This car had to be a rally racer, a rolling movie studio, and look badass all at the same time.
Many childhood fantasies are constructed out of Hollywood dreams of making it as an actor on the big screen. It looks fun, but like any good artist knows, making a craft look easy takes a colossal amount of work. Taking on a new role means actors must hustle to look the part and perform it well. Unbeknownst to the 35 million plus who have seen Ken Block famously tear up the Los Angeles streets in Gymkhana Seven, the 1965 Mustang that stars in the video had to undergo the same type of preparation.
The obvious pick for the Mustang’s tuning was the RTR tuning company run by fellow Ford and Monster Energy athlete Vaughn Gittin Jr. Even though RTR knows its way around a Mustang, the shop had its work cut out for it. Tuning a racing car is one thing, but unlike the form follows function design philosophy of most race cars, this Stang had to look camera ready while being able to preform like a purpose built race car. To start the project, RTR took a 1965 Mustang and butchered it until almost nothing was left. Then the crew started from scratch on a project that was so secret that it garnered the name “Unicorn.” Given that the car was built to hoon, RTR simply prefixed the car’s original name with the word “hoon” and the Hoonicorn Mustang was born.
Given that the plan for the finished product was supposed to be the world’s first all-wheel drive performance Mustang, the RTR team could not keep the same chassis, so a new tubular frame was made. Not only did it have to handle 845 horsepower, it had to be safe, controllable, and tough enough to take the abuse while looking like a champion on camera. When it came to looks, the designers took inspiration from Group B rally cars and the movie Mad Max. Thus, a low roofline was planned. To accommodate Block, an AWD drivetrain, and the low roof, the floor was lowered by 2.5-inches and the tires were crammed high up into the body. Drama was also important and the Hoonicorn had plenty of custom tuning done to meet this end.
To create a flame spitting exhaust, the engine was tuned to dump fuel on deceleration, which later ignited in the exhaust and created a flamethrower effect. The car is also built to smoke. Gills behind the front tires extract clouds from the wheel wells and the wheels even protrude out of the car significantly for the sole purpose of allowing the tire vapor to escape. To make this happen, it was important to stretch the front wheels by 1.25 inches to make room for the front differential and a wide steering angle. Even the 6.7-liter V8 needed a custom oil pan made to fit the front differential. Given that drifting was a priority, the engineers placed a large handbrake in the car that locked up the rear tires and disengaged the rear differential when activated.
A 50/50 power split also meant that the tires would break loose with predictability. Of course, heavy surgery like this meant that extensive modifications had to be made for the rest of the car’s components. One-off suspension parts and unique carbon fiber body panels put in a team effort to make the car an aesthetically pleasing show car, a capable drift machine, and a rolling film studio. Filming Gymkhana takes an entire film crew, so to avoid burning through cash paying videographer salaries while the car was serviced, RTR designed the car with some neat features. A removable windshield and quick release doors help film crews access cameras easily and save time in this area.
Another feature crucial to make the Hoonicorn studio-ready is stellar reliability to avoid time consuming breakdowns. Ensuring that the Hoonicorn’s drivetrain could take the stress of constantly burning all four of its rubber shoes is a clutch designed as a fuse. If the stress approaches the limit of what the axles, transmission, or driveline can handle, the clutch will give out first. An easily accessible transmission tunnel means that replacing the clutch takes no more than 90 minutes. Obviously, tires were also a priority because despite the fact that Block had custom Pirelli Trofeo Rs with a unique compound designed to make smoke installed on the car, the film crew’s tight schedule meant that servicing the Hoonicorn had to be a quick process.
This meant that the film crew had to bring 20 sets of mounted tires to the shoot so that spent rubber could be replaced immediately. Like any good movie, constructing the Hoonicorn Mustang, and later shooting it, required a lot of effort on the part of many people. At least all of this effort paid off. In total, the project took two years to complete from conceptualization to physical manifestation. Due to all of the preparation, the Hoonicorn RTR Mustang looked right at home acting the role of the most desirable Los Angeles getaway car. We wish we had one, but we’re sure that Ken Block won’t ever take his hands off of the epic car. It’s okay though because if we had such an impressive and purpose built hooning toy, we wouldn’t either.