David Ankin, a former stunt driver and racer, recently traveled to San Diego, CA, from his hometown of Reidsville, NC, to attend a special event aimed at showing kids that more is out there than their screens.
More than 30 kids came out to Speed Circuit, a new in-door go-kart facility in San Diego, to help promote the season three premiere of Ankin’s series on HISTORY®.
During the event, Ankin shared his message "If you can dream it, you can build it" and demonstrated ways to keep kids’ screen time down and activity up. He also showed his support for the cancer charity Team Parker for Life by partnering with The Speed Circuit to donate 20 percent of the night’s proceeds to the charity. Team Parker for Life works to boost the morale of kids battling cancer, raise awareness of the disease and be a voice for the children in their fight.
The new season of “ToyMakerz” premieres March 10 at 9 a.m. ET/PT on HISTORY® during the DRIVE block, an auto enthusiast programming block on A+E Networks, then again for an encore airing the following Saturday, March 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FYI®. During each episode, Ankin leads his team in crafting one-of-a-kind custom automotive builds, from hot rods and classics to muscle cars, trucks and motorcycles.
“’ToyMakerz’ gives car lovers across America a front-row seat to the incredible building process behind these powerful and unique machines,” said Ankin. “It’s going to be an exciting season of builds for sure … some of the fastest and most unique cars and motorcycles ever made, and then driven to the extreme!”
Autobody News recently reached out to Ankin to find out more about the new season of “ToyMakerz” and how he is spreading his message to kids.
Q: How did you get involved in the industry?
A: Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. We spent a lot of time finding interesting cars to work on and figuring out how to make them drive. This industry was a natural fit. My father was a tinkerer and built hot rods and cars, and my grandfather did the same before him. I guess it was in my blood.
My favorite car when I was young was probably a ‘69 Z28 Camaro, the DZ car. It was really prevalent, but at the same time it was a rare car. You see Z28 cars, but very seldom do you see a DZ 302 car. My dad happened to have one, as well as our next-door neighbor. It was what I always wanted when I grew up.
Q: Congratulations on season three of “ToyMakerz.” What can viewers expect to see on the show?
A: This year, we’re constantly pushing the envelope on the show. We have been creating several specialty vehicles that people are going to not only enjoy, but never forget. We have a real feel for the types of big engine toys that people like to see, and we’re ready to tackle those projects from the ground up. This includes monster trucks, tanks, racecars, drones and fully customized, never-before-seen exhibition cars. As a self-described “extreme” vehicle fabricator, I’m constantly on the search for the coolest, newest techniques and features to build that one-of-a-kind motor machine.
This year on the show, we’ll have special guest appearances by NASCAR legend Richard Petty, actor Dean Cain and drag racer queen Sarah Edwards. We couldn’t be more excited about the new season.
Your readers can tune in to season three of “ToyMakerz” every Sunday at 9 a.m. ET/PT or on FYI Saturday nights at 10 p.m. ET/PT starting March 10.
Q: What was the inspiration for the show’s name?
A: I’m not prejudiced. I like motorcycles, cars and trucks---they are all toys to me. I’m just a big kid living in a dream world, and I don’t want to limit myself to anything. As the industry changes and we grow, the show is about real toymakers. I believe we’re all toymakers in some form.
Q: Can you tell us about your team?
A: They are amazing---Boe Wood, Ashley Robertson, Billy Leavy, Charles Joyner and Jason Hensley. I’m very, very fortunate to have them. My business partner, David Young, has a keen interest in specialty vehicle manufacturing and is CFO of Tanom Motors, a reverse trike manufacturer in Virginia.
I appreciate all of the help my behind-the-scenes team provides as well, which includes the film crew and editing team. I have a major team behind me that I wouldn’t be able to survive without.
Q: Can you tell us about your message, “If you can dream it, you can build it”?
A: I think that’s life. You should never think you can’t do it. Why can’t you do it if somebody else can? The only reason is that you haven’t put in the time or you haven’t had the desire to do so.
I’m a normal guy from a normal world. I had an incredible family but a very normal upbringing.
I went to a public school, and I didn’t have a silver spoon in my mouth. From the time I was a child, I worked very hard and believed. This is a great country, but life is not handed to you. You have to go out and get what you want. If you truly put in the effort, you can do anything in life. You just have to have a little bit of faith and perseverance and work hard. This is true if you’re painting a wall, laying bricks, building a motor or driving a car.
Q: How are you inspiring and motivating kids to take a break from screen time?
A: I understand that times have changed and kids aren’t doing the same things that I was when I was younger. I really enjoy being hands-on, and they’ve taken that opportunity out of many schools. Any time you can get kids hands-on things and show that it can make difference, I think that is a good thing.
My 13-year-old son, Braydon, like others, grew up around computers, and I know screen time is very common. I think it’s important to try and reach our kids’ other senses as well: to get them to feel it, hear it and touch it. I think the more senses you can get them in tuned with, the more you can teach children, and then they don’t even think about screen time anymore. For example, Brayden often lends a hand in my shop.
Getting kids excited about racing, such as the event we held at Speed Circuit in San Diego, is another way of doing that. It was great to be able to teach them a few things about paying attention to corners, speed and braking, and then watching their lap times become faster.
Q: What advice can you offer young men and women considering a career in this industry?
A: If you are good at what you do, there is always an opportunity for you. Somebody is always looking for an up-and-coming employee who is talented at what they do.
When I went to high school, we had shop classes. Now, you often have to attend a separate trade school.
Kids call me all the time wanting to apprentice in my shop. If their heart is really in it, and their mindset is right, I welcome it. If it’s not, I can usually tell. I’m a passionate man with everything that I do, and I welcome anybody who carries that same passion into my world.
Q: What are some of the changes you’ve seen over your career repairing vehicles?
A: It’s immense. It’s happening everywhere on every level. The computer age is amazing. The new vehicles are beautiful machines and so computerized. Everything is at the touch of a button, and it’s absolutely incredible. It almost takes it out of the hands of a mechanic.
Although, I have to admit, at times I struggle with it. With today’s cars, you use a computer to tune a car. I used to use my ear, but you can’t do that anymore with advances in technology.
Q: What are your thoughts about electric and autonomous vehicles?
A: I know it’s coming, and the technology is amazing. We actually might have some EVs on the show, and I plan to put my own spin on them. When it comes to autonomous cars, I don’t like being in the passenger seat with anybody, even those I trust driving, so to let the computer drive is still baffling to me. I still want to be able to get in my car and hear it rumbling underneath me. I like to drive myself around. I don’t listen to my radio; I listen to my exhaust system.
For more information about the show, visit ToyMakerz.com and follow David Ankin on Instagram @realDavidAnkin.