A Note Before We Begin:
Long-term readers may recall that for a time Mustard and Sriracha were official project cars of fifteen52’s Project ST campaign. It was a wonderful opportunity and we were honoured to have our cars sit alongside, in a sense, TrackSTer and its siblings.
Had the events of that day in May 2016 not happened however, it would have been Mustard and Ketchup instead. The talks had been going on behind the scenes for a little while but as it ultimately played out, the final green light that everything was in place and ready to be announced hit my inbox and less than three hours later Ketchup was hit and totaled. The secret then had to remain as such for a little while longer while everything was handled on our end, before we could then officially announce that the (then) brand new Fiesta ST would be taking over as Mario’s project and some of our first articles as part of the team would be documenting transplanting the ST powertrain into Mustard.
Fast forward a handful of years now and some things have changed: Sriracha was built and moved over into Derrick’s care, fifteen52’s Project ST (PST) is now the standalone Project RST, and the site that they used to run as part of the campaign has been taken down.
That last point brings us to today’s post and video. At the time we had also provided articles here on officialTHREETWENTY to accompany the main stories on PST which shared some additional behind-the-scenes details and similar, and those of course are still here. However, with the original PST website no longer live, those original articles that we’d written are no longer online either. It only made sense now to move them over to our own site to have the information and stories live once again, as well as bring everything under one “roof”. With this idea in mind and the plan being to re-publish them as part of our winter content I filmed a quick video with Mustard to accompany their eventual posting, late last year just before putting it away into storage.
My original idea had been to directly copy-paste what I’d written back then but in preparation to make that happen now, I felt it better to slightly update the original documents to better fit this site. Not only is there no longer a need for them to be separate posts, but they had naturally been written with the intent to be hosted on PST from the beginning and shared with an audience who didn’t know us as you all do. For re-hosting here it made more sense to link them all together in a single entry, and I realized I could also rework the odd sentence to better fit this new context, talking to you all instead of a largely unfamiliar audience. As such the video may note “all the articles are on the site” but instead it’s a very slightly revised, joined-together single entry. The information is of course all the same, I’ve merely made some minor revisions [and included notes from present day] as they are now speaking to a different audience and are no longer individual entries that need to reference one another. I’ve also brought in a few extra photos (and moved some around) to have the visual story be a bit more complete within this single entry as well.
I hope that this updated article (and its new accompanying video, below) continues to serve as a useful resource for fellow Mk3 owners or at least is an entertaining read for anyone who never saw the originals from back when the swap was carried out. I have also linked all of those original “bonus” articles which themselves have links to the original videos, so consider this entry today the new homepage for the ST Sedan swap. It’s all here.
Original Project ST Introduction Post
I suppose the best place to start is with an introduction. My name is Bill MacKenzie, and I live in Calgary Alberta Canada along with my friend Mario Da Roza. In the fall of 2011 I bought a yellow 2012 Focus SE and about a year and a half later Mario bought a red 2013 Focus ST.
Fast-forward through a few years and a lot of work, and we had a pair of Foci that we were immensely proud of. Ketchup and Mustard, as they had come to be known, were a regular sight together at local events and thanks to forums, my blog officialTHREETWENTY, and a magazine feature they had each become well known beyond our city limits as well.
Each car had received many modifications, with my sedan featuring a full ST exterior conversion, new lights front and rear, coilovers, a big brake kit, and various powertrain upgrades. Mario’s ST had received the air suspension from fifteen52’s own STanced project car, a number of subtle interior and exterior modifications, an upgraded stereo, and was Stage 3. Each also sat on a set of fifteen52 wheels; I had opted for white Turbomacs and Mario selected silver Tarmacs.
The evolution of each car was documented as part of the content on my blog, but earlier this year I started talking with Brad and it was decided that the continued builds of both Ketchup and Mustard would also be featured here on the Project ST site. This was an opportunity Mario and I were very excited about to say the least!
Sadly just a few hours after we agreed on this, Mario was in a collision on his way home from work. Another car hit him at high speed and caused a serious amount of damage to the ST. Thankfully the Mk3 Focus platform is a very safe one and Mario was able to walk away from the crash, but things were not looking good for Ketchup.
After a couple of weeks of dealing with insurance it was finally determined that the ST was a write-off. We were very sad to hear this considering the time and effort put into the car, but we already had a Plan B in place in the event that it couldn’t be repaired and immediately set things into motion.
Longer-term readers may remember that my sedan was actually featured last year in a Reader’s Ride article, in which it was mentioned that as part of my future plans I intended to replace the original naturally-aspirated engine with the 2.0L EcoBoost out of an ST, to complete the conversion and have the proper powerplant to go along with the sedan’s ST exterior. All I was waiting on was a suitable donor vehicle to be found and all of a sudden we had one: Mario’s car. We bought it back from insurance and it was immediately towed to the shop I work[ed] at so that I could begin stripping it.
Now of course this whole ordeal meant that Mario was in need of a new car and he went straight back to the Ford dealership to get one. A new Focus ST or RS were two candidates but in the end Mario decided to try out the smaller and lighter little brother instead: a Fiesta ST. Opting to pick up a 2016 model in order to get the new Sync 3 system, he found an orange on orange example and took home what we now refer to as Sriracha.
It almost sounds sad to refer to the Fiesta as his Focus’ replacement, so the term I personally prefer is “successor”. In the three years Mario had his Focus it became a rather accomplished car, picking up a good number of awards at local events as well as the aforementioned magazine feature. Coming straight from a project of that magnitude, keeping the Fiesta stock was never going to be a consideration and before he even drove it off of the lot a few small pieces found their way on. Later that day a new tune was loaded and many parts are currently in the mail en route to him now.
Looking ahead, in the middle of August is one of the biggest local car shows of the year and both my Focus and Mario’s Fiesta will be taking part in it. Our hope is to not only have the Fiesta fitted with new suspension, exterior modifications, and powertrain upgrades, but also to have Ketchup’s old engine powering Mustard by that point. We definitely have our work cut out for us but with the support of our friends, family, and companies like fifteen52, we should be able to see it all through.
Before I end this post today I want to extend a big thank you to Brad and the rest of the team at fifteen52 for allowing us the opportunity to work with them and share our cars here on Project ST! With the collision this introduction had to be postponed for a while but now that things have been sorted out we can start providing the planned updates. Mario is having a blast with his new Fiesta, and I’m excited for the major bump in power that my Focus will receive. The two of us have had a lot of fun with our cars together over the last few years, and now we begin the next chapter.
Hopefully you all enjoy following along!
One of the largest local car shows of the year – ill.motion’s Sunday School – took place on August 14th. Enthusiasts from neighbouring cities and provinces (and sometimes further) bring out their projects new and old for what never fails to be a great day; the show is a big deal in our city and each year the bar is raised higher and higher as everyone continually pushes and inspires each other to improve their builds.
Many of us take part in the show each year and in the last few weeks leading up to it my garage, driveway, and even the street are usually full of modified vehicles as we all help each other out with fitting new parts, applying new decals or liveries, and detailing; fortunately my neighbours are [were then and still are to this day] understanding of our hobby!
This year’s [2016’s] show prep was a bit more involved to say the least as we had set ourselves the goal of having Sunday School be the time and place to unveil Mustard following its ST powertrain conversion. With 16 days to the show, I began the teardown.
Ketchup had been hit a few months prior to the show but the swap wasn’t started earlier due to all of the preparations needed. Following buying the car back the first order of business was tearing it down and sorting all of the salvageable components. Anything needed for the conversion was set aside with the extra pieces being listed for sale to recover costs. We then determined which components needed to be replaced and began sourcing them; due to the extent of the damage a new axle, control arm, radiator, AC condenser, and more were all needed in order to complete the conversion.
Along with making a list of what was needed, we also had to determine the schedule for all of the work. The priority was of course to get the car completed in time for the show, but also high on my list of concerns was keeping the downtime to an absolute minimum. The Focus is my daily driver [I ended up retiring it from that role not too long after] and the last thing I wanted was to have it off the road for longer than necessary. As such, I wanted all of the needed components in my hands or on their way before the car came apart, the necessary shop appointments set within a tight timeframe, and we also had to ensure that there would be enough time outside of everyone’s work schedules so that all of the required man-power would be available to get everything completed.
The day that I started pulling Mustard apart was a Friday [July 29]; I had the day free so I decided to get a lot of the tedious work out of the way, removing body panels and interior trim and safely storing them so that nothing would get scratched or otherwise damaged. I could have removed more but had to keep the car mobile so that it could be moved out of the way to allow its garage mate back in for the night. The next day that car went into storage and Mustard was moved over and set on jackstands so that the serious teardown could begin.
One benefit of starting at this point was that we had a 3-day weekend and were able to make incredible amounts of progress in what seemed like no time at all. As the second day went on the car was missing more and more components: the front coilovers came out, the crash bar and rad support were removed following the radiator and AC condenser (the crash bar was also painted black while it was out of the way, thanks to Mario), the front doors were taken off in preparation for removing the dashboard, and the engine’s various connections to the car were undone as well.
It was on the third day – Sunday – that the original engine was removed from its home and set aside. The dashboard was also wrestled out of the car (the dash’s removal and installation were probably the least fun parts of the entire process) and any final SE components that had to make way for the ST replacements were pulled as well.
Throughout the entire process we also made sure to be meticulous with labeling and sorting pieces and hardware as they came off the car to make our lives easier during reassembly. All nuts, bolts, clips, and other fasteners were put into Ziplocs which were then labeled to tell us where they came from. If it was felt to be necessary, instructions were even written on parts as reminders of their orientation or location. We were familiar with the car having spent quite a bit of time working on it before, but since we expected some late nights and stressful days ahead as the deadline came ever closer, we erred on the side of caution and decided it’d be better to over-label rather than under-label.
Thanks to lots of manpower and some long hours in the garage, in just over two days the car had gone from a running and driving vehicle to being half-stripped and ready to accept all of its new components and we were extremely happy with the progress. A few of my neighbours were also extremely curious by this point as it became evident this was a bit more serious than the work usually seen taking place in my garage. Some walked over just to ask what on earth we had done to my car this time and were all intrigued when we explained what was going on; during the rest of the swap they’d even stop by periodically to check in on our progress and see it come together!
[Filming and photography became a bit more sporadic at this point due to the looming deadline]
With one day of that weekend remaining, we then set our sights on getting the new engine and transmission dropped into place. We were hit with our first delay at this point though as the new Rebel Devil Customs wiring harness was still in the mail and set to arrive the following morning. Ideally I had wanted the harness in before any other components so that we’d have easy access for running it, but considering we wouldn’t have as many hands or as much time the following day (since the long weekend would be over) we realized we had to get the powertrain dropped in without it. In the end it wasn’t too tricky to install the harness with most of the parts already bolted in place though, as we expected anyway.
Things went pretty smoothly that day and before long Mustard had an ST heart sitting in its engine bay. We still had many, many hours of work ahead of us but we considered this a major milestone in the process and I for one could not stop staring at what was in front of us.
With the crash bar reinstalled as well we could begin resting a few other components in place such as the radiator, AC condenser, and intercooler. In the collision the aftermarket intercooler and charge pipes that Mario had were all destroyed, but fortunately we still had the stock components. In fact, they were still in my garage following our install of the new pieces on Ketchup a couple of years prior! I had been keeping them for whenever this swap were to finally take place, so they were taken out and put back into service. We never thought they’d wind up going back on their original engine! [I clearly remember Mario physically handing me the stock intercooler, saying “here’s the first piece for your ST swap”]
Fortunately all of the other parts that had been fitted to Ketchup’s engine and transmission had survived so not only was my car getting an upgrade with the swap, it would also be receiving a good selection of modifications right from the start. The FSWERKS intake which my original engine had was reused in conjunction with a COBB intake arm; a COBB downpipe is held in place with an RDC downpipe bracket and joins up to a 3” Agency Power exhaust, resulting in a serious volume increase for the car as well. The noise is something my neighbours have certainly noticed, but all I’ve heard from them is that “it sounds really good!”. Admittedly though, cold starts in the garage can be a bit crazy…but I’m getting ahead of myself. We also installed Massive front sway bar endlinks while we were at it as they had been on my to-do list and this was the perfect time.
With the pile of parts starting to resemble a car again, we then discovered a few pieces that had gotten overlooked despite our best efforts to have everything we needed for the swap. STs have unique mounting brackets to locate the radiator to the upper radiator support; these two very small pieces of plastic were fortunately easy to locate and we had them before long, but we weren’t so lucky when we discovered that the shifter cables had been damaged in the collision. They had passed the visual inspection but apparently we never actually checked to make sure they still moved properly – whoops! Checking with dealers, we discovered that there was not a single set anywhere in the country meaning that they wouldn’t arrive in time to meet our deadline for the debut of the car, so we had to look elsewhere. Rebel Devil Customs came to the rescue as they were able to overnight a brand new set to us.
Because we had discovered the damage to the cables fairly late in the build though, the dashboard was already back in the car which made the cable replacement very tedious. It was a ridiculously tight fit but eventually the new set was installed and connected, and we were good to go.
At this point it was just under a week until Sunday School – and Mustard was supposed to be driven to it – and while it was mechanically complete it still wasn’t capable of driving. As part of the conversion the car now had the PCM for an ST (which was another brand new piece as Mario’s was destroyed in the collision – actually, “turned to dust” is a better description) and it wouldn’t talk to the car without some programming. A tow truck was called to bring Mustard over to a local Ford dealership so that it could be hooked up to a computer and hopefully before too long, fired up for the first time.
It didn’t take too long to get an appointment set for the procedure [though it did come with unnecessary stress and headaches, as explored in the original bonus post] but there were more than a few confused responses as I called around to find someone who’d work on it. Of course it could be done as there were already a few other swapped sedans running around, but when you call up a dealership out of the blue and explain that you and your friends and put the wrong engine into your car in your garage, people can be a bit lost for words and unsure of what to say. Fortunately I was put in touch with Kevin, the shop foreman at Advantage Ford [this was my first ever visit to the dealership, and look at what happened thanks to that!] and he was all for it. He told me to bring the car over and he’d figure it out.
A call to AMA had a flatbed promptly at my house to load Mustard for the trip over. The car was mostly complete, with any missing components being left off on purpose: the front bumper was off because the car just wouldn’t have made it on the tow truck with it on, the glovebox was missing to keep easy access to the wiring in behind it, and the side skirts (and trim above the fenders) were off so that I could get to the fender bolts if I had to remove or adjust them for any reason. As a bonus it was also easier to lift the car on a hoist or jackstands without the skirts because the full pinchweld was revealed and there was a bit more clearance without them. Everything the car actually needed though was on: the doors, mirrors, lights, and so forth.
Upon arrival, after proper introductions and showing him through the car, Kevin grabbed his laptop and plugged it in to get to work. In no time at all he had run through the car’s computers and turned the key, bringing Ketchup’s old engine to life for the first time since the collision some months earlier. Unfortunately we couldn’t yet drive it as it lacked brake/clutch fluid (not to mention coolant) but we could briefly run it and make some turbo noises.
With the car able to start up and run it was towed back home where, that evening, a bit more reassembly took place as well as a celebration with our friends. The car was started and left to idle to show others that it was running, the sound of which also alerted a few neighbours – including Doug. He promptly ran over to check it out for himself after witnessing the madness that had taken place in the garage over the prior days.
The following morning [August 9th at this point] Mustard was loaded onto another flatbed and hauled over to a mechanic I know [Richard, who had also pulled Ketchup’s engine for us earlier in the summer and more recently has handled my Grand Prix’s engine pull] so that he could inspect it prior to it being driven on the roads again; given the late nights we’d been pulling and the many chefs that had been in that kitchen, I wanted a fresh pair of eyes to look over everything and effectively double check our work. It stayed in his care for a couple of days which gave him time to run through it all, and also granted us some space to get to work on the other cars we’d be entering in Sunday School!
Reassembly didn’t stop just because the car was out of our hands though; I loaded up the Suburban and stopped by the next day with a few parts for Mustard. One such item was the front bumper, as the car wouldn’t need to be carted around on a flatbed any more and so ground clearance was no longer an issue. Richard and I kept working away, also filling and bleeding the clutch and brakes, but not before having to track down an incredibly tiny rubber seal that we (my friends and I) had missed in one of the hardlines [the careful cataloguing and sorting of parts came in handy here, as I had to pull one off a spare line]. That one small oversight aside, it went smoothly and a couple of days after being dropped off Mustard was then given the green light to make the maiden voyage home.
Before that though, I took the time to do a few laps of the area to get a feel for the car myself and start my own shakedown of it. The shop building happens to be located just outside of our city in a quiet little business park, so I had some empty streets with which to check acceleration, braking, steering, and so forth. Nothing crazy mind you, but it gave me room to check all systems, perform some hard stops, listen for noises, and otherwise run through the car without being on a crowded road. We were being extremely thorough not just to ensure the car would be suitable to drive on the roads again, but so that we’d be as sure as possible that nothing would or could go wrong on the drive to the show. Breaking down then because something was overlooked was the last thing we wanted to happen!
The few laps showed that Mustard was running perfectly; the brakes felt good, the transmission was operating smoothly, and importantly the engine felt very healthy – until the clutch and brakes had been bled, this engine had not moved a car since the day Ketchup had been hit and totaled some months prior! This testing however also gave José the time to finish off his journey into town from Northern California and meet up with me. The entire time that the swap was going on – in anticipation of debuting it at Sunday School – José was also preparing his car Rossy down in Willows to make the drive up to Calgary for the same event! I gave him the address of the shop and we agreed to meet up there before heading back to my house.
Just as I had finished another few laps of the complex in the newly swapped Mustard, José appeared in his own Focus sedan featuring its matching full ST exterior conversion, but [at the time] retaining the original naturally-aspirated 2.0 liter under the hood. He had the chance to be the first passenger in Mustard post-swap as I took him around for a couple of laps, before we then said our goodbyes to the Richard and the rest of the team at the shop and headed back into town. [It’s worth noting that as soon as he returned home José got to work on swapping his car too, ultimately making Rossy ST4 #007!]
Anyway, later that day we met up with Mario and a few other friends to all have dinner together, and Mario hopped behind the wheel of Mustard to see how it felt with the new heart. He was able to report back it felt just like Ketchup had, giving me the final seal of approval that all was good with the patient and we had pulled this off!
The final day before the show saw more organized (ish) chaos at my house as all of the cars were finalized for the next day’s big event. When all was said and done, there were only a few hours left before Sunday School when the last part went back on Mustard and I then took a quick nap before we met up again to roll in to the venue. [I recall heading to bed at about 6:30 in the morning, and we were at the show by about 10:30.]
After years of talking about it, months of preparing for it, and a couple of weeks of actually doing it, we had finally built an ST-powered sedan; making our deadline and debuting the car at Sunday School was a major reward on its own especially as we had José (and Paul) in town and the day happened to fall on Keith’s birthday, giving us more things to celebrate. We spent the day talking to tons of friends, showing off the cars and the swap especially, and celebrating with Keith. At the end of the show though, as the awards were being called out my name was among them, and we then had the perfect topper to what had already been an amazing day and weekend – one of the “Honour Roll” awards, as the judges felt that out of the hundreds of cars on display, Mustard was one of the top 15.
With that trophy, we could go home knowing that we had all won that day; it was my name on the registration of course, but in reality this was OUR award, and not mine alone. All of us had put in long hours to see this through and this was our collective prize for that.
That trophy [still] sits proudly on my desk as a reminder of that great weekend but every time I turn the key in Mustard, hearing Ketchup’s old heart roar into life is an amazing reminder – and award – all on its own.