What Did Ken Block Mean To You?

The news still doesn’t feel real, but then again, I couldn’t believe Ken was real either.

As kids, we thought Ken Block to be invincible, a god among drivers with unrivaled skill and courage. As adults, his reputation as a precision driver and a childhood role model to countless gearheads, myself included, never wavered. We’ve all seen his surreal Gymkhana saga and the brands he built around his love of driving, dreaming that one day we could be his next iteration. And now I return to PRNDL to ask you, the community, what Ken meant to you. Who was Ken in your eyes, and how do you remember him? Now is the time to discuss the colorful legacy of the Head Hoonigan In Charge, and I’m more than happy to host you.

Hoonigan Racing Division

Many close friends bombarded each other’s DMs and group chats with the news when it first struck. We’re all a bunch of shitposting clowns who can never talk about things seriously to save our lives, yet the heavy-heartedness was crushing.

There were no quips or obscure memes to cheer each other up. Only respect as we reminisced about someone described in social media comments as the Dale Earnhardt of our time.

I never had to opportunity to meet Ken, but I’ll wholeheartedly take the word of good friends who’ve had the honor, affirming he’s every bit as humble and kind-hearted as we believe. One recalls encountering him at a Utah circuit teaching kart racing to his daughter, cementing him as a genuine family man. Another recounts his experience photographing Hoonigan Racing HQ, Ken’s fortress of badassery, where he filmed many vlogs and where his cars call home.

To this author and many others of my generation, Ken was a role model of the highest order. For over a decade, he inspired leagues of kids to live without fear and aspire toward his level of skill and precision. Gymkhana was a gateway drug for us to attempt our own dipshittery in abandoned parking lots, sidelining homework and school projects to see if we could swing the ass out on a clapped-out 240SX and not slam into a concrete pillar.

Hoonigan Racing Division

Some friends dove heavily into autocross, with a few even trying their hands at rallycross come their college years. One friend heavily accredits Ken for igniting his love for Subarus and rally racing, now a longtime fanatic in the flat-four cult.

I never had the time to try such things as a high school brat, but I should’ve. It’s what Ken would’ve wanted me or anyone else to do; to live free and drive hard. Hell, that mantra is what the entire Hoonigan brand centers itself on. So who am I to just commute in a Mustang and not “kill all tires” for Ken?

My dad was the first to show me who Ken Block was after his first Gymkhana video exploded back when Smosh ruled YouTube, and my fanaticism only snowballed from there. Then I saw him appear on a Top Gear bit with James May and later take Gymkhana to picturesque locales in a way that’d never fly on Travel Channel. I battled Ken as a Need For Speed boss before taking Hoonicorn and the Hoonitruck for a spin in Forza. I watched his influence explode as the Hoonigan YouTube channel took off, and the last Ford Focus RS came into this world bearing his grace, which, at the time, made it the raddest car on sale based on that sole fact.

When he came to my home turf for Electrikhana? I pretty much shit my pants with glee. So now, whenever I pass under the Las Vegas sign at The Strat leaving Cars Und Kaffee, I can say I drove where Ken drove.

To think, I’m an up-and-coming auto journalist who could’ve had the opportunity to meet my hero and potentially interview him face-to-face. What an experience that could’ve been, but little rookie me would be too starstruck to focus. But now the chance has been taken away from me and every other loving fan.

The fact that he’s renowned as a genuinely nice guy rather than a stereotypical celebrity case of having let fame muddy his personality makes it sting the most. Ken wasn’t just some famous dude who did cool things behind a camera. Behind the big-name brands and the firebreathing race cars, Ken is an honest car guy and a human being with an authenticity that seems to be increasingly rare in today’s society. 

Hoonigan Racing Division

That brings me back to the start: What does Ken Block mean to you? PRNDL Community is just that, a community. So enough of me. I invite you to share your memories so we can reminisce on an icon together. Because I think it’s safe to say that he was not only my hero. He was everyone’s hero.

God, I still can’t believe I’d ever write anything like this, yet here I am, eulogizing one of my childhood role models, one I’ll never meet yet will forever cherish his influence on my life. Regarded as a loving father, a genuine friend, and motorsports and internet legend, the Head Hoonigan will be missed, and his grasp on the automotive world will forever be felt.

Photo by: Jim Culp, Flickr

Goodbye and rest in peace, Ken Block. Never stop inspiring, and never stop hooning. Not in the next life or any other.

Published in Car Stories

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David Olsen-Fabian
1 year ago

This is weighing heavily on my heart. I’m not going to go into a big essay on this but I am going to leave my favorite Ken Block quote for all to see here. When asked if he was ever scared Ken replied, without missing a beat, “If I’m not scared then I’m not going fast enough”.

David Olsen-Fabian
1 year ago

Motorsports are inherently dangerous. Please be safe out there.

Harsha B.
1 year ago

I’m devastated. Normally I don’t care enough for celebrities, but this one hurt. Ken got me into rallying and motorsports as well as fast euro-fords. I grew up watching every gymkhana video that’s been released up until now. He’s also the sole reason why the Focus RS is my affordable dream car. The impact he had on young car guys was crazy, not even influencers today can be compared to him.

David Olsen-Fabian
1 year ago
Reply to  Harsha B.

Great to hear some input from someone he influenced, Harsha. I turned my dad on to Ken. We spent days watching the Gymkhana videos and This vs That on YouTube. He was instantly hooked. He couldn’t believe the things Ken was doing in a car. We just laughed for hours! But deep down we both knew that he was living on the hairy scary edge. You can’t live there long. I worry about Travis Pastrana. It’s his life and choices but it’s unnecessary. Jumping out of a plane without a parachute? That’s next level insane. He has a death wish. I hope having his buddy go out in a simple accident will stop him and give him pause. Rally is fairly safe. Caged cars with protective gear help minimize the danger. The stuff Block and Pastrana pull out is not just next level but different ballgames entirely. They do ‘stunts’. Fun to see as a spectator but SO dangerous for the stuntperson and what’s worse is that people will try to replicate. YOU CAN NOT DO WHAT THEY DO. I can’t stress this enough. These two represent the .0000001% of ability. You do not!! Ken was the Jedi Master. He put down the most amazing vehicle handling of any person, ever. It was unnatural. My favorite thing in the world is doing donuts in the snow. I was doing some of the things Ken did. But in front drive cars, with some rear and all-wheel drive thrown in the mix. I learn to control a vehicle’s mass in magical ways. It’s saved me in the real world so many times I can’t even count. But that’s why I did it – to be able to control a vehicle in any condition. I can. I don’t race rally. I’m NOT Ken Block. I can’t do what he did. Didn’t have the funds to back me up with a vehicle designed to do stunts and prepped by professionals. I just sure want to be. Not in the cards for me. Unless you have what he had … just stick to donuts in empty snow-covered parking lots.
Be safe out there!!!!!!

Álvaro Martínez
1 year ago

I’m certainly feeling devastated… We had Nikki lauda, we had Sabine Schmitz… and now Ken block is gone, driving at the limit for so long and so fast and yet a snowmobile was what got him.

Rest in Peace ken, we all know who’s making all the clouds on the sky now. 🙂

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