ABOVE: Watch Danny Koker and Kevin Mack on Global’s The Morning Show.
TORONTO — Don’t expect to find Danny Koker behind the wheel of a Toyota Prius.
The affable bandana-wearing star of Counting Cars needs to feel more power beneath his feet than an environmentally-friendly car can provide.
“Prius, I’ve got no use for,” he said Monday.
His Count’s Kustoms employee — and Counting Cars co-star — Kevin Mack quickly adds: “That’s not to say we’re not into green and the environment.”
Koker interrupts. “I could care less. If it gets four miles to the gallon and has 800 horsepower, I’m thrilled. We’ve got more oil than we can shake a stick at. The politicians are playing a game.
“Let’s burn this stuff and have a good time.”
Burning oil and having a good time is what Koker has been doing most of his life. He grew up in Detroit and Cleveland in a family of Ford employees and ran Count’s Kustoms in Las Vegas for 15 years before reality show producers — impressed by his appearances on Pawn Stars — came calling.
Since the show’s debut last year, Count’s Kustoms has mushroomed from nine employees to 45.
“I build toys and in an unstable economy things like that are not a priority to a lot of people,” Koker said. “My shop was a local Las Vegas shop for the most part and now, with the show, I’m talking to the world and my business has gone insane.”
Koker’s empire occupies five buildings, including one in which he displays part of his car collection and sells Count’s Kustoms merchandise to tourists who come from all over the world.
“The shop is open seven days a week now. It’s free and people come on in and wander around and check it out,” he said. “It’s like an ant hill. It’s pretty amazing and pretty cool — and my neighbours still love me.”
Koker said the decision to let cameras into his business came with one condition.
“The only hesitation that I’ve ever had is that I like to keep my personal life personal, so as long as we keep it business, I’m great with that,” he explained. “That’s what the show is about: the business. I try to keep as much of my personal, personal.”
Mack, a longtime friend of Koker, said being on TV has had one side effect. “I always flew under the radar and now I can’t,” he said.
“And the love scenes were tough,” he quipped.
Koker’s crew unveils two vehicle transformations in each episode — a process they said typically takes a month to six weeks. He said the deadlines of TV production haven’t affected his commitment to quality workmanship.
“The show will run however long it runs, but when the show is done my shop is still there,” he said. “So it’s important to me that quality doesn’t suffer.”
Both men hope Counting Cars has made it cool to learn a trade, although they lament the decreasing number of schools offering auto shop courses.
“It’s a shame that those programs get cut,” said Mack, who took auto shop in junior high school. “It should be required. Most of us drive cars and if something happens you really should know the basics. Those programs are great and if you want to use that as a career, it’s a great starting point.”
What cars would Mack and Koker like to get their hands on?
“If I had a Porsche right now in my driveway I’d be a happy guy,” Mack replied. “As a car to go out and have fun with on a Sunday or something like that, it’s the perfect car.”
He’s also keen to snag a Bricklin — a sports car that was manufactured in New Brunswick from 1974 to 1976. Only 2,854 were manufactured before the company folded.
“I love the Bricklins,” said Koker. “They were rare and cool. That’s something I wouldn’t mind finding.”
The Counting Cars stars said the appeal of shows like theirs is so broad because cars are such an important part of people’s lives.
“Cars, more than anything, measure your life,” explained Mack. “Your parents have a car when you’re a kid and then you become old enough to drive so your first car is a monumental thing in your life. Then, you figure, about every decade you’re into a new car.”
Added Koker: “It represents freedom. You’ve got that freedom when you’ve got your own car. And personal expression.
“There’s a huge love affairs with cars,” he said, “and I don’t think that’s ever going to die.”
Counting Cars airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on History, which is owned by Global News parent company Shaw Media.