Tuesday, August 16, 2022

What happened to Danny Koker? Where is he today?

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Danny Koker enjoyed popularity when his reality TV series called “Counting Cars” became one of History Channel’s biggest hits. Fans couldn’t get enough of him restoring or modifying cars every week, and then flipping them to earn a huge profit afterwards with the help of his team. His crew’s daily activities on his automobile restoration shop, Count’s Kustoms, were chronicled in the show, and made them one of the leading customizing crews for high-end cars and choppers. With a good head for business, he expanded his investments by having an online merchandise store, a restaurant and a tattoo shop around Sin City.

Danny’s life before becoming a reality TV star

Daniel Nicholas Koker II was born on 5 January 1964, in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. His parents Daniel and Mary Koker raised him and his only sister, Kim, in a comfortable household.

His father was a singer, songwriter, pianist, and conductor, who belonged to several bands including the Weatherford Quartet, Foggy River Boys, and The Rex Humbard Family Singers. Later on, the senior Daniel and relatives created their own band called The Koker Family Singers. Gifted with a talented voice, Danny followed in his father’s footsteps, and at the young age of 11 joined the family band when they performed in Carnegie Hall.

His summers were spent in Detroit, Michigan as his father and several relatives worked with the Ford Motor Company. Danny developed an interest in cars when he received a toy cruiser when he was eight years old, and was always surrounded by people who worked around cars, that his interest flourished into a passion. He was a self-taught mechanic, as his mother would jokingly say that ever since he learned to talk, it was always about automobiles.

Danny turned what was once just a hobby into a serious business enterprise, even if the only proper schooling he had about cars was what he got from the basic automotive shop class in high school. He made it sound so easy when he said that it was basically getting the hands dirty, by taking out all the parts and learning how they worked so he could figure how to put it back together. It was obviously a lot harder than that, but he had the talent in building things, and of course it helped to have several relatives in the automotive industry.

His life has always been about two things: car/chopper restoration, and creating music. He’s somehow divided his time between managing his auto shop, “Count’s Kustoms,” and his band, Count’s 77.

How Count’s Kustoms started?

Danny established his one-of-a-kind vintage car and chopper restoration and customization workshop in Las Vegas, Nevada called Count’s Kustoms.

He’d earned the nickname “The Count” as he was once a part-owner of a local TV station called KFBT and hosted a TV series entitled “Saturday Fright.” It was a weekly TV show introducing B-movies, which he did for a decade using the character of an Elvis-obsessed vampire complete with a cape. People around the area began calling him The Count – as in Dracula – and it stuck.

Count’s Kustoms was primarily established as Danny’s garage in the 1980’s, where he exclusively tinkered with his extensive private vintage hot rods and motorcycle collection, along with his friends’ automobiles. Later on, other car enthusiasts took an interest in his garage, and then he began accepting customization jobs. Since then, it has become one of the leading auto restoration and customization shops in Nevada.

“Counting Cars,” the reality-TV show

Danny Koker’s years of experience in auto restoration made him one of the industry’s reliable experts that the reality-TV show, “Pawn Stars,” called upon him from time to time in their show.

It inspired History Channel to create a spin-off series called “Counting Cars”, with Danny as the main focal point. It was originally produced by the cable channel’s in-house executive producers along with Leftfield Pictures.

The series premiered on 13 August 2012 and aired around 180 episodes, with the production crew following the restoration projects done in Danny’s auto shop.  In 2014, Danny started participating not only as its main host, but also as a writer and an executive producer of the show. This gave him more control over the content shown to the public. The show has continuously provided viewers with amazing auto restoration projects, and has become a favorite. It recently premiered its 10th season in September 2021, making it one of History Channel’s longest-running TV series.

The TV show hasn’t spared allegations of it being scripted and fake. While Danny kept assuring the fans that everything in his show was real, fans couldn’t help but assume that some level of production creativity was also included in making each episode more interesting.

When former stars of other reality-TV shows admitted that some scenarios in their TV shows were staged, fans of “Counting Cars” continuously discussed online how real was the reality.

Meet his “Counting Cars” crew

Many people have been part of his shop and his show over the years, with those surrounding Danny in “Counting Cars” basically from his Count’s Kustoms auto shop. He said that his talented and hardworking crew was one of the reasons his business has been thriving over the years. Here are just some of the most significant members of his crew:

Since the auto shop was originally Danny’s private garage, his best friend and fellow car enthusiast, Kevin Mack, has been part of his business for quite some time. He usually acted as the voice of reason in the shop, particularly when it came to the financial aspect of the business. He would watch the budget, part of his job being to remind Danny not to overspend. Danny used Kevin many times as collateral whenever he took a car for a test drive.

Posted by Counting Cars on Thursday, September 16, 2021

Count’s Kustoms wouldn’t function efficiently without Shannon Aikau, as Danny has been depending on him as the shop’s lead builder and bike shop manager for over two decades. He showed his craftsmanship in the TV show, and never backed out of any project that Danny had given him. He also held the fort in the kitchen, and was responsible for whipping up gourmet dishes for the crew.

Danny has Ryan Evans and Mike Henry as talented airbrush artists. Ryan was recommended by Shannon 20 years ago to be the shop’s lead painter, and served as Danny’s right hand in conceptualizing designs on his customization projects. Mike provided the crew with out-of-the-box ideas, particularly when Danny took in extraordinary projects that required a different approach to its customization concept. He was known to fans as “Horny Mike”, as he loved putting 3-D horns everywhere as part of signature designs.

Danny’s bookkeeper was Scott Jones, who was so good at prodding Danny to stick to the shop’s budget, so ensuring that the projects taken in would generate huge profits for them, even if it meant conflict with the owner. He left during the third season of the TV show, as he moved to Tennessee when his baby was born.

Count’s Kustoms had Roli Szabo as the shop’s detailer, who became one of the TV show’s favorite characters. He was responsible for washing, polishing, vacuuming and deodorizing the newly restored car, before showing it to the client. However, he left the shop and was only part of the TV show until the sixth season. No official explanation for his departure was given, and fans had many theories about it, even controversial ones, but Roli never addressed the issue, and even promoted the show on his social media accounts.

Danny’s top restoration projects in “Counting Cars”

“Counting Cars” had shown how obsessed Danny was about hot rods and motorcycles.

Over the past 10 seasons, he did everything in his power to acquire a vehicle if his interest was piqued, and became known as an impulsive buyer by making on-the-spot offers to car owners during his road trips with Kevin, even going from one parking lot to another to discover something to customize and flip. However, he wasn’t into new cars, as he’s more fascinated with vintage automobiles, and rejected many projects due to this preference. Here are Danny’s top restoration and customization projects over the years:

Danny Sr.’s T-Bird

In the fifth episode in season eight, Danny finally decided to restore his late father’s 1956 Ford Thunderbird, actually taking him around a decade after Danny Sr. passed away to go through with it. He did get emotional from time to time while supervising its restoration, as his father was his inspiration not only as a gearhead but also as a musician.

Sometimes all you need is a smile to get you through the day. Here’s a smile from Danny Koker! 🙂

Posted by HISTORY on Wednesday, June 25, 2014

It was one of the most important projects he tackled in the show, and so was really proud at the reveal when the classic T-Bird came out with a gorgeous all-black look, with whitewall tires.

The 1968 “Bullitt” Mustang

Every car enthusiast would know about the green Ford Mustang that the actor and car collector Steve McQueen used in the movie “Bullitt” – the car chase scene was one of its most memorable highlights. During the pilot episode of “Counting Cars,” a beat-up, rusty 1968 fastback Mustang was brought over to Count’s Kustoms shop by Rick Harrison, the main star of “Pawn Stars.” He told Danny that he wanted to have it restored with all the specs similar to Steve McQueen’s “Bullitt” famous car, however, the big problem was that he only had a modest budget to go with his idea. Danny’s crew was challenged, but in the end, they restored and customized it to perfection. Inevitably, that episode attracted many gearheads, and was widely praised.

Danny Koker

A 1953 Classic Chevy Pickup

Two boys brought a decrepit, worn-down 1953 Chevy Pickup, wanting Danny’s crew to customize it as a surprise gift to their parents. It was the perfect tribute to their parents’ achievement for having one of the oldest stores in Falmouth, Michigan called Ebels. Everyone was surprised how Danny and his crew turned the dilapidated truck into a stunning dark green beauty, with the store’s name printed on the door. Fans could easily access a photo of the finished product, as Ebels posted it on their official website.

A 1956 Bel Air with Powerful Engine

Vintage American automobiles made in the 1950’s were all beautiful to look at, but their engines weren’t made to drive across the country efficiently. A client requested Danny to get him a 1956 Chevy Bel Air, that could be driven just like the cars of today. The “Counting Cars” crew never backed out from any challenge, so Danny got a red Bel Air and the crew made it look 1956 on the outside, but with a powerful engine on the inside.

The final look was a red and white Chevy Bel Air with enough power to make a cross-country road trip.

A Manta Mirage with Borla

Not everyone knew about the Manta Mirage as it was never mass-produced. This unique car was created by the LoVette brothers, Brad and Tim, for Manta Cars; Borla Performance Industries partnered with Danny in customizing the car. The restoration episode for this car was aired in season eight, in time for the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Car Show in 2018. The red and black finish was very reminiscent of the Batmobile look. It was actually a 1970’s kit car turned into a modern car upgraded to SEMA levels, and fans certainly approved of the final product.

Danny Koker, the musician

With Danny’s inherited vocals from his talented father, and the training he received since he was a kid, it wasn’t a surprise that he could also create beautiful music, although being a musician took a backseat when he was pursuing other endeavors.

However, his love for music was never far away when he had a chance, so he formed a band after an impromptu jam session he did in a Vegas club, and named it Count’s 77. His band included lead guitarist Stoney Curtis, guitarist Jony Zito, bassist Barry Barnes, and drummer Paul Disibio. They found that they didn’t only hit it off musically, but they all think similarly as well, and so they continue to perform in rock clubs. Shrapnel Records got to know them through Stoney, who was already one of their contract artists, and in 2014 the band signed up with them. Shrapnel Records founder Mike Varney introduced Tommy Paris to them to do additional vocals and keyboard work; Tommy completed their sound, and agreed to be part of the band since he also lived in Vegas. It didn’t take long for the band to complete a 13-track self-titled studio album after Danny got them a recording studio, and the band’s debut album was released in August of that year.

Many fans thought that Danny’s band came after he became popular with the TV show, but in reality, Count’s 77 was already performing in small venues many years before “Counting Cars” premiered, so the TV show only gave his band a platform to reach a wider audience. Being a musician helped him pay tribute to his father, who died in 2008. Music contributed a lot in dealing with his loss.

Where is Danny Koker today?

People thought that History Channel canceled “Counting Cars”, so were surprised that Danny’s team was back customizing cars on TV. The first episode of their 10th season was aired in September 2021, with the legendary Alice Cooper coming to his shop to have his treasured Avanti restored and upgraded. Danny’s reality-TV show remained on top of the ratings game, and with the fans continuing to loving the show, it seems that the 11th season will be officially ordered by the cable network.

Danny Koker

During the off-season from filming, Danny has more time to be with his wife, Korie Koker, whom he met through a common friend and eventually married in 2015. His wife was once a camera operator and production co-ordinator for a local television station, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting. She was hands-on in helping Danny manage their other business endeavors, particularly the Count’s Vamp’d Rock Bar and Grill. She was tasked to find various bands to play in their restaurant, and actually organized around 300 music events annually. Initially, the fans thought that the couple was quite private and wouldn’t want to share if they have children. However, they reportedly stated that they don’t have children together, and wouldn’t want to change their status any time soon. Korie was once rumored to have died in a vehicular accident, but it was later on proven to be fake news.

Danny survived the negative effects of the pandemic brought by the Covid-19 virus as his business empire including his restaurant, Count’s Vamp’d Rock Bar and Grill; tattoo parlor, Count’s Tattoo Company; rock band, Count’s 77; and auto restoration shop, Count’s Kustoms, continued to thrive. Authoritative sources estimated his net worth to be close to $15 million as of October 2021.


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