Last night the automotive world learned of the untimely death of Ken Block from a snowmobile accident. A man who found fame via the Internet, Ken was not some “influencer” prone to stupid hijinks and statements but, rather, a man who hopped into cars and danced the ballet. He and his crack video team showed us what we never imagined could be done with car and driver.
But for many of you, you may not know who Ken Block is, even if you’ve only seen his videos. While it pains us to show you who Ken was as a consequence of his death, we do want to show you how he was a man of possibilities.
Ken Block’s Youth
Ken was born in the fall of 1967 in Long Beach, California. Like many kids born in the Golden State, he picked up skateboarding, snowboarding and even motocross, becoming involved (if not proficient enough) that Ken was involved in the subcultures of his interests. He funneled that energy and creativity in the creation of DC Shoes in 1994 with two other co-founders. Maybe you don’t know the brand, but it’s possible you know the logo or the people who wear DC’s duds, which span from apparel to bags and accessories. In 2004, surf brand Quicksilver bought DC Shoes for $87 million, giving Ken an infusion of cash to pursue his next stage in life.
Ken Block’s Hooniverse
Ken quickly moved into his passion of motorsports in 2005, racing Subarus and winning Rally American Rookie of the Year. In 2010, Ken co-founded both the Gymkhana Grid racing series and the Hoonigan brand, the latter a medley of videos and clothing line where he deemed himself Head Hoonigan in Charge. So, what’s a Hoonigan, aside of a pun of the word hoon and hooligan? “Hoon” is an Australian word for a person who drives in an irresponsible manner, often in an attempt to be recognized by onlookers. That burn-out that used to burn out at every stoplight in 1976 could be considered a hoon of sorts, but a Hoonigan is so much more. The Hoonigan website shows this:
Please don’t think of Ken with contributing to “street takeover” morons who have been influenced by “Fast and the Furious” theatrics — that’s not what he was about. Simply put, Ken chased his passion for motorsports. He would often reference the heroic drivers of Group B rally like Walter Rohrl, Michelle Mouton and Colin McRae. It’s this passion that developed into his own brand (personal and otherwise) that came to a head to tens of millions around the world thanks to videos like this.
It’s this passion that is admired by other drivers and has led to countless features on TV shows, videos games, stunt events, an 11-year partnership with Ford plus partnerships with Subaru, Audi and others.
We had the pleasure of seeing Ken Block at SEMA 2022 and filming videos with the Hoonicorn, which is perhaps the most iconic of his vehicles, having gone several iterations and appearances in Ken’s Gymkhana series. Says Jalopy Jeff, our compatriot in AutoHunter Cinema, “For me personally, I am part of a generation that grew up watching Ken Block’s stunts, following his racing career and watching every Gymkhana video as it came out, and becoming a Hoonigan enthusiast — all in part to Ken Block. I think it’s safe to say there are many automotive enthusiasts that can attribute their interest in cars to Ken Block.”
And there you have it, a modern-day automotive enthusiast who raised the bar for our enjoyment has been prematurely taken from us.