Danny Koker is a hard rock band frontman, a renowned American car renovator and self-taught mechanic, whose automotive restoration shop, Count’s Kustoms, has been drawing a crowd of vehicle enthusiasts for over two decades. Its popularity expanded outside Las Vegas, Nevada, in 2012, when the shop became the primary filming location for the History-produced “Counting Cars” TV show for 10 seasons. The name is a wordplay on the well-known blackjack card game strategy “counting cards,” using Danny’s nickname, “The Count,” a derivative of Count Cool Rider, his name during the weekly hosted horror movie show, “Saturday Fright at the Movies,” between 1990 and 2000.
As part of his shop’s daily work of restoring and customizing classic automobiles and motorcycles, Danny consistently hired Ryan Evans, an immensely skilled airbrush artist and lead painter. Ryan has been in this line of work for over two decades, and became Danny’s right-hand man for nearly all visual design projects and creative choices on the fly.
However, he stopped posting on Twitter in 2020, keeping his followers in the dark about whether he works with Danny. While he dropped enough hints via Facebook, Ryan never clarified whether he would return to the TV show after the 10th season ended on 1 December 2021. Fans presume that the filming stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the restrictions undoubtedly made things challenging, time-consuming and expensive for the team and the production company. We investigated what happened between them, and whether we can see Ryan on-screen if History renews “Counting Cars” for the 11th season.
Rumors almost ruined a great friendship
History frequently introduced Ryan as Danny’s leading man in painting and bodywork visual styles. However, it’s unclear when he started working for the shop, since he may have been an independent contractor for a while. Regardless, Ryan did high-quality work helping with painting, graphic art, and customizations whenever Danny had a project for the show. He’s worked in the painting and design business in California and Las Vegas since the mid-1990s, after realizing that the regular job didn’t suit him. Ryan joined Danny’s team around 2000 after meeting Shannon Aikau, the shop’s lead motorcycle builder and designer.
Rumors that Ryan was unhappy with his job, or that he wanted to start a company, began circulating in 2021 when the 10th season of “Counting Cars” concluded without any news of the next one. His inactivity on social media, particularly Twitter, on which he posted somewhat regularly, only worsened things. Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened behind the scenes.
Ryan and Danny still work together, albeit in a different format. Together with the rest of the team, they create content or comment on the old work on the team’s YouTube channel @CountsKustomsofficial, which has over 190 videos and over 130,000 subscribers as of mid-June 2023. They also produce short-form content on their TikTok account, @counts_kustoms. Ryan is also active on Facebook on his official fan page, @ryanatcounts.
Danny and Ryan have a long history
Some viewers may not realize that “Counting Cars” is a second spin-off from a well-known TV series, “Pawn Stars.” History initially hired Danny as a car expert on vehicles that people were trying to pawn to Rick Harrison, Austin “Chumlee” Russell, and Corey Harrison. Danny also guest starred in a similar role in “American Restoration,” the first spin-off, between 2010 and 2016. Ryan joined the Las Vegas auto shop about a decade after Danny started it. His first reaction was that Danny had lost his mind, because he was already customizing choppers, and was amassing a classic car collection.
Danny saw and acknowledged Ryan’s skills after expanding from exclusively working on motorcycles to including cars. They’ve remained busy ever since, working for clients or customizing Danny’s collection, which had about 55 cars and 70 motorcycles in mid-2020. Despite making so many vehicles unique, in 2016, Ryan picked three favorites that he’d modified in the show. Those were the 1981 Chevrolet C-10 Van, which they called The Vampire Van, and worked on in the second season, the third’s season 1971 Superfly Cadillac, and the following season’s 1973 Buick Riviera.
It’s important to note that Ryan also owned a private Las Vegas paint shop, and worked as a contractor for many other brands and shops. Hence, he could have stopped working with Danny at any point, dispelling rumors that he was displeased and planning to leave the TV show.
Ryan suddenly stopped posting on his Twitter, @RyanAtCounts, in April 2019. He only retweeted Hugh O’Beirne’s tweet after a year, to indicate that he agreed with him about paying extra for American-made products and services. Before that, Ryan shared personal stories and announced projects and upcoming art-related conventions. Thankfully, he used his Facebook page to post about his projects and vehicle conventions, comment on “Counting Cars” episodes, and share Count’s Kustoms announcements and pictures until early December 2021.
While that let his fans stay in touch with his activities, Ryan only posted once or twice every two weeks for the next month, and roughly once a week in February 2022, though not about his work for Count’s Kustoms. That was unfortunate, since the show had just ended, and fans were hungry for information. Even worse, he shared a picture from the shop’s official Facebook page on 19 February 2022, which some saw as a warning sign. They were promoting the Lift King Products company, and tagged Ryan as someone who would benefit the most from the sponsorship.
The shop called the mechanical stands and lifts incredible, while Ryan said that they were ‘a game changer.’ He noted that the products would let him remove and install hoods, doors, truck beds, and truck trunks without help. That was especially useful for his work ethic, as he often worked alone at night and over the weekend, and previously had to ask people to swing, inconveniencing everyone.
Ryan continued to praise the tools afterwards, saying that four-person jobs where someone’s fingers would inevitably get smashed were now safe and feasible for him to do unaided. That suggested to fans that Ryan may slowly move on to individual projects, especially since the TV show stopped airing.
Ryan loved working with Count’s Kustoms
Thankfully, Ryan dispelled the speculations that he cut ties with Danny throughout the second half of 2022. That applied to “Horny” Mike, his co-worker, friend, and fellow airbrush artists, as they continued to work together. He consistently shared official updates from the shop’s Facebook page, then announced that the show was switching formats under the new Count’s Kustoms Network, and that they would post videos to TikTok and YouTube. They also started collaborating with other companies, such as Camp Freedom and Linear Blocking Tools, and attending more events, such as the first SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show party in Las Vegas on 29 October 2022.
AutoBodyNews.com interviewed Ryan during that event, and he guest starred on The Collision Vision Podcast in March 2023. He clarified both times that he had no issues with Danny, and that he loved working with him and the rest of the employees. He even replied to a fan’s question on Instagram about leaving – ‘Life is so much better having an A team to back me up in all aspects of shop life and work!’
Ryan continued to laud Lift King Products at every opportunity, and mentioned that the show added a new spray gun to help him work more precisely and efficiently. His online announcements also showed that he still organized hands-on training and virtual workshops and contributed his time or custom art pieces to charities. In short, the show’s hiatus never stopped Ryan from promoting his work and inspiring up-and-coming airbrush artists and painters.
Danny and Ryan are as close as ever
Despite “Counting Cars” not returning for the 11th season on schedule, Count’s Kustoms’s social media profiles and frequent appearances at car shows throughout 2022 and the first half of 2023 set fans’ minds at ease. Danny, Ryan, and the rest of the team are as busy, united, and passionate as ever. Danny even did his best to make Ryan’s job easier, by purchasing a system of stands and lifts to take the weight off his shoulders, literally. Additionally, both love sporting a goatee and many tattoos, and have other interests.
Ryan also proudly stated in his Instagram bio that he had been a Kustoms painter for over 20 years. Some fans forget that Ryan loves this line of work; he started airbrushing at seven, worshiped automobiles, especially beautifully painted two-wheelers, and tinkered in his father’s home garage from a young age. Ryan first knew that he couldn’t work a regular job after matriculating from a Frankfurt-based American high school, and working as a part-time artist while attending college.
Ryan has two children from a previous marriage, Austin and Kylee, and a son Logan with his wife, Dana Pauley, whom he married in 2015. Therefore, even if he conflicted with Danny, Ryan’s enthusiasm for painting, loyalty, and responsibility as a father and a husband would have pushed him to work things out.