CF Can’t Slow ‘Dat Kona’ Down

I must start this article with a sincere apology. I took far too long to write it, and it’s a story that deserves to be written.

Photos and Story by James Stanley ©

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According to almighty and powerful Google:

cys·tic fi·bro·sis

ˌsistik fīˈbrōsəs/
noun
noun: cystic fibrosis
  1. a hereditary disorder affecting the exocrine glands. It causes the production of abnormally thick mucus, leading to the blockage of the pancreatic ducts, intestines, and bronchi and often resulting in respiratory infection.

A rather sterile description… Here is a better description from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and progressively limits the ability to breathe.

In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick, buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage and eventually, respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.

Symptoms of CF

People with CF can have a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Very salty-tasting skin
  • Persistent coughing, at times with phlegm
  • Frequent lung infections including pneumonia or bronchitis
  • Wheezing or shortness of breath
  • Poor growth or weight gain in spite of a good appetite
  • Frequent greasy, bulky stools or difficulty with bowel movements
  • Male infertility

What does this have to do with a Ford Focus? Well, you can’t fully understand and appreciate the car in this article without understanding CF and without knowing the person that built it that has been living with CF for decades.

JRS_x9798Meet Denise Nicole Farrar.  a  21-year-old college student and actor/model from San Francisco Calif. Not always an auto enthusiast, she had no idea what she wanted to get to replaced a wrecked focus sedan. Among the vehicles she considered were Honda civics, but we’re all glad she didn’t go down that rabbit hole. In December 2012, after a 50 trek, she came across a $3000 Ford Focus Kona Edition. With the help of her car friends she had met in high school, she decided to give the hatch life a try. Without knowing much about cars at the time, she started off with the stereotypical newb mods (like we all did) and started out to the local car meets. ‘ Hey guys, check out my cool e-bay projector headlights’. Yeah, she was that girl. It didn’t take Farrar long to realize that she needed more. More power, more style, and more information. After attending a local Canibeat meet, she met a few other Focus fanatics and was introduced to focaljet and several focus groups on facebook. These resources could take a person years to go through to get the information they need, so she spent hours and hours reading at the detriment of her grades, and again with the help of her friends, most notably Gerald Haston, she decided to dive in head first into a labor intensive engine swap. Keep in mind, that CF can make it difficult to breath, let alone do an engine swap. The amount of labor didn’t deter Farrar from making the attempt, and if anything, became a source of motivation to move forward.

JRS_9782As any Focus enthusiast will tell you, the engine of choice for a mk1 focus is the 2.3L Duratec, and that’s the platform in which Farrar started her build. The used engine was blown by the previous owner while drag racing where he mistook first gear for third. [facepalm]. The valves were bent and once apart, it was apparent that there was a “nice makeout session between the valves and pistons” as Farrar put it. As the build progressed, it evolved from a simple mild swap and build to something much more. The addition of new pistons, ported and polished head, and even a Cosworth intake manifold, among a plethora of other engine build goodies, made its way into the build.

JRS_9789-Edit-EditAbout half way through the build, the stress of school, work, and build began to take its toll on Farrar’s body. She was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with pneumonia. This would be bad enough for a person without CF, but to someone with it, can be fatal. Breathing became almost impossible and Farrar stated that she was unsure if she would ever leave the hospital. She was so weak, she couldn’t walk, and after 5 days of IV medication, she still had less than 40% of her lung function.

Without missing a step, Haston stepped in and continued the build while she was in the hospital. Wrapping up much of what needed to be done in the rear of the car, he left all the good stuff for when Farrar got out of the hospital so they could work on it together. Also during this time, a few fellow focus fanatics got together and sent Farrar get well wishes and gifts, all coordinated by Sonic SVT owner Jason Hodges. That little touch of thought and caring helped Farrar with her 3-week recovery in the hospital, and hopped right back into the build.

JRS_9854In addition to the beast of a naturally aspirated motor, Farrar made sure to upgrade the wheels, tires, and suspension to keep the Kona planted in turns. It was a lack of handling and bad suspension that caused the accident and totaling of her previous Focus, so grip was a must.

To round out the build, Farrar put her own finishing touches on the interior including some simi-girly purple accents and custom Kona seat covers. The car was complete.

Farrar said “I cried the first time I heard her start up”. Rightfully so! This was not an accomplishment that many can say they’ve done, let alone a CF survivor.
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Here was the fun part of this whole interview with Farrar. I got to drive it and photograph it. From the outside, the car looks great. Not over done by any means, but the ride height is dead on with wheels that match up with the car perfectly without it distracting from the fact that it’s a Kona. Not for the focus purist, but great choice either way. Similar to the style of the XXR 522’s I chose for P4, but with an MSR badge, and THANK GOD she didn’t go with a black finish. The silver really works well with the dirt brown paint. Around front are three noticeable modification. A black hood which give the car a more aggressive look, black housing ST170 headlights ( the best headlight option for the mk1 IMO) and a billet grill. The grill isn’t something I would have chosen for the car, but in this instance, for this application, for some reason it works. I’m also glad to see the original roof rack is intact and complete.

There are a few dents in the car that I didn’t notice at first, even though some are kinda big. They’re obvious in the photos, and I’m surprised I didn’t notice them sooner. I’m of the mindset of having a straight and color matched body before modification, but that’s not what this car is about. It’s not a show car, it’s not a pinup, it’s a sleeper built by someone with something to prove to herself as well as others. It was built to destroy the imports at the local meet that brushed her off so early on. And it does.

Hopping in the car, I took a moment to look around the interior. It’s not so highly modified inside that it looks like a track only vehicle, but it does have a few mods that I’ll call ‘decorations’. The purple fabric bunched up on the headliner and a-pillars threw me off a bit at first. It wasn’t something that I’ve seen done before outside of a TJ tuck-n-roll low rider. I didn’t think I was going to like it. I still don’t, and it’s not something I would put into my car, but it is again appropriate to this build. There are many of us automotive enthusiasts that love our cars more than just about anything else. The outside of a vehicle is what everyone else sees, and in this case, is just a lowered Focus with some wheels to the untrained eye, but the interior is our domain. It’s a reflection of ourselves. It’s the part of the car that we see most of, and can be a sanctuary away from the noise of everyday life. I called this mod a decoration because that’s what it is. It’s a decoration for Farrar, and no one else. It’s a sign of her sanctuary.

I started the car and my eyes opened wide as I heard the exhaust blasting from the rear of the car. It wasn’t ricey by any means, but more along the lines of Colin McRea’s WRC mk1 Focus. #Broner

JRS_9991-EditThe suspension was stiff and the handling was on par to keep the car planted on all fours (and sometimes three), and it drives normal around the city. The high rate valve springs made a clacking noise that made me think there was an engine knock at low rpm’s, but then I remembered that she put in 250lb subie springs to keep lightning from striking this motor twice. Once in an area where I could get on the throttle more, the hours of studying, the drop in grades, and all the hard work became apparent. Once over 4k in the rpm band, the car pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and then when you think the power was going to taper off, it pulled some more. The closest thing I can think of to compare it would be the SVT focus motor where all of the power is up top, but this thing had more power and never tapered. It’s almost like SVT built a 2.3L Duratec without any barriers on how crazy they could go on the build. It really does sound, drive, and pull like something you would expect to see only on a race track. I know it would slaughter my SVT, and it would give my ST more than a run. I wouldn’t want to chance losing to a mk1.

JRS_98437In my most humble opinion, this car is the real deal, and could possibly be the most insane NA mk1 build I’ve seen. Come to find out, the FSWERKS tune she just had done the day before my test drive wasn’t complete, so there’s even more to be had out of it. This build is a perfect reflection of its owner. While starting out a little rough and with damaged parts, it can run with the best of them, with a little touch of girly purpleness on the inside, all while lookin’ good. Sure, there are faster cars, better looking cars, but this one is unique and perfectly suited to the driver. If you think this little girl and her ‘it’s just a focus’ is damaged, line up next to her at the track; my money is on Farrar. And in Farrar style, for those that can’t keep up with her, they can just suck it.

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Technical

  • 2.3L Duratec swap Stage 2 Crane cams, Crower springs and steel retainers, 11.04:1 compression Wiseco pistons, Eagle rods, Ranger crank with balance shaft delete, gasket matched port and polish, ARP hardware, FSWerks race header, Cosworth intake manifold, K&N intake, AEM water methanol injection kit, Trubendz Magnaflow exhaust, MFactory limited slip diff, Stage 1 Exedy clutch, Megan Racing coilovers, 25mm Eibach rear sway bar with poly endlinks, SPC camber arms, Massive front adjustable endlinks, all poly motor mounts, StopTech Powerslot rotors with Porterfield R4S pads, MSR 13 wheels, ST170 headlights, billet grilles, tuned by FSWerks, AEM kit and Cosworth Intake manifold

     

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