Inside ICON’s Automotive Wonderland
If you take a trip about 30 minutes north of LA, there’s a wondrous, magical warehouse that is every 4x4 enthusiasts’ wet dream. That place is ICON, and they're in the business of building some of the most awe-inspiring off-roaders know to man. If you don’t know ICON, you probably should. Founder and CEO Jonathan Ward designs and builds custom 4x4s and more, for anyone with an eye for the unique. And enough cash. ICON is where Mr. Ward lets his imagination run wild. He's like a Willy Wonka for 4x4s. PHOTOS: See More of the 2011 ICON FJ43
To the untrained eye, the business strategy seems pretty straightforward. Take a bunch of 4x4s and make 'em look pretty. How wrong you are. It’s only when you get up close do you realize just how intricate everything really is. I spent about 10 minutes just looking through a cabinet of freakin' leather samples. And it’s these small details that make everything ICON does so amazing.
ICON’s popularity really took off with the FJ. It blends the beauty of the Toyota FJ40 with the ruggedness of the Willy CJ. The two designs come together onto a modern frame, with usually an LS7 under the hood, and an absolutely stunning interior.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2011 ICON Bronco
The BR series, on the other hand, uses the Ford Bronco as a jumping off point. Under the hood is a Ford racing engine, and the interior is fully customized by Ward with some customer input. The one you see above is actually being built for an Apple exec, so all the internals support iPhone and iPod connectivity similar to the Apple CarPlay system. And there’s a gnarly 420-horsepower V8 under the hood for good measure.
But 4x4s are just the tip of the iceberg.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2011 ICON Mercedes-Benz G55 AMG
You’ve got the Derelict lineup, the Thriftmaster, even the E-Flyer electric bicycle. All imagined and created by Jonathan with an extensive team of engineers and mechanics behind him.
As for the future? Ward and his team have a boatload of different projects in the pipeline. There’s a recreated Aston DB5 he’s working on, a Mercedes 300D that uses a Corvette as a base, and he’s even partnering with Ford on a Steve McQueen-inspired Mustang that he swears won’t be just another Bullit recreation. All of which sound amazing.
PHOTOS: See More of the 2014 ICON Thriftmaster
We’re really looking forward to all the future projects that Jonathan Ward has in that insane mind of his. Check out some more of my photos from the ICON factory.
Not completely sure what this thing was, but Ward says it's gonna have like 600 horsepower.
Another version of the gorgeous Thriftmaster. Just about finished.
This is what Ward drives daily. Seriously. There's a freakin' 540-horsepower HEMI under the hood and it is so glorious.
This is the aforementioned base for the Mercedes project. It was supposed to have a Biturbo Mercedes V8 under the hood, but since Mercedes was a pain in the ass to work with, he's just going to shove a brand new Stingray underneath. Not complaining.
Are you drooling yet? Outside there's a boatload of FJ bodies along with a bunch of cars that Ward says he bought "after too much whiskey." Can you blame him?
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