Ford Focus Builder\'s Handbook Review
I was one of the lucker FJ members who won a free copy of of the SA Design book High-Performance Ford Focus Builder's Handbook by Richard Holdener. Thanks to Car Tech Books
for the copy and for supporting this site. On to the review:
Best part about the book is the author - Richard Holdener. If you have not read anything he has written before, you are missing out. He is clear and concise, yet includes plenty of detail. This book reflect those qualities strongly. Furthermore, he is unbiased in his approach to power. He will go V8 or 4 cylinder, import or domestic, turbo or supercharger, N2O or N/A without a prejudice. We are lucky to have him interested in the Focus.
The book is well organized, and contains serious amounts of detail within each section. The only one that falls short in this area is the one dealing with engine management. Holdener preaches the "Turbo Tom gospel" of tuning first, second and third, yet the chapter that covers the details is surprisingly sparse. No timing or fueling tables are shown to illustrate why the changes on the dyno occur. After reading the section on intake manifolds and their effects on torque production, I was really hopeful that the same sort of detail would be for included in engine management. Please understand, this is the exception, and most all other sections provide a wealth of detail and explanation.
Just like other things I have read from Holdener, he runs just about every power adder imaginable. All popular bolt on's are covered, often showing the difference between alternatives. Nitrous doesn't get a huge amount of space, but the explanation of how to do nitrous right is there as expected. The book is littered with turbo Foci, and the turbo section alone is worth the price of admission. Superchargers too get a big section and lots of detail. Since no centrifugal superchargers were available at the time of publishing, it is limited to just JRSC's, but Holdener adds enough variations to keep even the most hardened anti-Jackson man interested. Pity his custom M62 is not available to the rest of us. Are you listening Oscar?
The book is not without flaws, however. The picture selection was apparently kind of sparse. The same photo of Holdener's car on the dyno appears on pages 50, 61, 71, 87 and 103. Doesn't make much a difference, but since the book is a reference manual of sorts that many will go back to before each purchase, you tend to notice these things. Another annoyance is the fact that the dyno charts are not standardized. Some are rated in mph, others in rpm. Sometimes the before graph is the lighter line, sometimes it is the darker one. While a big undertaking due to the shear volume of graphs included, putting these in a standard format would really improve the readability of the book. Since hp's range from about 110 to 400 or so, there would have to be more than one scale for the y axis, but other than that, it could be done. Also, posting peak numbers above the graph, rather than just in the text would make comparisons on different pages way simpler.
My other complaint is a mild one, at worst. The final chapter is a waste, and is not up to the standards of the rest of the book. It is nice that Holdener has a holistic view of car tuning, not just focused under the hood, but the suspension and brake upgrades are not given the same detail or attention as any of the engine parts. For a book that spends over 100 pages talking about and showing the results of testing, this chapter does not fit in. There are no before and after stopping distances for the rear disc conversion and no skid pad data for the suspension. Placed last like it is, it seems like filler or an afterthought.
Overall, the book is nothing short of impressive. The number of parts tested and the variety of configurations shown are simply mind boggling. The less than $20 the book costs will be saved many times over by anyone who owns and tunes a Focus. I genuinely hope that Holdener keeps testing parts and comes out with a part 2. More SVT parts, centrifugal blower tests, 2.3 Duratec parts and (my own personal bias) a whole chapter on swapping in a Duratec 3.0 V6! Cliff notes, it is so good I want a sequel!