How to do your Block

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

KEN Block re­cently fin­ished ninth in the gru­elling Rally New Zealand, part of the World Rally Cham­pi­onship. That’s an out­stand­ing ef­fort for a driver who isn’t a full-timeWRC com­peti­tor, but fans of the 44-year-old Amer­i­can are more in­ter­ested in a per­for­mance sched­uled for July 9.

On that day, the fifth of Block’s tyre-tor­tur­ing, road­melt­ing Gymkhana mini-epics will be re­leased on­line. Pre­views sug­gest the ac­tion, this time, is in San Fran­cisco.

Con­sid­er­ing that Block is Ford-con­tracted, it’s rea­son­able to ex­pect a homage to Steve McQueen’s Ford Mus­tang chase scenes from the 1968 cop clas­sic shot on San Fran­cisco’s hilly streets. Then again, Block has made his name by de­liv­er­ing scenes few could pre­dict.

The man is a car dancer, and his 480kW art­form is as uni­ver­sally pop­u­lar as Fred As­taire’s. If your com­puter is a lit­tle slower on July 9, blame it on a few mil­lion global Gymkhana down­loads. IF you ever doubted the worth of World War II, con­sider that Du­cati only turned to man­u­fac­tur­ing mo­tor­cy­cles af­ter bomb­ing ended the com­pany’s first in­car­na­tion as an elec­tron­ics firm. That’s right. As Aus­tralian Mo­tor­cy­cle News lately re­minded read­ers, Du­cati be­gan as a ra­dio parts maker. A few thou­sand Al­lied bombs aimed at Bologna fixed that de­ci­sion, lead­ing to Du­cati be­com­ing the world’s lead­ing sup­plier of raw Ital­ian twowheeled cool. Were it not for air-de­liv­ered ord­nance, in­nercity hip­ster folk and cafe-racer types might never have en­joyed desmod­romic valve ac­tu­a­tion. There is no truth to the ru­mour, by the way, that Har­ley David­son be­gan as a maker of Kinder Sur­prise toys. As in­formed read­ers will al­ready be aware, Har­ley David­son ini­tially man­u­fac­tured the world’s first bouncy cas­tles. AS my dear old grand­mother al­ways used to tell me: ‘‘Tim, if you ever find a well-main­tained Nis­san 200SX that has not been en­tirely ru­ined by mod­i­fiers or drifters, buy it im­me­di­ately.’’ She cer­tainly knew her tur­bocharged Ja­panese coupes. Hap­pily there are about two dozen 200SXs in Carsguide, many worth con­sid­er­ing and all of them worth a test drive.

This is one of the great for­got­ten clas­sics of mod­ern mo­tor­ing. Pro­duced from the early 1990s in a cou­ple of body styles and var­i­ous states of tune, the ba­sics re­mained the same through­out the 200SX’s life: front en­gine, rear­wheel drive, in­de­pen­dent rear sus­pen­sion, svelte looks and po­etic han­dling.

Key to the 200SX’s charm is its 2.0-litre 16-valve turbo four. The rev-happy en­gine and Nis­san’s rear-drive plat­form pro­vide the same es­sen­tial lay­out as Ford’s cel­e­brated Sierra turbo, ex­cept that you can ac­tu­ally buy a 200SX here. Pay as lit­tle as $16,000 or so. Avoid the au­to­matic. Gran never much cared for those.

On the road: Ken Block in ac­tion in NZ and (in­set) be­hind the wheel of aV8 Su­per­car last year

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