Ken Block’s STI Tank
Your favorite hoon, Mr. Gymkhana himself, gets ready for the snowy months ahead by winterizing his Subaru STI rally car with tank treads. VIDEO for proof.
It’s hard to keep a secret, and the truth is, friends really shouldn’t keep secrets, so we apologize to you, our faithful audience for not sharing this with you last winter when we first found out about this project. But KB made us take an oath. Yes, in blood. Anyway, here it is: a Subaru STI rally car lifted up onto Mattracks’ 105M1-A1 rubber track system. Yes, Ken built the world’s fastest snow cat, and we caught up with him to talk quick about his newest toy (but we suggest you skip ahead and watch the video first, the Q&A will still be here).
So you built a Subaru tank. Why?
Umm…for fun. Seriously though, I wanted to combine two of my favorite things in this world: driving rally cars and snowboarding powder. It started as a funny idea for accessing back country in Utah, that we actually put into action. We’d seen the Matttracks on other vehicles like trucks and such, but never on anything with performance. So putting them on an STI rally car was clearly going to be amazing—and it is.
You had a quick chance to test this machine at the end of last winter, what’s it like?
Driving the TRAX was a new experience and took me a little bit to get used to. It sounds and feels very much like a regular rally car, yet, there are 400 pounds at every corner making it a bit harder to control. You really have to plan what you are going to do ahead of time.
Do the techniques of rally transfer over?
The basic driving style is the same, it just takes a bit more planning and technique in the execution. It just doesn’t have the same response as a regular car in the snow. The suspension is lot stiffer. It’s a unique challenge.
How rugged of terrain will the TRAX handle?
It all depends on how you plan on pushing it, and of course, I’m gonna push it to the limit [laughs]. It will do a lot of basic stuff really well. Just driving it around the yard of the MTN.LAB, it would tear through basically anything. But once I got it into the backcountry, and I started to climb and descend things I probably wasn’t supposed to be on, it struggled a little bit. It’s a learning process to understand what it can and can’t do. Of course I always want more power, and we added more over the summer, but it still needs to be reliable, ’cause breaking down in car like that in the middle of the back country could really suck.
Speaking of getting yourself into bad situations in the TRAX car, we see that you have a hydraulic handbrake installed.
[Laughs.] Of course, the handbrake doesn’t work exactly like it does in the rally car, just because of the weight transfer, but it does work the same way in general.
So what are your intentions for this Subaru snow cat?
Considering I only had one day to try this thing out, this coming winter I want to try and see how far we can get the TRAX into the back country, then use it to help the DC team go riding and to assist in filming. We’re also building a sleigh [Rendering in new issue of 0-60], since with the roll cage you can only take one passenger in the STI. I worked with a designer and came up with a simple plan, and Vermont Sports Car is bringing it to life. Four Recaro seats, roll bars with snowboard racks, storage compartments and skids with suspension and even an iPod hook up for audio. You can expect to see it make a cameo in the next DC Snowboard video.
So are there plans to jump this thing?
You, know, I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and weighed the limitations that the Mattracks system presents and it really just boils down to…Yes!. It’s a rally car, it has to jump.
And will the sleigh be attached?
Check the Winter 2010 issue of 0-60 for more detail and specs on the TRAX STI and if you happen to be at SEMA this week, you can see the TRAX STI in person over at the Subaru