I must concede that I have taken things a little out of order. The biggest mistake of my life started just before I got the second Miata, more than a year prior to the end of Part 7. One week before finding a Miata on Craigslist and contacting the seller in Toledo, I went to my local Ford dealership.

Spoiler alert!

Rusty was holding up well but I had been bitten too many times in the past by old cars. Now that I had a steady, well-paying job I was revisiting the topic of getting a new car. And if I was going to spend that much money on a new car, it needed to be exactly what I wanted. And what I wanted was my Talon, but new. I wanted an AWD turbo liftback sport coupe with a ridiculous wing, a bulletproof engine, and an endless aftermarket of cheap upgrades. The sport coupe market was long dead by 2015 but the hot hatch market was getting much warmer. When I accepted the job offer with Rolls-Royce I had gone to the Ford dealer to buy a Fiesta ST, but as I was sitting down with the finance officer I got a message from a friend that works for Ford Performance stating that he was testing a high performance prototype AWD system for the Focus platform that day. I shelved the topic for almost a whole year, and now my friend had mentioned that the order books for that AWD Focus were opening soon. So this fateful Saturday I walked into my local Ford dealership and put my name down on a 2016 Focus RS.

The new Miata, nicknamed Richard, the more sophisticated and capable of the two, had turned out to be an amazing investment. I had completely forgotten about the need to have a new car but with how slow even Richard was compared to the Talon, I became obsessed with getting the Focus RS. On paper, it looked like the Talon but better in all ways save one. It had a higher displacement and came stock with as much power as the Talon had had in its highest state of tune. It had 20 years of chassis, engine, and aerodynamic development on the DSM and should be plenty capable of beating the Talon in any kind of performance driving and still besting the Talon’s 27 mpg city. But five doors? Ew.

The all-important detail.

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In September, my name was down on the list. In October I paid my deposit. I spent the next four months obsessing over every detail. I had 3D renderings of engine components taken from the service manual. I knew how to perform service actions like replacing the headgasket and rebuilding the high pressure fuel pump. I became intimately familiar with how the torque vectoring system worked in the AWD system and I engaged in complex technical discussions with others in my same position. I became one of the biggest contributors to a Focus RS forum and became the person that people came to with technical questions. To summarize, I went way overboard.

But in February, I started losing trust in my dealership. I couldn’t point to any one thing that changed my mind, but I was no longer confident in their ability to keep my best interests in mind. Ford’s asinine allocation system meant that certain dealerships would only get a certain number of allocations to sell, and I found a recommended dealership in Illinois that was very upfront about their one remaining allocation. I put a deposit down on that car in February.

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And I had been right in my distrust of the first dealership. My car arrived in July and the dealership called me in to pick it up. They put the paperwork in front of me. I had ordered a $37,500 car, but by the time they had finished tacking on all of their fees and “market adjustment” the total was $49,000. And that was the total financed, which was after they had taken off my $5,900 deposit. I told them that I wasn’t putting my name on the line until the price on the page matched the price that I had agreed to when I put my deposit down. They did the whole “speak with the manager” charade and every time the salesperson came back, the price had dropped a measly $1000. They went down to $44k before saying that they had assembled a list of people who had already agreed to buy my car for their higher asking price and they couldn’t justify going lower. They had listed my car for sale on their website and had allegedly collected deposits from others. “Then sell it to one of them!” I shouted. “I’m sick of your shit!” The dozen or so other customers in the showroom took notice as I stormed out.

It could have been that easy. If only dealerships weren’t scum. The skids were not mine.

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They called the next day, but only to give me one last opportunity to buy the car, this time at $46,000. I told them exactly where they could shove their offer and got in contact with the dealer in Illinois. Ford builds their cars out of order, so someone who places an order in July might get their car in August, months before someone who placed their order in January. My February order had not been picked up for production yet, so it was time to play the waiting game.

But then it was August and the Ford factory shut down for retooling for the 2017 Focus RS and my 2016 order had still not been picked for production. I started contacting people to get answers. I learned pretty quickly that around 200 2016 orders had been cancelled and resubmitted as 2017 orders in order to accommodate earlier production delays, but I also learned pretty quickly that my order was not one of those 200. It remained a 2016 order for weeks after that transition before being abruptly cancelled with no justification. The dealership told me that the zone representative responsible for being the Ford Corp liaison for dealerships in the Illinois/Indiana region had vacated the position with no replacement so the dealership had no person to ask questions of. I found the personal contact information for a zone rep in Florida and asked her for help. She said she couldn’t assist dealerships from other regions but she did check on my order and confirmed that it had been abruptly cancelled and not transitioned to a 2017. That was also a dead end. I contacted my friend at Ford Performance and, while he had transitioned from the RS program to testing a certain flat-plane crank in a certain Coyote V8, he did some internal sleuthing of his own. Unfortunately he could only reinforce that the order had been cancelled internally. There were no other orders in the same position and it was clearly not an intentional move, but that car was not coming. I even contacted Jalopnik’s own Fancy Kristen after she did a report on the Focus RS’s production problems, but she was just as unable to get answers as I was. The dealer said that they hadn’t heard anything about 2017 allocations yet so I again went to the Florida zone rep. The allocations were finalized months ago, she said, so if the dealer hadn’t been notified yet then no allocations were coming.

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So my first order didn’t work out and the second order had been cancelled for no reason and the second dealership couldn’t even put in a new order for me. The dealership gave me back my deposit and apologized for the mess, although they admitted that this kind of fuckery is not uncommon with Ford. I should have given up at that point, but I persisted. I was less focused on having a new, reliable car and was instead completely consumed by getting what was repeatedly denied to me. And so, while I was obsessively scouring the Focus RS forums instead of actually doing work at the office, I came across a delivered 2016 RS in Florida that was similar enough to my spec. The dealership was offering it brand new to anyone interested. Within 24 hours I had a deposit down on the car and the next day my boyfriend and I were stepping out of the airport in Ft. Lauderdale.

Ah, Florida. How I don’t miss thee.

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The story behind the car’s existence was somewhat confusing. Apparently a sales associate had fabricated a customer order so that he could get a car placed in front of all of the dealer stock orders. The salesperson was then fired in the interim, leaving no paper trail to link this customer order to an actual customer or even to confirm that there wasn’t actually a customer. So the dealership decided to forego any due diligence and just listed the car online. If it had exactly matched the spec that I wanted I would have thought that it was my mysterious missing first order, but this one had come with the unwanted suede seats and redundant navigation system.

The car was as expected. I don’t have any crazy stories about the dealership experience beyond the salesperson being disappointed that I had brought my own license plate frame and wouldn’t need the hot pink Autonation frame that was provided with all purchases. And that the first stop after leaving the dealership was a Cici’s Pizza for lunch, where I sat next to the window staring out at the parking lot the whole time.

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My boyfriend requires that I include more awkward pictures of myself in this story.

The drive back was interesting, however. The purchase came at a convenient time because it was four days before my grandpa’s birthday party in Cincinnati. We had friends living in Miami beach so we spent the night there before departing for Sebring to visit another friend. We hadn’t been planning to stay in Sebring for the night but hurricane Hermine was working its way up the peninsula that day and we knew that it wouldn’t be wise to be on the road, so we stayed in Sebring, admiring our host’s motorcycle collection and celebrating the weather like true Floridians: a hurricane party!

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In the morning we left for Nashville, where we would spend the night with my sister. On the way through Georgia we got to see the effects of the hurricane. Everything was out of power so we couldn’t stop for food or gas. It was eerie how quiet and abandoned things seemed, but the closer we got to Nashville the more normal things seemed. And then, right as we entered Nashville the navigation system in the Focus froze, permanently telling me that my exit was in 0.6 miles. We had a fun night and day in Nashville before heading to Cincinnati Saturday night.

Hanging out behind my sister’s house

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The birthday was fun, and we made it back home to Indianapolis late Sunday. I have plenty of memories of the things that we saw along the trip, but I don’t remember anything about the car itself beyond being frustrated by the infotainment system. And pulling over on the side of the highway not three miles from the dealership to open the trunk and aggressively yank that engine noise generator from the car because I could not handle the farting noises that it played through the speakers while I drove. Overall, though, it was exciting because it was new and I was looking forward to making it my own.

This has gone on way longer than I had anticipated, so next time you’ll get to hear about my life with the Focus, why having access to life savings while under anesthesia is a bad idea, and a return to some small things that I skipped. Not in that order.