If you are into cars – really into cars – you have probably once considered the purchase of a vintage ride of some kind. But realizing that your money will only get you a rusted heap is pretty disenchanting. What if you could own a vehicle that has all of the vintage looks but with modern internals and zero headaches? That is what ICON offers, and their products are a brand apart from anything else on the market.
Jonathan Ward is the man behind the concept. ICON first gained notoriety several years ago with their vision of the Toyota FJ, and continued that fame with the incredible ICON Bronco. These vehicles use original bodies, that Ward finds, and countless hours are taken to making them look better than new. While the panels are old, the mechanicals are brand new, and so are parts like the shocks and brakes. According to Ward, it is the perfect marriage.
“The whole point with the company,” Explained Ward, “Is revisiting classic transportation designs but in a modern context. People love vintage designs, but don’t have time to deal with the mechanicals.”
Following the success of the ICON Bronco (a project that gained national attention, and had participation from Nike), Ward’s friends at GM became a little jealous. The result is the ICON Thriftmaster; a rear-wheel drive farm truck-turned-hot rod, based on the classic GMC Five-Window Pickup. It is a head turner for sure, but the impressive features go well beyond skin-deep.
“We are basically recycling,” said Ward, “I buy a vintage Five-Window truck, and I have it scanned and digitized into a CAD program. Once it’s in the system, there’s a lot we can do.”
Ward says the digitizing is what sets ICON apart from the rest of the “resto-mod” industry. From there, his team can build a fully modern chassis that will bolt perfectly onto the vintage body. It features multi-link, independent suspension and four-wheel disc brakes, but is all this necessary? Does it need to be modern under the hood? According to Ward, the answer is “yes.”
“I had restored several Five-Window trucks really early on,” said Ward, “and when I was finished, I hated how they drove. I wanted to create something with vintage lines, but that would drive great.”
That early experience with the Five-Window played a key role in his personal life; he was under the hood of one when he met the woman that would become his wife. According to Ward, “That’s what really brought me back to this truck.”
While the style is rooted firmly in the past, everything else is very modern – and not just the suspension and brakes.
“This truck has a GM emissions-certified E-Rod V8 engine,” said Ward, “It’s supercharged and intercooled, features a modern style electrical system, and in the cab is a Wi-Fi hot-spot for up to 20 users. It’s web-enabled.”
Every internal feature of the Thriftmaster, from the air conditioning to the power windows, is operated via a digital screen in the center of the dash. It allows Jonathan to design the cabin of this truck with as much vintage flair as he’d like.
Business is good for ICON right now. This is the fourth model line that the brand has debuted, in addition to a forthcoming electric-powered bike, and the Derelict Series. His Derelicts are basically, one-off vintage cars, with an updated chassis, but a very rough, completely unrestored body. The results are stunning.
According to Ward, part of what draws customers to his cars is the sad state of modern vehicle styling: “People are disenchanted with modern cars and their lack of inspiration.” Said Ward, “They were all done by focus groups. Back then it was one man and one vision.” Ward says the vintage designs have a strong sense of history and an implied longevity – a longevity that is backed up by reliable, modern internals.
This combination also draws in a premium buyer. An FJ45 sits on the ICON website now, on sale for $157,000, and this is an average price for one of their vehicles.
“Our buyer is not an average vintage buyer,” said Ward, “but a wealthy buyer who is sick of new cars. A guy buys Bentley, and quickly realizes it’s a shell of its previous craftsmanship. They get that individualization and depth of story when they purchase a car from us.”
Ward wants you to be transported when you get behind the wheel of one of his cars. He wants you to be in a different era, to be completely under the radar, or standout in a crowd– whichever place you want to be. That personal touch to make it exactly what you want makes it expensive, but it also makes it tremendously special.
“My vehicles are horrendously expensive.” Exclaimed Ward, “But we design it and price it without compromise. At the end of the day if I’m not passionate about it I’m going to suck at it. Thank god we found enough people that are into it.”
We’re glad people are into it too.