Cast you mind back to when you were just a spotty 16-year-old. Apart from bragging about how many girls you’d touched and ogling your mate’s sister, there was another subject that was at the forefront of your attention: what car you’d have as soon as you turned 17.
There’s always a mate who, how can I put this politely, talks utter crap stating his dad is going to buy him the latest Ferrari or his brother is going to insure him on a race-spec M3 or something equally as absurd. Those are the ones who usually end up with their mum’s old 1.2 Corsa in puke yellow or baby-poo green. And then there’s the other type, the one who realises the realms of reality and explore it to the fullest. Well meet Ross Nicholson, a man who strictly conforms to the latter.
“I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford a Cossie or anything like that as a first car, but I also didn’t want to end up with my mum’s old shopping car,” he explains. With that in mind he settled on the Mk5 Fiesta Zetec S, which thanks to its revvy little 1.6 engine and 105bhp has enough power to show up his peers in a drag race but is also cheap enough to insure. Plus the Zetec S is and always has been quite a cool little car, and even in standard trim has more than enough street cred to satisfy the show-off needs of a 17-year-old male.
So with his mind made up, and despite the fact he was only 16 at the time, Ross went hunting for a good Zetec S. “I even went to Scotland to have a look at a couple,” he shrugs, “but when we got there they were all just a load of rubbish.”
The answer lay closer to home, much closer. In fact Ross’ mum spotted this one for sale just three streets away from their house, and after a quick chat and few checks Ross soon found he had a set of keys to his ideal car in his hands. “I was chuffed to bits with it,” he exclaims, “but it was a bit disappointing and frustrating that I couldn’t even drive it!”
Rather than just let it sit on the drive waiting for Ross to turn 17 he decided to prepare the car as best as he could. First up was a full service (using all genuine parts because Ross is a bit picky about stuff like that) and then when the car was in tip-top condition to begin with Ross decided to start tinkering with it, and this was about four months before he even turned 17. To begin with the tinkering was confined to just a bit of colour-coding on the bodywork, window tints, a set of lowering springs, and powdercoating the standard wheels white. Still, a very smart little car considering what most of us have as a first set of wheels.
Thankfully the car didn’t have to wait too long for Ross to catch up and pass his driving test so he could use it – just 28 days after turning 17! When he finally got behind the wheel of his Zetec S he “loved it”, and he remembers that compared to his mates’ cars “it felt like a rocket ship”.
As with any 17-year-old, the urge to throw in some massive, awkwardly-fitting speakers, sub and amp soon got the better of him. Ross admits that he did exactly that, but soon saw the error of his ways, and while the ICE install remains, he had it professionally fitted including a false floor in the boot, centre-mounted subwoofer, and had the 6×9 speakers refitted into the rear door cards so he didn’t have to look at a hideously chopped-up parcel shelf every time he lifted the boot.
The car then remained as it was for about six months while Ross just drove it everyday and enjoyed it for what it was. But as soon as he signed up to the ZSOC.com forum and got chatting to like-minded enthusiasts he was quickly persuaded that a K&N induction kit and full Milltek exhaust were needed. With those all fitted and working correctly it was time for some uprated cams to make the most of everything.
“This is around the time that things started to go wrong,” Ross frowns. He remembers that he ordered a set of Piper cams and took them to a local garage to be fitted. “They didn’t deal specifically with Fords, but said they could easily fit a set of cams and change the cambelt kit,” he reminisces. To cut a long story short after six weeks of being without the car, not getting any phone calls returned, or getting any information whatsoever Ross decided he’d had enough and just went and got the car back with a tow rope!
With the car safely back in his possession, albeit in bits, Ross made the call he admits he should have made in the first place: to Shawspeed. “John and Dan have been great,” he points out, “I called them on the same night I collected the car back and told them I was in trouble and explained the situation.” Even though they were busy with rallies and such like the Shawspeed boys simply told Ross to bring it down and they would sort it.
With the car at Shawspeed, Ross explained he had been told by the previous garage that the cams were the wrong ones for the engine. John removed them there and then and told Ross to send them back for a thorough check. He did so and the results came back that the cams were spot on, and are actually now running perfectly in Ross’ mates ZS as he sold them to him. The reason Ross sold those cams was because on the drive back home after dropping the car off he received the dreaded phonecall telling him the engine was all but dead. “The pistons were all knackered and the valves were all bent,” shrugs Ross, “it looks like the other garage fitted them wrong and turned it over on the key!”
In true silver-lining fashion Ross decided that it was the perfect opportunity to rebuild the 1.6 Zetec SE to give it a healthy chunk more power. With new pistons, new valves, and a complete rebuild along with some of Shawspeed’s SS4 cams the motor was soon ready for a mapping session at Motorsport Developments. As the motor was a fresh build Ross needed to ensure it was ran-in correctly before it went to MSD, so in just two days he managed to rack up over 500 miles of driving at various different engine speeds and loads. An oil change later and the
car was ready for MSD. Now it’s been remapped Ross hasn’t had time to get it on a dyno, but the general consensus is the car is kicking out between 140-150bhp.
So that took care of the way it went, but now Ross tells the tale of how it got to looking as cool as it does today, helped massively by those gorgeous BBS split rims. “They were actually a Christmas present off my mum and dad,” he explains, “I found them for sale on the forum and they bought them for me as a present.”
To get the wheels looking right Ross also decided that a full set of Turismo arches would set it off nicely. So the car was back in the bodyshop again for more smoothing, flushing, fitting the arches, and repainting blue of some of the areas Ross thought would be cool to paint white earlier such as the rear spoiler etc. To get the ride height right and get the Fiesta sitting on those BBSs as it should a set of AP coilovers were bolted on and the car dropped accordingly. Job done.
Then the last area that was letting the car down was the interior. “I saw some Rover 850 half-leather Recaros for sale on the forum and they looked great. The problem was those seats were full of fag burns and stuff so I wasn’t going to fit those ones,” he smirks. But what Ross did do was go and source a mint set of his own, modify the subframes so they fitted, and bolted them all in. The deep dish steering wheel was the last thing to go in and compliments the interior nicely.
Now Ross is finally happy with the car, and we can see why. It has to be one of the most complete all-round packages we’ve ever seen on a Mk5 Fiesta. For now Ross just wants to use and enjoy the ZS as much as he can, but already has his sights set on the next project; a Mk1 Focus RS. If he takes the same approach with that as he has with this one we reckon we’ll see him on these hallowed pages yet again.
1600cc 16v Zetec SE, fully rebuilt by ShawSpeed including new genuine pistons, rings, valves, stem seals, head gasket, ShawSpeed SS4 camshafts from blank, Milltek Evo 4-2-1 manifold, Milltek decat pipe, Milltek cat-back with inward rolled 3.5in tip, K&N 57i induction kit with direct cold air feed
150bhp (est), 115lb/ft, mapped by MSD with rev limit set at 7050rpm
Factory Fiesta Zetec S IB5 gearbox with new genuine clutch and slave cylinder
Factory Zetec S calipers with Black Diamond drilled and grooved vented discs and Mintex pads, Mintex rear shoes
Fully adjustable AP coilovers, E-tech front upper strut brace, 20.5mm rear axle spacers, full geometry set-up including caster, camber, and tracking levels all set correctly
Wheels and Tyres
Genuine BBS RM004 6.5x15in split rims with ET38 offset, polished lips and spoke face, Nimbus Grey inner spokes, brand new Genuine BBS centre caps to match with dimple ring painted Nimbus Grey, 165/50×15 Bridgestone Potenza stretched tyres, plus standard wheels and Toyo T1R tyres for winter
Fully colour coded body including bumper strips, door handles, roof rails and mirror base plates, smoothed front bumper with off-body number plate bracket, de-badged and de-wipered bootlid with smoothed and colour coded handle and rear spoiler removed, tinted windows, smoked front headlights, Euro rear light clusters, upper and lower mesh grilles powdercoated Nimbus Grey with DMB gel overlay, fully colour coded Turismo arches, ‘stickerbombed’ rear window, wind deflectors
Half leather Recaro reclining seats with custom subframes, OMP ‘deep dish’ steering wheel and boss, Richbrook metal gearknob and leather gaiter, custom boot build, Kenwood 7in flip touchscreen, mids and tweeters, 6x9s, amps, and subwoofer, PS2 in glovebox
My girlfriend Carly for putting up with the obsession, Mam and Dad for all their help, Jon and Dan at ShawSpeed, Matt Jones and Peter Hamilton for their time, and members of ZSOC forum