What you’re seeing here is a unique debut: James McAllister has created the world’s first widebody Focus ST Mk4.
“It has offended a few Ford purists, for sure – and I have had plenty of people ask me why I cut into a perfectly fine brand-new car. But where would the fun be if we all did the same thing?” It’s an admirable sentiment, and one we’re very much on board with. It would undoubtedly be hugely nerve-wracking to get savage with the cutting tools on a box-fresh hatchback, but James McAllister has sacrificed his warranty for the greater good on this project car.
You see, bravery is an intrinsic part of innovation. It’s often said that a short-cut is a short-cut because otherwise it’d just be the way, but it’s when we go in the other direction, deliberately taking the long way round in order to determine whether we can find or create something better, or more unusual, or more interesting, that the real magic happens. Naturally you have to be brave to step off the beaten track, as you don’t know what sort of thorns or poison ivy or angry bears will confront you – but life’s too short not to try it, right?
The idea to wide-body the Focus ST Mk4
The idea of creating the world’s first widebody Focus ST Mk4 didn’t just flare up overnight, it’s been more of a slow burn over many years, beginning with the wistful yearning of youth and growing into an unassailable keenness for taking fast Fords and making them funkier.
“I always saw my friends doing this stuff when I was younger, but I was never very mechanically minded and so I never really got into it back then,” James explains. “I have tried loads of different cars over the years, including a mix of some fast Fords, but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve started to see them as proper ‘toys’ – so when I thought about modifying, I wanted to get out some of the pent-up modification-ness that had been stored up! However, I wanted to do it properly, and make sure no expense was spared. No short-cuts.”
Buying the base car
A proper project requires a proper base – and if it wasn’t enough that James would be brutalising a showroom-fresh Focus, the model he chose was no ordinary ST. No, what he wanted was an ST Edition. This was the variant that came with KW V3 coilovers as standard, along with lightweight wheels and a very generous ticking of the option boxes.
“It was just good luck that I found this Edition,” he says. “I had an Orange Fury Mk4 ST estate before this; I went in to get it serviced and I knew about these Editions being released so I thought I’d check. It just so happened that they had one being prepped, and I jumped on it! So yes, the car was brand-new when I got it from Evans Halshaw Ford in Bedford – absolutely fantastic lot in there. And it wasn’t long before I started making changes…”
Planning the widebody build
It was always the plan to go widebody, right from the start. And the fact that no-one had done this before didn’t daunt James one bit. “I was asking around to find good coachworks or fabricators and bodyshops to see who would be interested and get some costs, but nothing felt right,” he says. “Then all of a sudden, I saw there was a kit by HUEIDEA Design in Taiwan that was released last year around July time, and I got straight onto messaging them to find out a bit more.
Turns out this had been made from a 3D scan of an ST Line, and the car they had done the kit on was that ST Line. I wasn’t really sure what I would get through the post, what condition it would be in and how the fitment was going to be; a lot of these kits can sometimes need a lot of work and so it’s always a bit of a gamble. And next I had to find a garage that was willing to take on the work but also would get a bit excited by it.”
Having been to a dyno day with the Mk4 ST Owners Group the year before, which was held at RGS Motorsport in Wellingborough, James had a feeling that this would be the place. So he went back to chat about fabrication, and it quickly became apparent that the owner, Brian, was just as enthusiastic about getting this pioneering build off the ground as he was. Some numbers were crunched, timescales discussed, and the whole project started to get mapped out. RGS were due to hold another Mk4 Owners dyno day, so this was pencilled in as the date to have the car completed and ready for its club debut.
Fitting the widebody kit to the Focus ST Mk4
“That only left a few weeks to get the work done, and there were still loads of parts to get sorted,” says James, “including finding some wheels that would work in a Ford PCD, which was a lot harder than I thought. The guys at RGS got cracking with the work, drilling into the almost brand-new car to test-fit the kit, and after finding out that the fitment was basically spot-on and there was very little work needed apart from some prepping to paint, we started cutting the arches to bits. They have been properly sealed against the weather, and brand-new arch liners also made to allow for the extra width of the flares. I didn’t want to leave any of it without it being properly done to OEM levels.
Painting the widebody kit
“The next step was to get everything painted, baked and on the car,” he continues. “The one thing that I just hadn’t been able to get before this all kicked off was wheels, and this was going to be the make-or-break for getting it done to the deadline. I didn’t want to get wheels before properly measuring it all or it could have been a few grand wasted.
After measuring and a quick drive up to Birmingham to collect from Driftworks, I got them back to RGS and we could get them fitted. The guys smashed the work in a week with me flying all over the place getting little parts I had forgotten, and got it all done in time for the dyno day. The whole car then had the paint cut back and ceramic-coated as I had been waiting until all the work was done to finish it off.”
Widebody Focus ST Mk4 Engine modifications
The attention to detail is as strong as the clarity of the unique vision, and it’s crucial to note that this wasn’t just an aesthetic makeover. James was eager to ensure that the ‘go’ matched the ‘show’; he’s keen to point out that he didn’t intend to go power crazy, although the elevation from its original 276bhp to the current 371bhp represents a very impressive 34% increase. This has been achieved via a Dreamscience Stage 2 tune working with Airtec induction and a Velossa Tech Big Mouth ram-air scoop, plus a Dreamscience intercooler, and believe us when we say that this car sounds utterly spectacular thanks to its raucous Milltek GPF-back race exhaust system with sports cat and downpipe.
You’ll also no doubt be pleased to note that, despite the painstaking show-car vibe, this is certainly no trailer queen. “I use the car as a daily driver,” James assures us. “I work from home a lot so it’s not a commuter really, but I do take it everywhere. It’s been to Austria over Christmas with my girlfriend and the Husky in the car, and that saw it get some proper use of the autobahn. I love how it’s turned out, and the fact that it’s the only Mk4 ST in the world that has been widebodied – for now, at least! Yeah, it’s a real love it or hate it thing, and it rubs some people up the wrong way, but when most people see it in the flesh it definitely gets a great reaction. It’s just a bit barmy, but finished off so well!”
That, indeed, could act as a blueprint for the future of the modifying scene overall. ‘A bit barmy, but finished off so well’, it beautifully sums up what most of us are aiming for. And OK, it might irritate the purists, but like the man says: where would the fun be if we all did the same thing?
Photos: Ade Brannan.