Around September last year I received a telephone call from the office of Ken Block. I was told that Ken would be filming the seventh installment of his wildly successful Gymkhana series, and would I like to tag along. There might also be the opportunity of a ride in the car and, given you’re a gobby little Limey, could you shoot a video outlining the technical specification of the car.
I was, let us say, between jobs at the time and quite fancied a trip to Los Angeles. So I jumped on the plane.
Thirteen hours later, I was having my innards rearranged by an 800hp monster, and you can watch that here.
The car in question is called the Hoonicorn. It is the result of a two-year build that took an idea from the darker recesses of Ken’s mind and fashioned it into perhaps the most internet-friendly motor car ever built – accepting that slides, smoke and massive noise are what generates viewing figures. But I suppose anything that works on the streets of LA, will also work on the driveway of an English Stately Home, and that’s why I think the Hoonicorn will be one of the key attractions at this year’s Festival of Speed.
The car itself is very much a Mustang – well, it is if you believe that the definition of a ‘Mustang’ is retaining the shape of the A-pillar and the roof and replacing everything else. So it’s about two percent a ’65 Mustang and ninety eight percent some freak genetic clash of Rallycross and Nascar.
The process was engineering, as opposed to aesthetics-led. The car needed a vast V8, so Ken and family went for the subtle option and fitted a Ford Nascar V8: 6.7 litres, 8000rpm and 850hp. If any engine ever sounded like it has 850hp, wait until you hear it running up the hill and you’ll agree this is it.
That velocity stack on the bonnet, sorry, hood, sits atop individual throttle bodies, and the whole caboodle sits behind the front axle line. The Hoonicorn is mid-engined; front mid-engined. The transmission is a vast SADEV sequential straight from a Dakar racer. The front differential sits ahead of the engine, the suspension is double-wishbones all-round and all springs and dampers work on pushrods and are inboard.
The car is basically a vastly strong tubular chassis built to surround the huge engine and gearbox. Then lightly clothed in a low-rider Mustang-meets-DTM racer body. All-up it weighs 1350kg and I’d be amazed if it was geared to do anything more than 120mph and it didn’t hit 60mph in around 2.5sec.
The detail on the machine is just stunning. If you can get up-close and peer at it this weekend, make sure you do. From the special Ken Block Pirellis, to the one-piece carbon dash featuring a toggle-switch marked ‘Donut’, to the Hoonigan instruments – to, well, just about all of it. I hate to think how much it cost to build.
But the single geeky fact I like most about the Hoonicorn is that when Ken pulls the hydraulic handbrake it uncouples the front axle and allows the rear to pivot even more harshly. When, inevitably, you see him do that at this year’s Festival of Speed, see if you spot the moment the rears keep spinning and the fronts stop.