Inside ICON: A 4x4 Fantasy Land
Once you've crossed over the hill from Los Angeles proper, and find yourself in "The Valley." There, you'll find a plethora of auto shops, with many claiming to be the best in their respective field. From hot rods to exotics, 4x4s to JDM drift machines, there is a shop that caters to nearly every sub-culture of the automotive universe. Very few of them even begin to live up to their lofty claims, and fewer still have anyone with real vision calling the shots. ICON/TLC is not one of those shops, they are an abnormality, a small operation consistently turning out jaw-dropping products, and I recently got to go have a peak behind the curtain to see how they do it. If you're already familiar with the handiwork of Jonathan Ward, great, then you know that there's way more to ICON and TLC than 4x4s. If not, I'll quickly breakdown the purpose of each branch of the business, so you can understand how they're different. ICON offers four variants of the classic FJ body Toyota Land Cruiser, a Bronco, and a classic Chevrolet pickup, any day of the week. Getting one can be as easy as picking a color, and putting down a deposit, and then waiting for it to be built. Then there is ICON Reformer, which can take any vehicle, from any era, and re-imagine it for modern day use, and ICON Derelict, which leaves the original patina on the exterior, and updates the internal bits to whatever spec the client wishes. TLC is where it all started for Ward, and currently offers everything from basic services, complete restorations, and conversions. Vehicles are left in stock form, and retain stock parts, but are certainly superior to what rolled off the assembly line by the time the TLC guys are done with it. As far as I'm concerned, one isn't better than the other, but if I was to have Ward go to work on a vehicle, I'd give him carte blanche to use his imagination seeing as it consistently churns out amazing stuff, like the 1965 Dodge D200 Icon Reformer that happens to be up for sale. When I walked into the lobby of the Chatsworth, California, headquarters, I was greeted by a 993 Porsche 911 Turbo, an Ariel Atom, a 1959 Mercedes-Benz 300, and a Zagato built body that resembles the classic DB4. The first two vehicles are personal rides that are just "hanging out," but the other two have rather interesting stories. The massive Benz was found in Alaska of all places, and is set to receive an S63, or S65 AMG drivetrain swap, once some foreign red-tape is dealt with. I hope it gets handled soon because this vintage luxo-barge deserves to roam the streets once more as the ultimate Q-ship. The primer grey custom Zagato build was brought in by a client as a resto-mod project, and is set to receive a Vanquish engine and drivetrain, although, that project is also currently on hold as well. These are stories that I hope get finished, because as interesting as all the vehicles themselves are, where they came from, and where they're going is what really makes this shop unique. Every client has a story for their vehicle, whether it was something that was in the family, something they'd always been looking for, or something that just happened to fall into their lap. Every vehicle on the property has some kind of story, and these stories only add to the considerable prestige inherent in an ICON or TLC build. RELATED: Check Out Photos Of ICON Vehicles
When visiting a shop like this, you've got to have your head on a swivel, and keep an eye out for things in the background. Sure, there are plenty of projects displayed front and center, some in progress, some finished, but it's often the stuff that's parked off to the side, or out back that I find the most interesting. I certainly wasn't let down on that front, and I found all kinds of interesting stuff lurking around the property, including a Diamond T pickup, Plymouth Roadrunner Superbird, and Pontiac Catalina Safari wagon, just to name a few.
If you're a fan of Toyota Land Cruisers, then a pilgrimage to the ICON/TLC headquarters is a must. There are more FJs and 80 series kicking around here on a given day than anywhere else in the country, and the variety of models within the Land Cruiser family is simply unmatched. You'll also find classic Broncos, Scouts, Landys, and the occasional Willys floating around, some stock, some highly modified. Some of these vehicles are for sale "as is," but most of them are waiting for the right customer to come along, and give Ward and his team the green light to work their magic on the vehicle. That magic doesn't come cheap, but between the extremely high-quality parts and complete mechanical overhaul, the cost of entry is more than justified.
With most restorations, all you're getting is a vehicle that has been refreshed, but with ICON and TLC, you're getting a vehicle that has been reworked or rebuilt, both literally and figuratively. All the corners that were cut by Land Rover in the manufacturing process, Ward goes back over them gracefully. Anything that was cheapened by the beancounters, ICON makes sure to replace it with the quality of parts that should have been used the first time around. Both inside and out, these vehicles are superior to what rolled off the assembly line. When Earth eventually becomes a post apocalyptic wasteland, I wouldn't be surprised if the only vehicles still roaming the planet say ICON on them.
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Photo Credit: VisualVocab for Boldride