ToyMakerz David Ankin shares passion for builds and career

“I knew I could never afford to buy my ‘poster car,’ so I learned how to make it,” said David Ankin, the custom car builder and self-proclaimed toymaker on Velocity’s television series, ToyMakerz. The show, set to begin filming its third season in May, follows Ankin’s team as they bring an unrivaled ingenuity and a unique skill set to motorized builds.

The eight-part, one-hour episodes are based on the life and creations of David Ankin, owner, and proprietor of the company, ToyMakerz, Inc. Based in Reidsville, North Carolina, Ankin is a former stuntman who used to perform with motorcycles, race cars, and at Universal Studios in the Water World shows. Today, he is recognized for the eccentric one-of-a-kind racing machines that he has built.

One of his most controversial builds on the show appeared in the second season, episode two. The car was a 1963 Ford Falcon with 51,000 original miles that Ankin built for his business partner.

“He is 69 years old and he was never around hot rods, but started to enjoy going to some events, so I bought the Falcon and built it for him,” Ankin said. “We did it right. It’s very nice; it also weighs 2600 pounds so it does everything really well.”

The controversy comes into play with the modifications made to the Falcon. Ankin mini-tubbed the Falcon and added a ladder bar set-up with a Mustang 2 front end. It’s powered by a 347 small-block Ford with a 100 shot of nitrous by Nitrous Outlet. The engine, hooked to a C4 transmission with shift kit, is rated at 450 horsepower with 440 lb-ft.

1963 Ford Falcon | Photography courtesy of ToyMakerz

Other key components of the build include a Ford 9-inch rearend with 4.11 gears, Wilwood brakes, Autometer gauges, line-lock by Hurst, and aluminum Weld Racing wheels.

Ankin said that he did not realize the brand loyalty associated with the car or that the viewers would have an issue with modifying the car. Ankin stated, “I don’t understand why they freaked out. Building a hot rod is what we do. You make the car suitable for you.”

Ankin continued that the Falcon serves as his partner’s first “real street car” and that to him, it’s the fastest car on the planet. “He jumps in and wants to go blaring down the road, he uses the NOS bottle as an armrest.”

Attributing some of the build’s negativity to current society, Ankin states “People don’t spend enough time doing what they love to do and what they are passionate about, so they hate on everyone else who is doing it.”

Another controversial build developed by Ankin was the 1941 Ford Pickup Cab.

The build features a custom hand-built tube chassis, a Mustang 2 front end, a Ford 9-inch rearend with 4.88 gears, and a 4-link suspension. It is powered by a Chevrolet SB2 NASCAR motor using Sunoco’s 112 octane racing fuel with a 300 shot of nitrous by Nitrous Outlet, hooked to a Turbo 350 transmission with a transbrake and manual valve body.

Other features include a set of Wilwood brakes, Racepak and Smartwire controller,  Jamey Jordan hand-fabricated custom aluminum seats, Mickey Thompson Sportsman 29x18x20 rear tires, and a custom one-off radiator and fan by Fluidyne.

The truck weighs under 2,000 pounds and pushes 800 horsepower before the nitrous is added.

According to Ankin, the only part of the truck build that was not created by him and his team was the Ford truck cab. “It took us 18 months to build. We created the exhaust, the gas tank, and even made the windows.”

Ankin said the build really upset people, “I am a true toymaker. I realize brand loyalty is amazingly strong and when we found the cab, I was looking for a specific look.”

“I wanted certain things, so when everything else is all handmade, for me, it’s not a ford. It’s just a true vision of an old-school hot rod. I made the truck bed, used the SB2, put some nitrous into it and made it a street car,” he said.

Ankin said the truck is a handful to drive because it’s light, short, and very narrow.

“The wing is functional and adjustable,” he said. “In the real world, if you are going fast, you wouldn’t have done the wing as it is and would probably make some other changes, but for TV it needs to be bigger than life.” Ankin says the wing gives it a real “drivable Hot Wheels car” feel.

Dave Ankin and the 1941 Ford

While the truck appears as a larger than life paperweight, Ankin stressed the importance of making everything functional and driveable. “I drive all my stuff,” he said. “Let’s say you spend $100,000 building a car, then you wait for a nice weekend to drive it and pay to go to the track; then you wait in line to use it. That kind of stuff irritates me, so most of the stuff I build for myself I put a license plate on it so I can drive it whenever I want.”

Ankin added that it was built to be shown at car shows, go to the track, and to be a real and usable street car.

One of the challenges he had to overcome with this particular build was making the truck look as he envisioned it in his mind instead of just creating a rendition of it. “It was built during my first season and I wasn’t able to mock it up like I normally would have; so a lot of it was built before it was properly fitted and many components were eyeballed and put on for the first time when it was done and completed.”

Given the chance, he would like to change the shape of the truck’s nose.

Ankin shared that he tends to make a decision and stick to it, like keeping the truck 100-inches long and 56-inches wide. “One thing the cameras have taught me is that you don’t have any time. With this, I also didn’t have much room to work with.” As a result, the dry-sump system is in the rear of the truck as well as the nitrous bottle.

Ankin shared that he never dreamed he would be building cars on TV. After retiring from work as a stuntman, he wanted something more stable, so he bought a bar and started creating events to attract people to it. During this time, a lot of producers would approach Ankin and say he had a bigger than life personality and that he needed his own show. After he was pitched for five years, he finally found someone who was interested in doing the show he wanted to do.

“We are a fab shop,” Ankin said. “I do the designing, I have a guy who does all the welding, another who is a ‘jack of all trades,’  and I have an assistant who does everything.” Ankin also noted that they build everything from the ground up, such as the chassis and suspension. They also do all of the engine work among other things. As his shop builds for TV and for customers, Ankin says he has become very picky with what projects he takes on so that they don’t get in the way of the things he does for TV.

“Car shows are kinda like cooking shows,” Ankin said. “They show you how to make it and when it goes in the oven, they magically pull one out that’s already made.”

1941 Ford Pickup Cab

Ankin said when you build something you go through a series of steps, but when you add TV to the mix you don’t have time to do some steps as you normally would. “You have to do some stuff 5 or 6 times for the camera’s sake and you run out of time.” On average, he said a job that normally takes a week to complete becomes a two-week job and is complicated with skipping steps to make up lost time.

When it comes to the 1941 Truck build, he said “we didn’t get it all right the first time. I had to cut some stuff and move things. Filming was the hardest part of that.”

While adapting to TV car builds has presented challenges, it has also provided Ankin the opportunity to talk with kids and get in front of people to inspire them and help them grow. “Anytime you can ignite that passion in someone is priceless,” he said. “I love to hear people tell me their dream, and I love when guys come running up and pull me over to show me what they are doing or building. I like to give a hand at something they are lost at when I can.”

He added that it’s both a humbling experience and a blessing that he is able to do what he does. “I have met a lot of great people, I’ve met some arrogant ones, and everyday I learn from all of them.”

Ankin’s advice to those interested in building cars or doing it for TV is to have some faith, believe in yourself, and work hard. “Do whatever in the car business because you love to do it. Don’t do it to get famous or for attention.”

To turn your passion into your career, he says it’s important to have the right mindset. “You have to believe in what you are doing and that you will be successful. Remove all doubt and maintain a positive attitude. Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are usually right.”

Another key component is to find the right people. “There are people out there who will love what you have to offer.  These people are your tribe and you just need to find who those people are, as they are your target market.” Additionally, he said it’s important to find those who believe in what you are doing and to understand how to be more successful in your actions.

Ankin stresses the importance of a clear message. “Most people who make a purchase do so because what they are buying is going to make a difference in their life.”

Having a plan for getting that information out to the masses is important. He recommends becoming immersed in social media. “Social media today is a game changer for a business as everyone is using some kind of social media, which means you need to be there to reach your audience.”

“Find ways to give back to those in your community and in causes you care about,” he said, adding that “the more you help be the change, the better off everyone will be.”

“When you love what you do and you believe that there is a market for it, then there is a great chance you will have success at it,” Ankin says. “Those who choose not to give it a try are letting fear make their decision. You can never succeed that way. Sometimes you have to be willing to take the first step, even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”

Building cars for TV is the hardest thing he has ever done before. “I work seven days a week, 14-hour days, and my phone is always on. I surround myself with the right people who get along, support and encourage one another. If it’s truly your passion, do it, but do it for you.”

Ankin cautioned that when it comes to TV, it’s a roller-coaster ride with many ups and downs. He encourages those interested in pursuing it to make sure it’s truly what they want to do, because it comes with headaches. “I’m fortunate that my production crew is made of car guys. Most of the other ones aren’t, so they don’t understand or know what I’m doing.”

Looking ahead, Ankin says season 3 starts production in May. Fans can expect to see new episodes later this fall featuring a two-seat digger dragster, a Hellcat-powered 5-Window Ford coupe, and some motorized toys. He has already begun building the season 4 finale car, and like all final cars, it’s always his “dream car.” Ankin was unable to give any firm details of what to expect but said, “no one thinks the electric stuff is cool, but I hope this build changes that idea.”

The ToyMakerz TV show is currently airing on Velocity, check your local listings for show times.  ToyMakerz is produced by Los Angeles-based production company, Lucky13Cinematic.

For more information about ToyMakerz, see the ToyMakerz website. 

About the author

Nicole Ellan James

As an automotive journalist and avid car enthusiast, Nicole Ellan James has a passion for automotive that is reflected in every aspect of her lifestyle. Follow Nicole on Instagram and Facebook - @nicoleeellan
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