Ken Block is Back, and This Time He’s Got… a Ford Escort?
It’s been almost a year since pro driver, skate shoe entrepreneur, and all around speed freak Ken Block dropped his last Hoonigan experience on us, terrorizing the streets of Los Angeles with an 845-horsepower, all-wheel drive Ford Mustang. Frankly, YouTube has been a bit stale ever since. Block’s last foray into the world of “hooning” still stands strong 11 months later, with almost 29.5 million views and a following that is best summarized as “eclectically enthusiastic.”
Described as “driving a car or boat in a manner which is anti-social by the standards of contemporary society, i.e. too fast, too noisily or too dangerously,” the art of hooning has become an increasingly common nomenclature in American culture. By combining the word “hooligan” with it, Block has single-handedly created a brand that is unique unto itself and his likeness.
What started with Subaru has since morphed into Ford (as sponsorship deals have the tendency to do), and while Block’s professional race career remains spotty at best, there is no denying the fact that his “Gymkhana” gauntlets are a huge hit with enthusiasts around the world.
For those of you who are not familiar with the term, Gymkhana is a style of autocross that Block invented a few years back, one that incorporates a wide range of obstacles, angles, driving styles, and courses, all in the hopes of testing the driver on a multifaceted, unorthodox track. What started as short, controlled drives in obstacle-laden, course-like proving grounds has since morphed into Hollywood-sized productions, where Block has literally half a city blocked-off (heh) so that he can test his prowess in the most grandiose of fashions.
We’ve seen everything from guys in gorilla suits on Segways and parade-level goal line welcomes to insane hilltop jumps and Block drifting beneath jumping, hydraulic-powered low-riders. It’s the kind of popcorn-munching fun Americans love, and while it may be insanely over-the-top in every way, there is no denying the fact that it is impossible to turn away for fear of missing what might happen next.
Now there’s a new Gymkhana video on its way, and as we prepare ourselves for another round of rambunctiously wild driving, a video emerged on YouTube showing Block’s latest hoon machine, which just so happens to be a 1978 Mk II Ford Escort RS from overseas.
“This Escort Mk2 is special to me, it’s actually my first Ford rally car,” Block says, on his Hoonigan website. “I purchased it in 2008. It was designed to compete in tarmac events, but unfortunately those are quite lacking now stateside, so instead of converting it into a gravel machine, I had my team at Hoonigan Racing Division extend on its tarmac capabilities and develop it into the ultimate rear-wheel-drive Gymkhana car.”
It may look old-school on the outside, but mechanically this little Escort is far from being outdated. It uses modern-day, Gymkhana-specific coilover suspension and a fully built Cosworth-controlled 2.5-liter four-cylinder Millington motor that offers 333 horsepower and a 9,000 RPM redline. Mated to a six-speed sequential gearbox and featuring clever digital displays like the one seen here, this caged beast is about as badass as it gets when it comes to restomods.
Stylistically, Block wanted to keep the Escort linear both outside and in, since his current fleet of race cars has a recognizable theme going where a widened stance with wheel arches give the cars a far more aggressive look. In order to achieve this, Block reached out to Japanese widebody specialists, Rocket Bunny, for advice on how to make the unassuming economy car more mean-spirited.
After hearing Block’s pitch (and undoubtedly accepting a sizable down payment), company founder Kei Miura began working closely with Block and his team to create the world’s first Rocket Bunny Escort. By pilfering heavily from Hoonigan’s RX43 project, the HFHV Fiestas, the aforementioned Hoonicorn RTR Mustang (which landed Block on our list of top 10 worldwide tuners), as well as other Rocket Bunny designs, they were able to build an aero kit that is just as functional as it is flippant.
Since shipping the car all the way to Japan would be both time-consuming and expensive, a digital scan of the Escort was made, and once Miura got a hold of the schematics he quickly went about constructing what is being heralded as one of “the widest and most unique kits seen on an Escort Mk2.” Contrasting with the Escort’s newfound curves, and star-spangled/matte black facade, are a set of stark white, custom forged, two-piece fifteen52 wheels, which have been wrapped in Pirelli rubber.
“This car has been something I’ve been working on slowly for a long time now,” Block writes. “I’m stoked with how the whole thing turned out. My team and Graham Quick at Quick Motorsport in the U.K. did a great job on the build of the car, Rocket Bunny did an awesome job with the exterior styling, and I absolutely love how The Hoonigans took something I really love — the American flag — and remixed it into a bad-ass graphic for the livery of this car. I’ve only been able to test this car for two days, but I’m looking forward to slaying some more tires in this thing really soon. The car absolutely rips, especially at 9,000 RPM.”
Block and his team of Hoonigans are reportedly working on a fresh video project for 2016 as well, which will showcase the Escort, and in coming months various YouTube videos are slated for release, where Hoonigan athletes get behind the wheel of the micro-sized Ford as guest drivers. The first scheduled public appearance for the car will be this coming weekend at Monster Energy’s Gymkhana GRID Finale in the U.K.; more info pertaining to that event is slated for release later this week.
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