When he's not driving a rally car for his own Hoonigan Racing team, Ken Block makes his living by tearing across pavement in jaw-dropping viral videos. His latest, Gymkhana 7, racked up more than 14 million views in its first week on YouTube.
While past Gymkhana exploits saw Block spinning and drifting through spectacular stunt courses in modern rally cars, his new video follows him as he burns through Los Angeles in a custom all-wheel-drive 1965 Ford Mustang.
We spoke with Block about the inspiration for Gymkhana 7, his 845-horsepower muscle car, what Hoonigan means, and what it's like to pull four-wheel burnouts behind the Hollywood sign.
Where'd you get the idea to take an AWD Mustang and terrorize the streets of L.A?
The Gymkhana videos are a great creative outlet, but it gets more difficult every year to make cool things people want to watch. I had the idea to take a car that's unexpected, and a performance all-wheel-drive Mustang had never been built before. Then I'm from southern California and L.A. is so iconic. Downtown, Chinatown, and the river made a really cool backdrop.
Tell us about the Mustang. You've dubbed it the "Hoonicorn."
It's unlike any Mustang ever made and I built it for this video. From concept to finish was two years. It has an 845-horsepower Roush Yates V8 and a custom all-wheel-drive system. I knew would fun to drive and make an exceptional video.
What does it take to put a video like this together?
Our production company is very good. It's a L.A.-based studio and the scouts work with government to figure out how to do what we want to do. It took about eight months and then we had five full days of shooting. My sponsors make it all possible, it's very expensive.
Any close calls?
There are always close calls. When I was doing donuts around Randy's Donuts, I came within inches of the parking blocks. We want those close calls and there's a lot of pressure to get things done fast and in an extreme way. If it's not dramatic, it's not going to look good on camera. Of course, it's a fine balance between what looks good and not destroying anything.
Some scenes already had tire marks on the pavement, did you run each stunt multiple times?
Each situation is different, like it only took one try at Randy's Donuts. Others will be six of seven times. Before, I'll explore every possibility of what could go wrong or right. I don’t want to overdrive on the first try and break, so we ease into certain tricks. We have a very particular look, so we might also reposition camera. It's definitely a process.
Were any of the stunts actually hard for you?
Yeah, some of them pushed me. The hardest thing was the donuts around the hopping low rider. If I timed it wrong, it would have come down on my car and crushed it.
Were the cop cars in the video real police?
Some are real and some are fake. We always had three to four police with us for every part of shoot, but we added more because we wanted it to look like that cops were there to shut it down.
Were there any highlights for you?
I grew up seeing the Hollywood sign all my life and driving around it was surreal. That took months to arrange.
What's your advice for guys that want to learn to drive like you?
The best way to start is a school. My skills come from stage rallies, but I started at Team O'Neil Rally School in New Hampshire. There's also a good school near Seattle, DirtFish Rally. You learn a lot of basic skills that also improve your own regular driving.
Finally, what exactly is Hoonigan?
Someone that likes to have fun with a car. The term comes from Australia, for someone driving aggressively, doing donuts, burnouts, racing, and sliding, but it's a term of endearment.
Watch Gymkhana 7.