Welcome back to My Wheels, Clint. The last time you were here, you’d just bought yourself a Honda Civic Type R. Still have it and enjoying it?
Unfortunately I’ve sold it. I had both it and my new Ford for about two months, and although my wife Karen was happy for me to keep both, I was concerned that if I did I’d start collecting hot hatches, and that would get expensive.
Your Focus ST is a hot hatch that we’ve got a lot of respect for. What are your early impressions?
I love it. It matches my driving personality perfectly. I’ve always been a fan of smaller cars, and am toying with the idea of getting the Fiesta ST as well if it comes to these shores.
That 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo and six-speed manual is a solid drivetrain isn’t it?
Yes it is, but definitely more dialled in for comfort than outright sportiness. The occasional drive in my Type R reminded me of that.
The apparent total lack of turbo lag is also a pleasure, and the car seems to beg me to play all the time.
It has a heck of a good chassis and makes roaring up and down places like Jebel Hafeet a blast, right?
Yep, and obviously I would never go over the 40kph speed limit. Seriously though, I have very strict rules when putting in a “spirited” drive up the mountain because at that time of the morning I’m usually sharing the climb with cyclists, runners and delivery vehicles.
When the road is clear though very little can match the grin that the car generates.
For a front-wheel drive car, it’s quite tail happy isn’t it?
It seems more prone to oversteer than understeer, and lift-off oversteer is very noticeable (add more grinning here).
On the track though it remains planted and mostly neutral and only starts losing traction around one lateral g.
Do you also find the seats a little too snug or is this a cue for us to lose a bit of weight?
They are snug and wonderfully supportive, but if things keep going as they are at the moment I may have to join you on that diet.
What do you like best about it and is there anything that dissatisfies you?
I like that up until now there have been very few of them on the road, and that it definitely makes me feel like a more heroic driver than I really am.
It goes without saying that it would not be the same car without the manual shifter, though to contradict myself a little, launch control would do wonders for taming the power running to the front wheels. And it seems it runs with a higher than acceptable oil temp when pushed, which reflects the overheating problems that the original ST suffered with in South Africa.
You’d kept your Type R all original, but how about this? Any plans to improve on the performance?
I’ve had it fitted with the full Hennessey conversion so we’re talking 300bhp and 406Nm of torque. The conversion consists of a cold air intake, ECU remap and a Magnaflow Catback exhaust system. I’ve also added a Cobb intercooler, and to round things off I’ve had the stock mags painted black.
Future plans are all going to be courtesy of Cobb, and will be suspension related. I may also fit an external oil cooler to keep the oil temp down. And yes, 300bhp is more than enough... for now.
We love the bright paint; it stands out a bit doesn’t it!?
I was not in the market for a new car, and told the salesman that I’d only buy one in Tangerine Scream, not realising that the first two in this colour were part of the first batch of STs that were on their way here. Two weeks later I was driving off the showroom floor in one of the first cars in the country. And now, as far as I know, the only Hennessey ST.
What sort of reactions does it get?
Most people don’t seem to know what it is as there are no Focus badges on it. But since painting the wheels black I’ve been challenged by Golf GTIs, Alpina M5s, all manner of Mopar modded cars and SRTs.
I have not taken them on though because I’m not a street racer, and besides, they are all more powerful than my Focus, except the Golf GTI, which I did take on, and beat.
Finally, are you any closer to getting your dream car, the 1968 1750 Alfa Romeo GT Junior?
I still check them out regularly on the internet, and am very tempted to import one, in particular when there is a very neat example for sale.
And what about that Ariel Atom?
As soon as my sensibleness wanes I’m sure that a Dh183,500 Atom 3 will be in my driveway. But it’s a lot of money for a winter-only car, and now Alfa Romeo has had the audacity to tempt me with the 4C.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see which dream comes true.