A rear-wheel-drive Ford Escort is Ken Block's next Gymkhana car
The king of high-production tire destruction returns with the Escort that America was never cool enough to get.
Andrew KrokReviews Editor / Cars
Cars are Andrew's jam, as is strawberry. After spending years as a regular ol' car fanatic, he started working his way through the echelons of the automotive industry, starting out as social-media director of a small European-focused garage outside of Chicago. From there, he moved to the editorial side, penning several written features in Total 911 Magazine before becoming a full-time auto writer, first for a local Chicago outlet and then for CNET Cars.
Gymkhana is a small subset of motorsport, and Ken Block is its biggest proponent. Block's Gymkhana video series on YouTube amasses millions upon millions of views, and it's not hard to see why -- the professional racing driver dances delicately along a tight, complicated course, using every trick in the book to execute flawless figure-eights, jumps and 360-degree turns. His videos utilize a wide variety of high-horsepower one-off vehicles, and he's just unveiled his latest, a 1978 Ford Escort RS.
The Escort in Europe is much different than the bargain-basement, super-thrifty Escort sold in the United States. Ford's overseas model was sold in every configuration imaginable, including a three-door wagon and a two-door panel van. It became well known for its rally-racing prowess, a tradition that began with the first-generation model. Block's 1978 Escort comes from the second generation, which was built between 1974 and 1981.
Ken Block's Gymkhana Escort is a 333-horsepower tire-shredding beast (pictures)
As with every other car in Block's possession, the Escort is very heavily modified. It began life as a tarmac rally racer, but with that subgenre of motorsport lacking in the US, it was revamped with gymkhana in mind. A 333-horsepower four-cylinder engine from race-engine manufacturer Millington sits under the hood, and nearly every other component in the drivetrain would be right at home in a World Rally Championship vehicle. That said, whereas every other one of Block's creations has been all-wheel drive, this one supplies power to the rear wheels only.
Underneath the vehicle's flat-black exterior lies some very impressive custom bodywork. Block sought out Kei Miura, founder of Rocket Bunny, a company that specializes in building hardcore wide-body kits for a wide range of vehicles. The two designed and implemented a one-off kit that gives Block's Escort a very aggressive stance. But that's how it should be, considering the car is built for the utter destruction of the tires on which it sits.
The Escort will undoubtedly star in its own upcoming Gymkhana video, but in the meantime, take a look at the video below to watch Block get acquainted with the car in a way that only he can. It's probably best not to try this at home with your own Escort.