Ken Block’s GYMKHANA NINE: Raw Industrial Playground

Over the years, we have written many times about the infamous Gymkhana series, so it should come as no surprise we are writing about the latest installment. All of the earlier videos have become viral sensations, because the King of “Hoon”, Ken Block continues to push the boundaries behind the wheel.  The new and ninth version likely will too, as it captures the epic “Hooning” tradition of the rally star and his drifting genius.

While it was originally scheduled to be filmed in Sydney to tie in with the Australian Forza Horizon 3 video game, authorities said Block was too much of a “Hoon” for the Land Down Under and would only allow him to make the video on private property.  Instead, Block chose to film in an abandoned industrial area in New York state. Yeah Buffalo!

With so many global corporations shying away from the single big endorsement deal as a result of today’s fragmented online world we do appreciate Ford’s decision to buck the trend.  The combination of a significant amount of both resources and dollars enables the team to create a world-class product in the Gymkhana video series.

As part of Block’s deal with Ford Performance that sees him compete in the FIA World Rallycross championship, these videos feature him driving the custom-built 600 horsepower Ford Focus RS rally machine.  I’m sure the real ROI isn’t great, but it does make you want to take a Ford Focus for a test drive.

Rolex 24 at Daytona Cont’d.

Everyone is entitled to a different opinion, but I’m most excited to see the brand new Ford GT race car fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing perform in the Rolex 24 Hours.

The cool thing about this car, aside from its 600+ HP and exclusive carbon-fibre body panels, is that it’s developed and constructed in Canada, a mere 30 km from where I live in downtown Toronto.
(Be sure to look for the Mosport cameos)

Multimatic, the manufacturer, is a privately held Canadian company who has been a global leader in automotive technology and component engineering since 1984. They’ve always provided an unwavering level of support for racing, and as a result, today, are responsible for building all the Chip Ganassi race cars and road cars for Ford, of which there are a total of 250 this year.

It’s pretty cool that a company with a relatively low profile can create such innovative and winning race car technology right in our own backyard.

I’ll be watching the Ford GT closely at the Roar Before the 24 test at Daytona from January 8-10. Sources says Ganassi is apparently going to LeMans with four of these cars in June as well – so no pressure :).

It’s that time of year again and Ken Block has outdone himself!

Earlier today, Hoonigan, Ford and Need For Speed posted Ken Block’s Gymkhana SEVEN – Wild in the Streets: Los Angeles.  Having covered the epic “Gymkhana video series” for the past few years there is nothing in the world like it and Ken Block has certainly upped the ante with this new installment.

With some help from the Hollywood Hills and post apocalyptic Los Angeles, Ken and his corporate A-team of sponsors sure know how to make the ultimate drifting video.

This new video captures all the sounds and sheer genius skill of Ken Block as he tears through LA in his custom 1965, 845 horsepower fire-breathing Mustang. Honestly, enough of our words, just go ahead and enjoy this 12 minute video and be glad you don’t have to pay for Kenny’s tire bill.

2017 Jeep Wrangler may get aluminum unibody

Ford Motor Company certainly has received a ton of ink in the auto press ever since announcing that their 2015 F-150 pickup will be built with an all aluminum-body shedding 700 pounds off the weight of the current version.  This move to aluminum is quite revolutionary and it comes as no surprise other manufactures are now on the bandwagon.

Earlier this week, at Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles’ marathon press conference CEO Sergio Marchionne was asked if they plan to use aluminum in the future Dodge Ram. “Although we have the capability to do an aluminum body for the Ram, I have better places to use aluminum in the portfolio.”

At the end of the day, Automotive News asked if there is a “better use for aluminum” in the lineup than the Wrangler. Marchionne simply said, “No.”

This is not a 100% confirmation the next Wrangler will use aluminum in its chassis or body, but it sure seems like it is the most plausible options as the iconic SUV has gained a considerable amount of weight with each recent generation. Back in 2011, Jeep created an all aluminum-bodied Wrangler Stitch Concept, which was about 498 kg lighter than the standard Wrangler.

Wrangler Stitch Concept

Wrangler Stitch Concept

Check out this video of the Wrangler Stitch Concept from an Indian based media outlet.

2014 Ford Fiesta ST

The Ford Fiesta is the vehicle of choice by rally car racer, and RedlineNorth favourite, Ken Block.  You can see him in his Fiesta ripping around various urban race tracks in his immensely popular Gymkhana racing series. While you can’t go out and buy Ken’s version of the Fiesta, you can get a street legal ST version that gives you almost as much fun.

2014 Ford Focus ST

2014 Ford Focus ST

Thanks in part to Ford’s movement towards a global platform, North American buyers are now able to purchase the ST version of the Fiesta.  While not a three-door as in Europe, on this side of the pond we get a five-door hatch-back version sporting a 1.6 litre turbo charged engine.  The Fiesta ST has a trifecta of performance, ability and style making it a fantastic choice for those looking for a city vehicle, with perhaps a day or two at the track thrown in.

The ST version of the Fiesta comes well equipped as the top of the line trim level with a base price of $24,999. Our RedlineNorth test vehicle also included a power moon-roof, 17 inch premium painted wheels as well as a navigation package. All told the additional options brought the final price to $29,577.  While thirty grand might raise some eyebrows for a sub-compact vehicle, the ST is packed with performance enhancing features and well worth the sticker price.

Those looking for a pure luxury vehicle should look elsewhere, as this car is built for performance. However, attention to detail has not been lost on Ford engineer’s and the Fiesta does provide a number of nice touches.  Heated front seats and mirrors along with a push button start, rear seat heat ducts and 12-volt auxiliary power outlets for both front and rear round out some of the nice to have features. 

The leather wrapped shifter adds to the interior look and feel

The leather wrapped shifter adds to the interior look and feel

Legroom in the Fiesta ST, as to be expected in a sub-compact, is somewhat limited with 42 inches up front and 31 inches in the back.  Cargo space is adequate for trips to the grocery store and the seats split 60/40 when additional storage is required.  While the Fiesta ST may not be the first choice of vehicle for long road trips, that’s not what it’s designed for either.  The first hint are the Recaro seats that suck you in and keep you in your place while cornering.  These seats are big and perhaps look just slightly out of place in the ST, however, that’s the price you pay for race track type performance. Seat adjustments, even for the driver’s seat are manual reinforcing the enthusiast nature of the ST model.

The Recaro seats quite literally put you in your place and keep you there

The Recaro seats quite literally put you in your place and keep you there

The 1.6L turbocharged EcoBoost Engine delivers 197 horsepower and 202 lb.-ft of torque when using 93 octane fuel.  The 6 speed manual transmission is silky smooth and an absolute pleasure to shift throughout the whole gear range.  The shift ratio is short in the low end utilizing the 202 ft.-lbs of torque bringing you up to about 75 kilometers per hour by the end of second gear.  The ratio smooths out in the upper gears providing some fuel economy savings.

At highway speeds the Fiesta provides a firm, but comfortable ride.  With its twist-beam rear suspension, that reduces under steer and increases rear roll stiffness, a low centre of gravity and its sport suspension the Fiesta ST grips the road well.  It provides the driver with full control of all the power from under the hood.  In short, the Fiesta ST is an absolute blast to drive.

Unlike its larger cousin, the Focus ST, the Fiesta ST does not require premium fuel, however, there are additional performance gains when using 93 octane which is important to note.  The US EPA rates the Fiesta ST at 26 mpg city (9.0L/100 km) and 35 mpg (6.7L/100 km) highway.  We experienced slightly higher numbers than this during our test period, however, we weren’t necessarily driving with a conscious effort towards fuel efficiency.

The ST version of the Fiesta enjoys a more aggressive look compared to its base model

The ST version of the Fiesta enjoys a more aggressive look compared to its base model the Fiesta

ST offers some nice exterior and interior styling to match the performance under the hood. On the outside, wide wheel arches, dual chrome exhaust tips, an airfoil and 17 inch alloy wheels all contribute to a more aggressive style than the stock Fiesta.   While on the inside, buyers can choose from a variety of colours for the interior ambient lighting found in the foot wells and cup holders, which is a nice touch.  The leather accented Recaro seats and the race-inspired aluminum pedals also contribute to a very pleasing interior.

The Fiesta ST offers some nice exterior and interior styling to match the performance under the hood. On the outside, wide wheel arches, dual chrome exhaust tips, an airfoil and 17 inch alloy wheels all contribute to a more aggressive style than the stock Fiesta.   While on the inside, buyers can choose from a variety of colours for the interior ambient lighting found in the foot wells and cup holders, which is a nice touch.  The leather accented Recaro seats and the race-inspired aluminum pedals also contribute to a very pleasing interior.

The Sony branded audio system provides a good sound experience. We especially liked the ability to adjust the audio balance for the driver only, or for the whole car at the touch of a button. The center media stack uses SYNC currently running Microsoft Windows.  While Ford recently announced they will be switching over to a Blackberry QNX based operating system for the next generation SYNC, the current Windows powered SYNC performed well in the Fiesta ST.  We found the summary start up screen displaying information in four quadrants both helpful and convenient. The 6.5 inch LCD screen, 2 USB ports, SD card reader and voice-activated communications all provided an intuitive in car interface which we felt was better than average.  As an added bonus a six month subscription to SirusXM satellite radio comes with the purchase of a new ST in Canada.


At around $30,000 CAD the fully loaded Fiesta ST does command a somewhat premium price, however, its value is significant based on its stellar performance, and range of features.  Its smooth 6 speed manual transmission and great handling characteristics are complimented by some slick interior features. The Fiesta ST, is a great car to consider for around the city that will make your drive to work or to the grocery store a lot more fun.

Key competitors to the Fiesta ST are the Fiat 500 Abarth, Ford’s own Focus ST, along with the Honda Civic Si and the Chevy Sonic RS.

Superbowl Car Commercials

This past Sunday’s Super Bowl was not the best of games that’s for sure as it looked like the Broncos may have thrown the game.  As for the Seahawks I congratulate you as your team deserved the win and winning your first Superbowl is a very big deal.
As a car guy, the best part of the big game is seeing the new car commercials of which there were 15 this year, the same number as last year. Audi, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, VW, GM, Ford, Chrysler, Jaguar, Maserati, Jeep and Honda all splurged and spent the huge cash required for airtime during the big game. To check out all the ads see Autoblog Canada’s feature on the Top 10 Best Car Commercials from this year’s Super Bowl.  You can vote for your favourite one too.

Electric Vehicle (EV) Day Sunday August 12th – Toronto, Ontario

For those readers in the Toronto area who have been wanting to test drive an electric vehicle here is your chance.  On Sunday August 12th, Yonge and Dundas Square will be home to EV Day.  Starting at 10 am you’ll be able to test drive some of the newest electric vehicles and learning about re-charging infrastructure.  Invited exhibitors include:

Azure Dynamics
Audi – A3 e-tron
GM – Chevy Volt
Fisker – Karma
Ford – Focus EV
Nissan – Leaf
smart – ED
Tesla – Roadster and Model S
VIA Motors

More details can be found here at Plug ‘N Drive Ontario.


Ford Developing Traffic Jam Fighter

In the category of ‘Why haven’t they developed this years ago’ Kicking Tires is reporting that Ford is developing a traffic jam fighter –

“Traffic Jam Assist uses several of Ford’s current radar and camera systems (active park assist, adaptive cruise control and Lane-Keeping Aid) to help a vehicle keep pace with others in traffic and provide automated steering control so it stays in its current lane. It also detects changing traffic patterns on the road ahead and communicates them to the driver. So far, the prototype system works in highway situations where lanes are clearly marked and there are no pedestrians, bicyclists or animals present.

‘Individual simulation studies have found that where 25% of vehicles on a stretch of road are equipped to automatically follow the traffic ahead, journey times can be reduced by 37.5% and delays reduced by 20% — saving millions of gallons of fuel each year,’ Ford said in a statement.
The automaker hopes this system will reduce driver stress and ease traffic gridlock, especially since traffic jams are on the rise because of population growth around the world.” – Source: Kicking Tires

Traffic jams usually form through what is called a shockwave. The following is a simple illustration of how a traffic jam is formed:

MIT Video – Formation of a ‘phantom traffic jam’

By overriding stop start driver behavior, these automated driver systems allow traffic to flow smoother and average speeds increase as a result.

Remember this theory the next time you are stuck in traffic!

A legend is gone…

Yesterday, there was some very sad news in the automotive world as we learned of the passing of the  American automotive designer and racing driver Carroll Hall Shelby (January 11, 1923 – May 10, 2012).  Mr. Shelby passed yesterday at Baylor Hospital in Dallas at the age of 89.

Caroll Shelby was most well known for making the AC Motors-based Shelby American Cobra and later the Mustang-based performance cars for Ford Motor Company known as Mustang Cobras. His company, Shelby American Inc., founded in 1962, currently sells modified Ford vehicles, as well as performance parts.

The AC Cobra, also known as the Shelby Cobra in North America, is a legendary sports car that was produced during the 1960s. With it’s amazing horsepower to weight ratio the Cobra had the title of fastest production car of the day during the 60’s. This trait stands out in a story I read many years ago about comedian Bill Cosby, who while rising to fame bought an original Shelby Cobra but had to sell it soon after, as he was too afraid of the immense power from the epic roadster.

Today, there are many companies that build replica Shelby Cobras around the globe.  One of the biggest names in the replica business is California based, Superperformance which sells three different body styles of replica Cobras.

Replica or the real thing, most people will never have the chance to experience the ultimate visceral thrill of the Shelby Cobra on the road or the track so take a minute to listen to one in action.  Here is a video that provides a little taste of the raw power of the AC Shelby Cobra.

There are already many tributes appearing online from all over the globe and there will be many more to come in both the mainstream press and the automotive press about the man who stood for so much in the automotive world.  He will be dearly missed and hopefully his spirit will continue to inspire others to push the boundaries in the automotive industry. We will miss you Carroll Shelby.