For Focus in its natural Montreal habitiat

Mustang Challenge | Day 1 – Heading For PA in the Ford Focus

We’re headed to Philadelphia from Montreal in a certifiable Jalop of a Ford Focus. If we make it, we’re getting a free Mustang…

[You’re reading part of the Mustang Challenge series, a loosely bound concept that was created to inspire others to get out and explore the country in their cars. In this Mustang Challenge, two Canadians are touring the USA for the first time, traveling for 26 days through 13 different US cities while traversing over 8,000 miles behind the wheel of a 2016 Mustang GT. This is one post in a series of many. To read the previous articles and to follow the series, jump to the bottom of this page.]

It seems this deluded dream of ours has become a reality. In what is nearly an inexplicable chain of events, Alex and I have set off from Montreal, towards Pennsylvania, to trade in the Focus and pick up the keys to our 2016 Mustang GT. We are still somewhat in shock that someone (Andrew) is actually willing to hand over their brand new Mustang in return for the use of one clapped out $250 station wagon.

Only once we’re sitting in the Mustang, several hundred miles away driving toward Nashville will we finally be able to relax. Our plan is to grab the keys and run, departing straight away for Broadway – no messing around. Once Andrew realizes just how short the stick is on his end, we’ll simply be too far away once that inevitable angry phone call comes in. You don’t even need to know much about cars to realize this is a ludicrous exchange.

Connor's Focus

The Car | 2004 Ford Focus Overview


  • 2.0L DOHC Zetec, 127 hp 135 ft-lbs torque
  • 5 speed MTX-75 transmission
  • 102,000 miles
  • 0-60 MPH: 10 s
  • Top speed (as tested): 100 MPH
  • Fuel economy: 23mpg city, 32 mpg highway

Recent Repairs & New Parts

  • Clutch
  • Timing belt (we think)
  • Starter
  • Valve cover gasket
  • Thermostat housing
  • Power steering pressure line
  • Front brakes
  • Rear wheel bearings


  • DVD player (inop)
  • Heated seats (inop)
  • Remote starter (inop)
  • Air conditioning
  • Cruise Control
  • Fog lights
  • 16” mags
  • Keyless entry
  • Power locks
  • Power windows
  • Custom roof racks
  • Custom rocker panels

The Good

Don’t get me wrong, the Focus is a great car; not the mainstream type of great that most people describe when using the word, but rather, it is great because it cost $250 and it actually works. Turn the key, the engine starts. Turn the wheel and the car corners. Hit the brakes and the Focus stops. In fact, sometimes you don’t even need to hit the brakes to slow down, the car will occasionally do it on its own when the engine cuts out (more on this later). What more could you ask for? It’s a running, driving, relatively reliable vehicle.

The Bad


As mentioned, the car has an occasional stalling problem whilst being driven. It’s been over a year since the car last stalled, but ironically, it did it once yesterday while driving home from the airport. It seems the cruise control has gotten touchy as well, because it likes to shut off when a bump disrupts the suspension. The radio volume is quite finicky, as untrained fingers either max out or mute the volume, no in-between. The hand-brake is inoperative, the rear driver side tire has a slow leak (this showed up about 2 days ago), exhaust system has a hole somewhere, trunk only opens by using the key, car only starts using a certain key and the rear shock absorbers are finished.

On the bright side, I just refilled the air conditioning system the other day, so at least on these hot and humid days, there is some climate relief. Unfortunately, the air conditioning is pretty much negated by the exhaust leak, as when the car is at a stoplight, fumes creep in through vents when the blower is on. Thus the fan needs to be turned off when at a stop light or in traffic, and I know Andrew spends about 45 minutes every day in traffic heading home after work. Guess I wasted my money fixing that up for him.


Now, the picture I’ve painted above is pretty dreary. Yes, the Focus is pretty beat-up, but it has served me well. The Focus has been pretty reliable, but I have never really pushed it hard. If memory serves, apart from driving to and from the airport several times a week, the longest single haul trip it has been on clocked in at 3.5 hours of engine run time. The 8-hour drive to Philly will be the longest stint it’s ever done, at least under my ownership.

Costing a measly $250, the Focus has certainly shown tenacity – starting every time during the winter, even at minus 30C (and even being used to boost other cars!). And I expect this trend to continue whilst under Andrew’s tenure. Mind you, I don’t care too much as I only need it to last me the 8 hours it takes to drive to Philly, and then I won’t have to worry about it for another month. Worst case, the Focus breaks, Andrew is stuck, Alex and I are out ripping about in a 400+ horsepower muscle car somewhere having a crazy good time. Not something I am too concerned about. Besides, I left some jumper cables and an 18-piece socket set in the trunk. That should be enough, right?

Be sure to check back to the blog on Tuesdays and Fridays for updates. You can also follow Connor and Alex on their adventure by checking in on Twitter and Instagram @MustangMounties

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