Danny Koker was born in 1964 in Cleveland, Ohio, and has maintained a deep and unwavering love for the automobile ever since a very young age. When he was nine years old, his father bought a Mustang Shelby GT350 that undoubtedly fueled his passion for four-wheeled performance.
Eleanor Roosevelt is often quoted as having once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” As if holding true to this mantra, Koker decided to open up a bike shop for himself one day so that he and his buddies could modify bikes whenever they wanted to rather than wait for the timing to fall into place. From there, things eventually snowballed into the massive freight train of momentum that allows Koker plows through build after custom build.
At this point, bikes are now on the back burner while his custom shop focuses primarily on building cars in a pop-culture trend that has been sweeping the nation since about as long as we can remember. Koker has around 60 personal cars and he’s built “count”-less more (see what I did there?) Of all the amazing builds under the Count’s belt, herein lie some of his favorites. Others he's too nice to say he hates—but you know he can't like ALL of them. It's up to you to figure out which of these cars the Count can't stand. (It's pretty obvious.)
20 3100 Chevy
Has anybody ever wondered what the standard method of getting what you want from your significant other is? Methods may vary but typically, giving is the best way to receive. So when your name is Shane Switzer and you are thinking about adding a 1950 3100 Chevy pickup to your vehicle fleet, the most effective way to ensure it finds its way safely into the garage with the least amount of resistance from the wife is to “give” it to her. And that’s exactly what Shane did. He had Koker build him a super-sweet 3100, and eventually found a way to slowly break the news to his wife in a way that may have just preserved his marriage. (She still doesn’t know how much he really spent on it, though.)
19 2ND Gen Street Annihilator
Sometimes we cannot judge a book by its cover, but other times we can. If we were to go and judge this third generation Z28 by its exterior appearance, there are a few different ways this car may be interpreted. Although the second-generation Camaro isn’t (by any means) the most-desirable Camaro, you have to give credit where credit is due. When Danny Koker was asked to perform the monumental task of creating a truly unique paint job for this Camaro, his team came through with a wild, Hot Wheels-style garnishing that intricately slides all the way back past the quarter panels. (The engine is just as pretty, in case you were wondering.) So, it is possible to make a second gen pretty?
18 El Camino Love
Danny Koker has an affinity for the El Camino, and for good reason. The El Camino has been one of most iconic crossover-cars utilizing a pickup truck bed on a car chassis since the form inceptioned itself into the market a half-century ago. As with anything, however, the transition through the 1980s was not very kind to the poor El Camino. This body style sits frozen in time between its hot rod heritage and a bigger tangle of emissions regulations than you can shake a stick at. Despite the sharp decline in athletic appeal, Koker has found a way (somehow) to turn this beater into a real beauty (and blow some new life into the intake manifold while he was at it).
17 Ford F-Series Stake Side
Koker is a true car guy almost any way you look at it. He does not segregate cars into traditional categories like many automotive enthusiasts do. While some people are stuck in tuner-nation, other people can’t see past the massive, towering blower on their Pro Street trailer queen to consider another’s point of view. Koker, on the other hand, has attuned his vision to recognize beauty in all of its many different forms, and this old Ford truck is no exception. As a matter of fact, these old Fords are one of the most-underplayed pickup trucks out there; they never get any of the love, but can look just as clean as any C10 you’ll find on cruise night. (Plus, it’s basically a tank with a massive, 460-cubic-inch torque, daddy.)
16 Pontiac GTO
For all the things Pontiac may have miserably failed at over its long history of miserable failures, if there were to be one car able to redeem their entire litany of mistakes, it would be the first generation of Pontiac GTO. Born in 1964, the Pontiac GTO is widely regarded as one of the first muscle cars. There were a few others before it, but the GTO is definitely something special and has been an enormously popular (with an appropriate price tag) ever since it hit the scene. It’s one of those cars that we all want but that we all know we will never have. Kocker however, is the type of guy that can see one in a parking lot, find the owner, make an offer, and drive home in 15 minutes.
Not many people can say they own a hearse (not many people can say they own a 1966 427 Shelby Cobra, either.) But when you’re Koker, you kind of have to have one. You can’t go through life with the theme of posthumous disparity as your center point without owning a hearse. With that being said, you can’t just own a regular hearse, either. It pretty much has to be a Cadillac. Even with all of this criteria met, you’re still Danny Koker so if that Cadillac hearse doesn’t have a dual, high-rise intake with two 750 double-pumpers sitting in between the vertical exhaust system (which happens to be as tall as the carburetors) then there is much work to be done.
14 Pool Chop
I’ll bet you’ve never seen a chop like this before. Pretty much nobody has ever seen a chop like this before, but if there was one crew competent enough to pull it off, it would have to be Count’s Kustoms. He somehow found a way to put chrome Daytons on a Ford Falcon and slide one of the most intricate and detailed murals along the paneling you’ve ever seen, all without it looking incredibly tacky. The Falcon is not much of a daily driver these days, but that doesn’t stop it from getting out and having a night on the town.
13 1968 Charger
Everybody knows the Charger from the Fast and the Furious franchise (the one that ran through about 15 more installments of stance-nation reruns than the world really needed to see). Every muscle car guy probably has more than a basic familiarity with the Dodge Charger, but the franchise blasted the Mopar in front of millions, instantly making the blown road-warrior a superstar. One unique thing about Koker is his appreciation for the finer details of the mighty Charger amidst all the power; the details that most casual enthusiasts are slow to pick up on, such as the innovative center console design that ran clear down the cabin. You’ll hear Koker mention this feature on more than one occasion.
12 European Lamborghini Countach
There are only a few things you can do in life that will declare your prominence from the mountain tops louder than any other statement one could possibly make and parking your vintage, European Lamborghini Countach in the front of your showroom (across from your 427 Shelby Cobra, no less) ranks up there with the best of them. It’s all just a part of the way Danny rolls, and the Lamborghini is only one in a long roster of automobiles that sit prominently in the showroom, in immaculate condition. Most of the cars under Danny’s ownership retain special sentimental value that makes them hard for him to part with. (He says this about every single car he ever owns.)
11 1973 Riviera
Any fool can walk by this car and tell it was something special from miles away; the incredibly intricate detail work in the paint alone is probably worth more than the car cost, probably ten times over. Everything about this car, from bumper-to-bumper, is absolutely perfect, even underneath a microscope. The plush interior was spared none of the expenditure that was emphasized on the outside of the car, and although it is but a humble 1973 Buick, it’s a 1973 Buick with more style than a GQ catalog in the summertime. The level of detail put into this car resembles top quality craftsmanship that would look at home in just about any car exhibition you could find.
10 1974 Road Runner
The 70s were full of change; some for the better, and some for the worse. In reference to the muscle car, it was a change for the worse, in every possible way we horsepower-fiends could have imagined. If engines weren’t being crippled by the binding grip of a million new smog regulations, the 70s transitioned many “original” muscle cars from “cheap performance-getters” to “style and class, with a price tag to match.” The midsize Road Runner remained focused on performance, however, and even in 1974, they were some pretty bad looking machines. Koker’s Road Runner looks more traditional than many of his builds; he retained a variation of the Mopar Deep Plum (and even used restraint when adjusting the contour of the stripe). As with most of the Count's builds, the real beauty appears to be within, as indicated by the more subtle details (like those big, fat drag radials sitting underneath the quarter panels).
9 1967 Ford Bronco
I’ll bet you didn’t see this one coming, did you? You probably thought that Koker wasn’t into the tiny little Fords—and even if you did, you probably wouldn’t have expected him to settle for simple white accents on a ghost gray canvas. But that’s exactly why he did it. Koker likes to dabble way deep in the 70s—the mid-70s—and dangerously closer to the 80s than many of us are willing to brave. He also likes old ponies and this little Bronco shows off yet another angle of his wide range of interests. Amidst blisteringly-hot performance with Mac-Daddy paint jobs, there’s still room for a quaint-looking Bronco in the shop.
8 1978 Lincoln Continental
Some people out there may call him a car guru, while others would call him a magician. Still, there are some that would call him crazy, but some of his builds strike me as nothing short of complete and selfless acts of philanthropy. Danny Koker took his unwavering love for the super-retro, late-70s to a new level when he dragged this jalopy through his production line from start to finish. He took a Continental (that otherwise had no chance of being loved by anybody) and turned it into a nationally-televised hero, and a flagship for a decade that continues to slip slowly into obscurity.
7 1966 Mustang GT350
One of Koker’s all-time favorite cars in his entire 60-vehicle collection would have to be the 1966 Mustang GT 350. Koker’s father had purchased the Mustang when he was just nine years old; he essentially grew up in this ultra-rare Mustang. Notwithstanding the fact that he’s already a super-huge car guy, the fact that it is “this particular” car makes it all that much more special. The sentimental value added by his experience with it since he was a boy gives the car an infinitely irreplaceable section of floor space in his shop that the Count will not soon be parting with.
6 Dune Buggy
This little 1971 Meyers Manx had definitely seen better days (and more forgiving crowds, back before LS-powered sand rails started storming the dunes, making this thing look like a joke). But what this little Manx has (that a full tube-chassis, Northstar sand-stormer doesn’t) is class that's aged well over decades. Obviously, it was in rough condition when they got to it; one of the first things that had to go was the faded lime green paint. It didn’t take long for the customizers to get down and dirty and soon, they started making some real progress. The end result hardly even resembles the original little Meyers. I am just about positive you have never seen one like this before.
5 Big Red
Yeah baby! It’s big. It’s red. It’s just about windowless, and every window on it has privacy tint laid across the glass! The only thing separating this Chester-sled from a Dateline special is all the detail and custom work from bow to stern. Truth be told, this van probably has more shop time wrapped up in the restoration than you can buy 10 of them for but I promise you, there isn’t another van within a 1,000-mile radius that was pumped up with as much love and high-quality craftsmanship as you see before you. That has got to be a special kind of love.
4 Oldsmobile Cutlass
The Oldsmobile Cutlass can be summed up as essentially a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Stripping away the Oldsmobile badging and all other remnants of the alternative brand will reveal what is essentially a Chevelle from the early-70s that had no problem laying two fat, black stripes of rubber down the block. It’s no surprise that this would be a Koker Kustom. Looking unmistakably tough from the front, every curve and contour the body of this Cutlass looks like it means business. With a 455-cubic-inch Oldsmobile V8 behind the grill, everything else about the car means even more business. Koker even decided to stay retro with the paint and rims. (Little touches like this differentiate good builders from great builders: the ability to know when to pull your punches or simply not swing at all.)
3 K5 Blazer
The K5 Chevy Blazer is the vintage truck you literally need to buy today. Obviously, the older they get, the rarer they get, and Koker irrefutably shows us the truck looks as beautiful today as it ever did. There’s no shortage of style, despite Chevy’s inclination to keep the body largely plain and understated. Such was the style of the 70s, and the K5 Blazer wears it as proudly as any 1972-model truck out there. If the stunning looks (and the awesome ability to remove the top and essentially have convertible Blazer) don’t grasp that your heartstrings, a capable four-wheel-drive layout that will take this truck anywhere you want to go and an engine bay big enough to live out of might change your mind.
2 After-Action Army Truck
This 49 Ford is one of Koker’s classiest builds to date. It was passed down from the owner’s father, a retired 12th Armored Division veteran in Patton’s Secret 3rd Army. Not hailed as “The Greatest Generation” for no reason, WWII tributes always tend to tap the waterworks a little bit; Koker was thoughtful enough to add a tribute to the glovebox in memory of the fighting Ford’s previous owner. Unlike some of his extremely flashy builds, this gorgeous 49 is simply coated in a classy deep green with mild pinstriping that nails his place in history as a capable “classic” rebuilder.
1 Vamp Rod
Danny “Count” Koker may like his deuces sprinkled with spider webs but he doesn’t like them dirty. The immaculate paint job glimmers with a deep, rich black while accents of bright, red spiderwebs that canvas the entire firewall and slide back along the sheet metal as they wrap over the rear wheel wells. In typical hot-rod style, the five window's engine cowling has been discarded as well as all of the sheet metal around the fenders. Dual Edelbrocks suck in as much air as the small block V-8 can handle while the exhaust collectors send burning exhaust into a massive side dump setup that probably sounds sweeter than just about anything Koker’s going to find on the radio.
Sources: Hot Rod, The Globe and Mail, On All Cylinders, and Press Reader.