David Ankin is best known for his starring role in the History Channel and FYI program ToyMakerz, where he and his team of fabricators turn dreams into reality, constructing the wildest and most extreme of automobiles and motorcycles. Harken back to the impossibly-unreal toy cars of your youth, and it’s those that Ankin brings to life.
Before launching ToyMakerz, Ankin was a legitimate Hollywood stunt-driver, an extreme field that ultimately led to becoming an extreme fabricator. His incredible builds have been documented throughout the first three seasons of the program, but one you probably haven’t seen — until now — is this recently-completed fully street-legal, front-engine slingshot dragster that is as wild and unique as they come.
Ankin effectively blended a slingshot dragster, a roadster, and a car all into one, and the more you observe the details, the more you realize just how much thought went into this build that took more than two years to complete. And to top it all off, the 125-inch wheelbase “dragster” is tagged, licensed, and insured for road-duty.
Despite being known more as general hot-rodder than a drag racer, spend just a few moments speaking with him and you’ll realize he’s no stranger to the straight-straight-line sport.
“I have a gearhead background. As a kid, my family dabbled with all of it. I grew up on the dragstrip. My dad was a fabricator, my grandfather worked for Packard, so we grew up around this, in motorcycle racing. Then I got into the stunt business and became proficient at driving everything.
Like many of his creations, Ankin was inspired by the Hot Wheels cars and wild diecast models he enamored as kid.
“I happened to have a toy from my childhood sitting on my desk, a diecast car called the “Tarantula” designed by Tom Daniels, and I said one day I was going to build a front-engine digger for the street…it’s going to have two seats, a cell phone charger, lights and turn signals and cup-holders. And that’s exactly what we did.”
Ankin and his team hand-built the chassis and body and then teamed with a number of drag racing industry experts to fill in the rest.
Brent Nesbitt built the 540 cubic-inch big-block engine that sports a pair of Brodix cylinder heads with T&D Machine steel rockers. A chance encounter at a blackjack table at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas with a representative from Precision Turbo resulted in a fruitful partnership that placed a pair of 76mm snails — the very first pair of mirror-image turbos produced — out front of the big-block, helping to produce the estimated 2,600 horsepower it puts out as full song. ProFab, located just down the road from ToyMakerz, fabricated the turbo system and exhaust that exit out through the bodywork.
The car features a whole range of tech found in hardcore drag racing machinery, including a Davis Technologies Profiler wheel-speed management system and Vehicle Position Sensor, along with a Nitrous Outlet system to operate the shifter, boost control, and parachutes.
Kevin Mullins tunes the car using a Holley EFI Dominator system wired by Modern Racing, which delivers fuel to the engine via 16 550 lb-hr Billet Atomizer injectors. With a radiator and 20 gallons of Sunoco methanol onboard, Ankin says it maintains temperature on the road and will get solid fuel mileage “if I keep my foot out of it.”
In a departure from slingshot dragster norms, given the wish for two seats, Ankin and his team effectively molded the containment seat into the chassis.
“In a front-engine dragster, usually your balls are up against the pumpkin of the rearend housing, which scares the sh-t out of you. So we built a really nice setup so both people can sit in there, your legs go up over the rear axle, and it’s pretty comfortable. When we built it, I sat in there and we scanned and built everything around my body. So I can just reach out and hit the kill-switch or the blinkers or the start button.”
Like a real-life slingshot — but in a surprising omission for something being driven on public roads — the car is a hardtail, void of any suspension in the rear whatsoever. The front-end does sport a full A-arm and strut setup.
“Everybody out there says you can’t do that [solid rear suspension], especially on a radial, but to get the look and the tuck of the tire, sometimes you’ve got to do certain things. But with the power management of turbos, we can ramp the power in off the line and run it hard out the back. If we were trying to race the car seriously, we’d have gone a different direction,” Ankin explains.
With a spool and street tires front and rear, Ankin can get down on the street with the car, noting it drives impressively well considering its horsepower, wheelbase, and suspension configuration.
“Honest to God, it doesn’t do bad on the street. If you turn the boost controller off, it’s lazy on the street. It’s really fast, but because it’s so long, it feels lazy. The weight placement is all different, sitting primarily over the back wheels, and the thing hooks real good and goes,” he explains.
“My problem is I can’t stand to spend all that money on a car and your wait until the weekend, you have to pay somebody to go to the track, and you have to wait in line to make a pass,” Ankin adds of his focus on making this wild creation street-able. “And although we do it all the time, I love to have a tag on everything I own. That way we can go to an event, we can putt it around, and drive it home. If we were going out to specifically build a racecar, we wouldn’t have built this car.”
Ankin visited the GALOT Motorsports Park, not far from his North Carolina shop, last week to make initial test runs, netting a best lap in the 5.0s.
“We just made some nice easy passes to make sure it was all going to work. I try to do one build a year, but this one is pretty extreme, so we’re just trying to be careful and sort it all out so I don’t go out and tear it up.”
His goal is to run in the mid-4’s and “drive it back to the hotel afterward,” adding he’d like to do some grudge racing, sign a few autographs, and have fun with this labor of love.
“People just don’t know what fast is. They ask, ‘dude how fast is it?’ But they just don’t understand,” he says. “It’s a street car, and it will probably make a low 4-second run, but our goal is to run a 4.50 and drive it home.”
Ankin will be making additional laps this week in Virginia with the assistance and oversight of brother Nick and Rich Bruder and Jack French.
“The people standing behind this project are just amazing….I better be able to make a great run in the car.”
Ankin’s machine will be highlighted in the latter half of season four of ToyMakerz.