turbo, intelligent chassis, the ingredients were all just right.

It’s no surprise that this accessible hyper-hatch has become a staple of the modding scene. Right out of the box, the Mk2 RS offered 301bhp and 325lb.ft from its brawny 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo motor, with a quoted top speed of 163mph.

Under the skin was a Quaife LSD and Ford’s super-brainy RevoKnuckle suspension, and the exterior was amusingly aggressive. It was, by any measurable standard, a hilarious machine – and, as Grant’s 1010bhp project keenly demonstrates, the aftermarket for the RS is massive and highly developed.

So why did he decide to build another Focus project, having arguably already achieved the ultimate example of what these cars can be?

Well, the simple answer is that he can’t sit still. There’s a whole collection of hot Fords in the Butler garage (including a mint-green Series One RS Turbo, a Mk1 Focus RS, a Sapphire RS Cosworth 4×4, and various others; the next project is an Escort RS Cosworth), and he’s always got his eyes open for opportunities.

He says, “I had a white Focus ST-3 and a lad with a green Focus RS really wanted it. His car was damaged in the rear quarter, so I struck a great deal in my favour and traded the car in for it. Straight away I bought a set of Compomotive MO6 alloys; the plan was always to build it as a track car, but I can’t help myself. I always have to modify my cars to look different.”

So, this was how the project would slot into the portfolio: while the big-power RS was a showcase of how far the engine could be taken, as well as presenting a trophy-winning show-car finish, Shadow was always meant to be a track hack. A car to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and abused.

With the bodywork repaired, KW Kustoms helped the car to fit into its new nickname by wrapping it in a subtle and understated shade of 3M matt grey, and for the next couple of years Grant enjoyed thrashing it on track days at Knockhill and elsewhere.

With the engine built up to a solid and reliable 400bhp thanks to a full suite of Airtec upgrades, an Anembo billet plenum, a full Milltek system and a remap, it was every inch the usable and exploitable RS.

But fate had a surprising hand to play at this point. Remember that weird incident back in 2005 when pop-loon Brian Harvey managed to run himself over with his own car after reportedly eating too many jacket potatoes? Yeah, that’s kinda what Grant did. Except it wasn’t spuds that were to blame here, but a tow-hook mishap.

He says, “After loading the car onto my transporter, a rookie mistake saw me pull it up by the tow hook, which snapped, sending the car rolling down off the truck, running over my leg and dragging me down the street after trying (and failing) to jump in and pull the handbrake.

“Once I was able to walk again, it was down to fixing the car and getting it looking mint.”

And with a certain sense of inevitability, this was never going to be a case of simply patching the Focus up. No, when there’s work to be done, you might as well upgrade and improve as you go through. That’s just common sense, right?

Grant explains, “The car had to be repaired on the back end, so the grey wrap was taken off for the work to be done. I said the car was always going to be purely for the track after that, and a rebuild of the bodywork commenced with Airtec’s wide-arch kit and front bumper, so it would look more aggressive on track.

“But it quickly spiralled out of control, and the RS soon started to become another show car – totally different from what I usually build my cars into. It’s safe to say it probably won’t see the track now…”

The makeover has been comprehensive, not just adding that balls-to-the-wall wide-arch kit, but also adding a full package of Maxton Design aero extensions and a bunch of carbon parts from Kuro.

Monkey Wrench is the go-to name for custom lighting when it comes to modern-era Fords, and the firm created some awesome one-off headlights and mirror repeaters for this project.

The carbon roof is a pretty hardcore addition. But the one thing you really can’t miss is that, well, it’s not exactly whispering ‘shadow’ now, is it? More like screaming ‘Aceeeeeeeed!’ like a Nineties’ rave casualty, it’s now wrapped in a super-acidic tone entitled Hexis Metallic Gloss Yellow, expertly applied by the team at KW Kustoms.

The yellow theme is all-pervading too, from the assorted hydro-dipped engine covers to the harnesses draped over those Recaro Pole Positions. It’s a full-on show car, everything impeccably chosen and presented.

But it’s still a track car underneath. Never forget that. The chassis spec is brutal, with the full Swave under-bracing kit and Powerflex poly-bushing working with BC Racing coilovers and a meaty AP Racing six-pot calliper upgrade.

That engine isn’t messing about either. All of the Airtec gear is highly developed, everything under the bonnet is optimised for maximum attack.

Grant assures us, “Although it’s not (yet) got massive power and loads of underbonnet bling like my purple one and some other RSs out there, the build on this one was purely about a reliable track Focus. And any good tuner will tell you that the standard RS at 400bhp on the stock turbo is a good solid base before forging…”

See what we mean when we say he can’t sit still? What started out as a track car became a show car, and yet it’s continuing to develop along both of those diverse forks to become perhaps the ultimate fusion of show and go.

One thing’s for sure: it may share a garage with a 1010bhp Focus, but this yellow peril certainly doesn’t live in anybody’s shadow.

Tech Spec: Wide-arch Focus RS Mk2

Engine:

2522cc five-cylinder Duratec turbo, Airtec Stage 3 intercooler, Airtec big boost kit, Airtec alloy radiator with twin fans, Airtec oil cooler, Airtec crossover and Group A filter, Airtec billet air-con delete kit, Anembo billet plenum, Extreme 400bhp map, recirc blanking plate, Milltek high-flow downpipe, Milltek de-cat, Milltek non-resonated back section, all plastics hydro-dipped in Lightning Yellow

Transmission:

Focus RS Ford/Durashift M66 six-speed manual gearbox, Quaife ATB, Sitech billet gearbox side spider mount, Vibratechnics lower gearbox mount, Airtec quickshift kit

Suspension:

BC Racing coilovers, full Swave under-bracing kit, full Powerflex poly bush kit

Brakes:

Front: AP Racing six-piston callipers with 365mm discs and Ferodo DS2500 pads; rear: factory Focus RS discs and callipers with Ferodo DS2500 pads; braided brake lines all round

Wheels & tyres:

9.0x18in Compomotive MO6 wheels (powder-coated in Kandy Bronze) with ET50 offset, 255/35R18 Toyo T1-R tyres

Exterior:

Mk2 Focus RS, wrapped by KW Kustoms in Hexis Metallic Gloss Yellow, Airtec Clubsport wide-arch kit, Airtec Clubsport front bumper, Maxton Design spoiler, side skirt and rear bumper extensions in gloss black, Kuro carbon rear diffuser, Kuro carbon wing mirror covers, Kuro carbon bonnet vents, Monkey Wrench bespoke wing mirror repeaters, Monkey Wrench bespoke headlights, custom eyebrow covers, Zunsport top and lower badgeless grilles, carbon roof

Interior:

Recaro Pole Position seats, TRS yellow harnesses, all interior plastics flocked in black by Get to Flock, Momo suede steering wheel with snap-off boss kit, custom Alcantara armrest, gear lever and gearknob by Interior Modz, carbon cluster and boost pod faces, Wiechers bolt-in roll cage, rear strut brace, custom internal bonnet release

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