How to Build a Mk3 101: Jake Smith’s ’12 SE

It has been a while since we’ve had a feature on the site – and especially a Focus feature – but the second I saw Jake’s car I knew we had to try for one. A big thank-you goes to him for not only agreeing to this but also taking and sending some photos our way to make this possible!

Unsurprisingly, a lot of my Facebook feed is made up of posts from the (many) Focus pages and groups I belong to, so each and every day I’m constantly looking through photos from other owners around the world. In that sea of content this sedan really stood out to me; I suppose you could say it stopped me in my tracks – virtually – because the instant it popped up on my screen I stopped scrolling.  

I was drawn to this car not only because it’s a really attractive, tastefully-built sedan but because it’s a perfect example of how to put together a Mk3 without going crazy. The mod list on this one is actually relatively short, and that’s part of why I like it so much. As with any platform it’s easy to get sucked into the idea that you always have to do more, when in reality you can make quite an impact with just a few parts if they’re well-chosen and complement each other. 

Additionally, with many more enthusiasts picking up Mk3s as projects these days there are always questions and discussions over “what should I do?”, and with STs and RSs having the bulk of the aftermarket it’s becoming increasingly common to see the NA Foci being dismissed altogether. “Sell it and get an ST” is a common answer to NA owners’ questions. Many are quick to get distracted by how STs and RSs are being pushed so far now and forget that you don’t need to start with one of the turbocharged hot hatches to still build a great Mk3.

This is doing more with less. This is keeping it simple but effective. This is an illustrated answer to that question of “what should I do?”

With all of that in mind, what exactly are we looking at with Jake’s SE? We might as well start off with the exterior – not only because that’s what obviously caught my attention first – but since it’s where a lot of the effort and care has gone. For a few of the larger components Jake picked from the OEM catalogue, gathering some of the best pieces Ford had made available for the platform during its production run and mixing them together for this sedan. Starting up front, the original NA bumper shell has been retained and paired with the Zetec front lip while the matching Zetec honeycomb grilles replace the standard pieces just above it. Building off that the emblem, upper grille slats, and fog light bezels were all blacked out to really add to the aggression of the car. The final alteration to the nose was the addition of some black accents between the trio of grilles, visually tying them together and adding a subtle nod to the ST styling. 

To bring the Race Red body colour further down on both the sides and rear of the sedan – continuing what the Zetec lip started – Jake went with ST side skirts (they’re fitted to RS and SAP cars as well but “ST Skirts” is the general term used) and the SAP rear valance. That rear valance is one of special note as it was launched as part of a package for the facelifted 2015+ sedans, but Ford kept the bumper/valance seam the same which allows these to be fit to 2012-14 examples as well.

With the OEM pieces and black accents in place, a few aftermarket pieces finished off the exterior; Spec D headlights and the BMW-style tail lights upgrade the lighting while the OEM wing (also blacked out) is accented with a small kicked-up extension. 

All of that careful consideration for the body could still be undone however if the stance of the car wasn’t just right. On that, Jake replaced the factory setup with coilovers enabling him to dial in the perfect ride height. The now-lower sedan hunkers down over some aggressively sized wheels which themselves are also worth a special mention. With its 5×108 bolt pattern the Mk3 Focus platform – while certainly having more available these days than it did at the start – isn’t blessed with the largest selection of wheels to choose from so it’s not often that you’ll see something really unique in this department. Jake however did go down a much-less traveled route with a set of Enkei NT03+Ms. Measuring in at 18×9.5 inches (and wrapped in 235 Federal Super Steel 595 tires) they’re basically as wide as you can go before you have to start relying on excessive camber or flares, and fill out the arches beautifully.  

The 2.0 NA engines don’t have the biggest aftermarket selection but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be turned into something peppy and fun. The engine itself is mechanically stock but breathes easier through a custom 2.5” Magnaflow exhaust system, while a tune from Rebel Devil Customs has remapped it for more power and some Rice Krispies burbles too.

Lastly, the stock engine and transmission mounts have been known to be on the soft side which is why Jake made sure to swap a couple of them out so that the power would be used to actually spin the wheels and not just rock the engine back and forth. The rear mount is the OEM unit from the Focus Electric while the transmission’s piece is a Turbo Tech Racing replacement. 

All together, this is a car that I truly am a fan of. It’s an achievable build but one that makes one heck of an impact; you can’t deny that this would turn heads at a meet or show. One final important point of this build though is the timeline of it: Jake says he’s owned this car for four years, but only started modifying it in the last year! The fact that it so quickly went from stock to what you see here and flows as well as it does should show that Jake knows what he’s doing. Whether he now takes what he’s assembled and subtly fine-tunes it or pushes it much further is yet to be seen, but regardless this stage of the car will remain as a perfect example of how to put together a tasteful, completely usable Mk3.

If you have an NA the internet will say you first need to switch to an ST or RS if you want to make a project out of it, but you don’t. Additionally, you don’t always need to add more parts. You just need to add the right parts. 

-Bill

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