One would be hard pressed to convince those who know Mike Ryan that he lacks drive. In fact, his willingness to work became evident at a very young age.
Mike Ryan has competed in 16 of the last 17 Pikes Peak International Hill Climbs from the seat of his Freightliner semi-truck.
At five, Ryan learned how to water ski, and began riding mini bikes and go karts shortly thereafter. Although most of these machines belonged to friends, the youngster was a natural at keeping them in running order. In turn, he became known as the "local fix-it kid" and was allowed to man their toys in return.
Landing his first job at age eight, Mike Ryan's young mind likely couldn't conceive the path his life would eventually take. After pulling weeds at the University of Tennessee, he got a paper route. Once confident in his early-morning paper-tossing skills, he took on an additional route in the afternoons.
Ryan obviously possessed the needed drive to become just about anything he wanted to be. And little did he know upon taking a summer job at a nursery, he was setting the stage for his future.
During this particular occupation, Ryan learned how to run heavy equipment. One would only suspect how proud the young teenager was of the skills he had acquired. And if that wasn't enough, another job lent to the opportunity to grow more fluent at turning wrenches while he was still in school.
By the time Mike Ryan took a permanent residence in California in 1975, he had already built a small racing resume, was a reputable mechanic and could drive anything, from a scooter to a semi. To some, this diversity of skills had no correlation, but time would eventually tell..
One year later, Ryan met stunt coordinator, Ronnie Ross. "I suppose that I was useful to Ronnie, and my work ethic meant working from sunrise to sunset," recalled Ryan. "I drove from Corona del Mar to the San Fernando valley and worked for free on those days off.
"But I was 20 and excited that there was a job that would pay me to do what I spent most weekends trying to do on a mechanic's pay check." Referring to stunt driving, Ryan continued," That was 37-years ago and I am still at it."
In fact, Mike Ryan is in the process of working on the set as a driver for the upcoming "Fast and Furious 7" and is scheduled to head for Atlanta, Georgia in early November, where his driving skills will be utilized in his third F&F film.
Due to his ability to pull off incredible stunts with big rigs, many people on the business refer to Mike Ryan as "the truck guy";
Ryan's portfolio consists of many top-rate films. Referred to by many in the business as "the truck guy", his skills have been showcased in "Fast and Furious 6," "Thelma & Louise," "Terminator II," "Fire Down Below," "Black Dog," "Independence Day," "Swordfish," "The Italian Job," "Rush Hour 2," "After the Sunset" and "Captain America II."
Ryan's work has also been featured on other movies, television, live shows and a plethora of commercials.
"My career has been built around the motorcycles, boats, trucks and jalopy racer cars that I learned to drive as a kid. My first film was one that Ronnie and his wife Suzy produced. It was a typical Drive-in "B" car movie "Joyride to Nowhere," he recalled. "On my second film in 1978, I met Buzzy Bundy. Buzz spent 27-years of his life working on thrill shows and became famous for driving cars on two wheels. I have been hanging on to Buzz since that day, and at 83-years old he is still my go-to guy when I need to figure out a jump, car stunt or a roll-over that I don't know about."
Although Mike Ryan's career epitomizes excitement, the occupation hasn't come without a price. As a result of go-karts, motorcycles, an airplane crash and 37 years of stunts, he has broken 44 bones. In fact, he recently suffered a broken right scapula while rolling a bus during rehearsal for "Fast and Furious 7."
In Mike Ryan's occupation, planning and precision are obviously keys to safety and success. "The preparation for a big film takes months," he explained. "Finding the vehicles and making them safe for the high-risk, often high-speed, precise maneuvers that we film requires many technicians and the best parts possible; like K&N filters. There is no reason to use anything else."
One would suspect that stunt driving is more than enough to keep Mike Ryan occupied. However, he also finds time to race between gigs. "It is that background that I take to racing. And racing is the background that has helped to give me the skills to do stunt work," he explained.
Mike Ryan has become a familiar face during the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climbs. Since 1997, and has competed in 16 of the last 17 events. Interestingly, Mike Ryan races with a Freightliner semi-truck.
Freightliner has been the primary sponsor of our Pikes Peak Truck," he explained. "To have a sponsor that is willing to stick with you for 16-years is amazing to me, and it is a validation that we serve their intentions well.
"There have been years with no trucks and years with as many as five," he continued. "Other than spinning out in 2001, we have never been beaten by a truck or diesel-powered vehicle. . . We currently hold seven speed records there."
Mike Ryan and his team have also raced the truck in New Zealand at the Queenstown Gold Rush Hill Climb, where they won the class and set records. They also sported the first semi-truck to enter the Mt. Washington Hill Climb in New Hampshire.
He has drag raced the rig several times and has also partaken in exhibition drifting in Las Vegas.
If anyone understands the importance of keeping their rig in tip-top running condition, Mike Ryan fits that bill. That in mind, the stunt driver depends upon K&N products to execute his filtering needs.
"K&N has been a component sponsor since we started racing trucks," Ryan recalled. They are with us at Pikes Peak, they are in our company trucks and they are in our 1968 Ford-class-8 Baja truck that we race in the Mexican 1000. Like I said earlier," he shared. There is no reason to use anything else. We've had offers from many filter companies, but there's no reason that I can think of to settle for less."
For more information about K&N's heavy duty air filters or to find what heavy duty air filters K&N offers visit the K&N Heavy Duty Air Filterpage on KNFilters.com.