Chasing 'A's In An RS | Ford Focus RS Limited Edition Road Report
Words & Photography Luke Ray.
Earlier this year, Andy of Classic & Custom Garage in Melbourne approached me to get involved with a new project that they had just taken on. Their customer, Duncan, had brought in a Model A Ford hot rod project that Andy and the team were to get ready for a momentous event that was rapidly approaching; The 90th anniversary of the Model A.
I jumped onboard with the project, documenting the build through a series of short films for our Fuel Tank TV YouTube channel. It was a fun build to follow, but I had to make a decision; was I to go to the event when the build was complete? With a 1,200 km drive each way, it was going to be a big decision to make.
It didn’t take me long to come up with the idea of exactly which car I could potentially take on this trip. With the new Ford Mustang trip a success a couple of years ago, my thoughts instantly turned to the ‘other one’ from the Ford stable that interested me greatly… The Focus RS.
But not just any RS, I wanted to get my hands on the RS Limited, in all it’s screaming Nitrous Blue paint and blacked-out 19-inch wheels.
It was a done deal. The RS was booked and road trip plans started to form. If I do a trip like this, it’s pointless making it a there-and-back event. If I’m going to make the pilgrimage 1,200 km north from Melbourne up to Gulgong in country New South Wales for the A Model 90th birthday bash, I’m sure as heck going to squeeze in as many shoot opportunities along the way as I can.
I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive about taking the RS on what ended up being a 2,500 km round trip. Reading all the reviews about what a great performer it is, I was thinking that I was headed into six days of backache hell. Would this really cruise the Australian freeways as effortlessly as the ‘Stang did in 2016? Well, as it turns out, yes.
Not only does the RS have all the grunt and the performance manners that you’ve heard about so much, when I lined it up for some solid hours on the highway, flipped on the cruise control and a bunch of podcasts, I felt surprisingly refreshed at the other end. Well look at that, this car really is the all-round package, just like that Mk3 Escort XR3 I had at uni back in England in the late ‘90s…. Well no, not quite. But, in principle, maybe. It shares the concept of being your daily hatch but offering up so much more when you need it.
What I needed was to get a wriggle on and get to Sydney before dark. As mentioned, cruise on and the kilometres just vanished. I caught up with some hot-rodders along the way, taking a breather at a rest stop. A quick chat, a few photos and a “see you up there” later, I pushed on into New South Wales and on to Sydney.
900 km in a day straight through is not my ideal way of doing things, but the RS pulled me through. The bucket Recaro seats are spot on. They bolstered me in a way that feels like Ford took my measurements and made up a bespoke seat overnight, to fit me like a glove. Focuses (Foci?) and Fiestas of old often left me cold due to a seat set too high, causing an odd driving position. The RS Limited still isn’t spot on, but I felt snug and more planted than previous Ford hatches that I’ve driven.
I couldn’t let constant freeways take all the fun out of the day. So, just before dark, about 100 km out of Sydney, I pulled off and found some twisties. The confidence that this car gives an average driver like me is remarkable. Those great seats are part of it, but so are the superb dynamics and, I have to admit the exhaust note. Crank up the revs, lift off for a gear change and the RS lets out a mighty handful of pops and crackles. Very special indeed.
After a quiet night’s rest in central Sydney, there was one shoot to do in the northern suburbs and then off to Gulgong, some 300 km away. The location of choice that morning was Smith Concepts. SC proprietor Kyle Smith is one of Australia’s most revered automotive custom painters and I’d been busting to get to his shop for some time. After two solid shoots onsite (both of which are coming to this blog soon), I headed to country New South Wales for the main event.
Gulgong was the perfect setting for the A Model 90th anniversary celebrations. A picturesque little town with beautiful old buildings and a positive vibe, it was a magical site to see what ended up being about 200 Model A Fords around the town over the duration of the weekend. The event had been in the planning for more than three years, and the results are a credit to Scotty Poll and all others involved in the organisation of it.
After a fun couple days, it was time to head back to Sydney for more shoots, including Adam Mitchell's insane Nissan-powered Ford Fairlane. The colours of Adam’s car and the RS were pretty close (his being Volvo Polestar Blue), but the engineering of them was definitely somewhat different! You’ll find out more about the Fairline in a future article.
With all commitments wrapped up, I pushed on back to Melbourne, where I reluctantly had to hand the RS key back. It’s been a few weeks now, and I’m still missing the Focus. It certainly left an impression on me. With space for two kids seats in the back and docile urban road manners, it’s pushed my buttons in ways that have me wondering if I really need two kidneys after all…
Special thanks to Ford Australia.