When Danny “The Count” Koker appeared on the David Letterman show on January 30, 2014, he gave Letterman the history of how his show spun off from Pawn Brokers. Koker said he’s been a car freak all his life. His father worked for Ford Motor Company, and his family lived in Detroit. He’s spent a lifetime knocking on people’s doors to ask about their cars, and he’s stopped people on the street to drive their cars and offer to refurbish their vehicles. He was brought up his entire life with cars, motorcycles and music. Before the show, he had 9 employees, and by the Letterman interview, the business had grown to 47 people.
Letterman asked him how long it would take to bring his 1974 Chevy pick-up truck to snuff. Letterman left Indiana and drove it “like crazy”. Koker said it would take a month. Letterman said it took a California shop a year to bring the truck to showroom condition.
Koker said that the genius of his business is that nearly everything is in house, except for chrome and powder coating. That’s why the staff can do their work efficiently. They also need to meet tight deadlines which the show requires. Koker’s favorite expression is “Count it up!”, because that’s what he calls taking a vehicle and making what it should be; amplifying the style for each one they touch.
Every fan has favorite builds from the show. The show is all about great design, awesome paint jobs, the best rides ever. But, it’s substance which keeps viewers committed. The Count has his own opinions about the most memorable builds on the show, and he’s shared them with the public:
Season Two, Episode One: “You Talkin’ To Me?”
Danny falls in love with a rusty Ford Galaxy. He decides that it has all the cool lines that make him “want to go the distance with it”. He looks over the fastback roof and all the space race details which influenced Ford’s design. The car needs a lot of work. Owner Frank has always wanted to fix it up, but never seemed to have the time. Danny buys the Galaxy for $2K. At the time, he thinks it will sell for $25K once restored. By the time the car is sand blasted, painted and has its bodywork done, $12K has been invested in the Galaxy. Danny looks it over and says, “It’s sweet”. His employees think it’s a money pit.
They list all the parts and work necessary to bring it to top condition. The price tag is hanging around $50K at that point, but Danny says the car is amazing, and he thinks it’s turning out so well that it will bring $70K from the right buyer. He is extremely proud of the car, and thinks it’s magnificent. He brings in a Ford Galaxy fan. The potential buyer’s price tag is lower than Danny’s $77K, so he walks without buying the car. It’s perfectly restored, with historic Wimbledon White exterior paint, black and white interiors, a big block racing engine, and some new touches Danny added to give it the racing flair the original lacked. He didn’t find the right buyer after all. But, this car is one of those which, when interviewed, he mentioned as one that he “absolutely poured” himself into, and is very proud of it.
Season Two, Episode 15: “Change of Heart”
The 1932 Ford Five-Window Chop Top High Boy Coupe is one of his “babies” which makes him awfully proud. It was part of his personal collection. He built it for himself but he sold it to good friends Lyle and Beverly for a whopping $80K. He was loading up on the trailer, the car was already paid for, and he can’t part with it. He worked on the hot rod when he was grieving his father’s death. The car helped him recover during that tough time. Danny said the 1932 hot rod is in his heart. Danny’s solution is to use another car to create exactly the hot rod they want. It’s a 1925 Model T Ford. He hopes they will make the switch, because he can’t let the Ford go. He calls Lyle and begs him to take the 1925 hot rod instead. He offers to build the Ford T-bucket perfectly for Lyle and Beverly.
Three. Season 1, Episode 5 “Back in the Wind”
One of the most heartfelt stories is another Koker favorite. Counting Cars built a motorcycle and side car to help paralyzed Tom Urbanski ride again. Urbanski was working at a Las Vegas nightclub when he was shot just outside. He just wanted to feel the wind in his hair again, so team member Shannon is tasked with the job of designing a bike which will accommodate Urbanski’s wheelchair. It’s a complicated, never been done before job. But Shannon designs a side car with cycle to make it work, and he makes it look “bad ass” to boot.
Promotional Short Video: “Tour Count’s Car Collection”
In this three-minute video, The Count shows highlights of his personal collection of cars. He adores classics of all kinds. But, to show his sense of humor, he opens the 1967 Cadillac hearse he’s had converted into a limo “worthy of The Count”. He laughs after describing its features, which include dual quads, lowered with nice rims and tires, a high-rise intake coming out of the hood, and a wide-open interior without support posts. The shiny black exterior is replete with blood red detailing. The interior has air conditioning, flip down screens, neon lighting, and enough space to stretch out and enjoy the ride. He said anyone can ride in a limo, but it takes something special for The Count.
Season One, Episode 3: “G-T-Whoa!”
The Viva Las Vegas Hot Rod Show draws Danny and Kevin into the world of classic car owners. They enjoy the vintage clothes, hair styles and the ethos of the event. Rather than look at the collector’s cars, which are rarely for sale, Danny decides they should go look at the parking lot to see what people drove to the show. He sees a killer muscle car with its hood up. It’s a 1967 Pontiac GTO in fire engine red. The owner is tired of dealing with it, and is willing to sell it for $15K. It needs transmission work and there are wires everywhere. Danny offers the owner $9K. They settle on $11K. The GTO convertible is in excellent shape: “tight and right”. They stand to make a huge $30K profit on it. But, once Danny sees the dream GTO completed, painted blue ice pearl, he drives her, and decides to keep her for himself.
Counting Cars is indelibly stamped with The Count’s flair. For the man who grew up touring and singing gospel music with his uncle’s Christian Group, the Rex Humbard Singers, life has morphed into much more. Already famous in Las Vegas for his role as the vampire Elvis television host of a local horror program, The Count now enjoys time off playing in his new classic rock band at his own bar named Count’s Vamp’d. His private car collection includes more than 58 cars, but his first was the 1966 Mustang GT his father drove…the car crazy guy has heart.
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