TOP FIVE: Ken Block cars
Monday 25th November, 2019 - 5:00pm
Few race drivers have had quite the impact on car culture as Ken Block.
The founder of skate brand DC Shoes was a latecomer to motorsport but combined his passion for rally cars with his marketing savvy to build a huge online profile with his Gymkhana video series.
After starting his career driving Subarus, his success attracted the attention of the Ford Motor Company who have supported his tyre-shredding efforts and allowed him to build some remarkable machines.
This list could be a lot longer because he owns some epic vehicles – like his Group B-spec Ford RS200 he uses as a road car or his Ford F-150 RaptorTrax (a pick-up truck with tank tracks at each corner instead of a wheel and tyre).
But here are torquecafe.com’s top Block picks.
Let us know your favourite in the comments below.
1965 Ford Mustang ‘Hoonicorn’
After making his name in a variety of modified rally and rallycross cars, Block unleashed his creativity for 2014’s Gymkhana 7 video, creating this wild take on the classic Mustang. Built to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the pony car, Block and his crew took a 1965 model and morphed it into something remarkable.
Originally it was powered by a 6.7-litre V8 built by NASCAR specialist Roush-Yates Racing with 630kW of power. Uniquely it feature all-wheel drive because of Block’s affection for rally cars and his ability to drift four-wheel drive cars. He also drew inspiration from modern World Rally Cars, as well as DTM machines, to give it a look unlike any other Mustang built before or since.
But when it came time to shoot Climbkhana, in which is drifted his way up Pikes Peak, he needed more power at the higher altitude. So, naturally, he added a pair of turbochargers to that NASCAR V8 to create a 1043kW monster known as Hoonicorn V2.
2006 Subaru Impreza WRX STi
The original hoon-machine. Block began his rally career like most people, buying a car and competing with friends – it just happened that his friend was action star Travis Pastrana who was then rallying with Subaru’s US rally team.
As a result he had a 2006 WRX STI to play with and intended on practicing his skills in a planned Californian gymkhana competition, but it was cancelled leaving him with a car and a desire to drive but no outlet. So he went and practiced anyway at the El Toro airfield in California and filmed it to show his mates.
But when he posted the four-minute clip of hims drifting and doing donuts in the WRX it exploded across the internet and the Gymkhana series was born.
The Subaru was prepared by specialists Crawford Performance, who bumped up the engine to 395kW, and added a rally-spec handbrake. Compared to his later cars it was simple and raw but it’s gruff boxer engine and its WRC-spec bodykit made it the perfect car to begin the legend.
2014 Ford Fiesta ST HFHV
The success of the first Gymkhana video led to a second with Subaru before Ford cottoned onto his appeal and put him into a modified Fiesta rallycross car for Gymkhana 3 in 2011. By 2014 Block was not only doing stage rallies, he was competing in the fledgling US rallycross scene as well as his Gymkhana videos, so instead of three separate cars be tried to build one for all.
The result was the Fiesta ST HFHV – which stands for Hybrid Function Hoon Vehicle. The idea was to use a Fiesta WRC car built by M-Sport in the UK and modify it so it could be converted between rally, rallycross and Gymkhana specifications. That meant different suspension packages, engine maps and even moving the radiators.
While it was a compromised and complicated machine it produced some of his finest work – most notably the epic Gymkhana 5 around the streets of San Francisco.
1977 Ford F-150 ‘Hoonitruck’
How do you top a 1000kW ‘65 Mustang? You turn a 1977 Ford F-150 pick-up into a Gymkhana machine with the help of Ford’s Le Mans-winning GT supercar.
Yes, that’s right, the Hoonitruck developed for Gymkhana 10 (and this week’s Climbkhana 2) uses the same 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 as the Le Mans racer. Developed by Ford Performance and Roush-Yates it pumps out 700kW which is more than enough to set all-four tyres spinning.
Like the Hoonicorn before it, the Hoonitruck has a look unlike any other, with a wide body and NASCAR-style decklid spoiler.
But it also incorporates a number of techniques Block’s Hoonigan Racing Team have learnt over the years of stage rally, so the open tray allows them to work on the all-wheel drive system and change tyres with ease.
It may look old-school, but this is actually one of the most hi-tech utes you’ll ever see.
1978 Ford Escort MkII
This is one of the more obscure cars in Block’s collection – but that doesn’t mean it’s not special.
The Escort MkII is an iconic car in its own right, but the American’s take on it to make it a Gymkhana-spec, tyre-fryer is remarkable.
Originally built as tarmac-spec rally car Block competed in a number of gravel rallies in the car, and created a memorable video of him and our very own Chris Atkinson drifting it on dirt – with very big smiles.
But Block wanted to use it for a Gymkhana competition series he created so took it back to tarmac trim – with a twist. He enlisted the help of Japanese custom car legend Kei Miura of Rocket Bunny fame to create a widebody kit, added some Fifteen52 wheels and gave it a unique stance.
Under the bonnet is a 250kW 2.5-litre four-cylinder Cosworth engine that revs to 9000rpm. So not only does it look cool, it sounds amazing as it smokes tyres.
Hopefully Ken has more plans bring it out to play some more…