How Icon CEO Jonathan Ward builds Broncos, Land Cruisers, FJs and Derelicts
The 1st thing you recognize when you step into Icon’;s sprawling, 120,000-square-foot store in Chatsworth, Calif. — past the fenced-in yard of Broncos of every single dimension and Land Cruisers of every generation, previous the 1952 Chrysler Town & Country station wagon with the DeSoto front end and a massaged patina of greens, browns, and ochres resembling a Cezanne painting — is the smell. It smells previous in here. Intoxicating and nostalgic, the lingering scent of worn leather and burnished metal mixed with sweat and oil. Previous and musty like a church library. Outdated and unpretentious like your grandpa’;s cologne.
Icon CEO Jonathan Ward likes it this way. He talks a million miles a minute, so quickly that I can barely hold up with my notes. In a single train of believed he will spout technical details, craftsman minutiae, French-bodied autos, and the supplier of his bison upholstery with a certain boredom in his voice a single gets the impression that he is explained this to his wife and company companion Jamie in his sleep. He is a single of individuals no-bulls**t kind of guys who we all considered did not exist any longer, a 6-foot tall blend of laid back California beach bum and East Coast neurotic — born in Maryland, and grew up in New York — which is a trait that manifests anytime he latches onto a new undertaking, or a layout component that piques his curiosity, anything at all for him to dive into headfirst.
Painting, woodworking, architecture military and aerospace and marine influences all dance all around his head. He has no formal layout training, but taught himself CAD — every little thing from SolidWorks to CATIA to SketchUp, “which is a joke, but my favorite — ” and now does all the style perform himself. Folders on his iMac swell with photographs of magnetos, gauges and machine-turned dashboards, culled from sources as varied as Pebble Seaside and SEMA, the latter of which he has been attending since 1997.
“I when brought 15 vehicles to SEMA,” he explained. “Only did that 15 clusterf**k as soon as. Never ever doing that yet again.”
A handful of occasions, Ward told me, with an air of secrecy, “I was in the entertainment sector.” He never ever elaborated past this. It was a phrase that framed Ward as a company-suited executive or a producer who burned out. But in fact, Ward started acting when he was 12 and retired when he was 28, a job spurred from a likelihood experience with Mikhail Baryshnikov. He starred in Television, Broadway, and feature movies as a child star who remained remarkably grounded — an individual who presumably resents the phrase “youngster star” and the burdens and entitlement it connotes.
That is all in the past. A few years in the past, Ward and his wife were in South Africa, sitting in a wine bar somewhere overlooking the ocean — extremely romantic, you know. Ward had observed his fair share of Land Cruisers when he traveled overseas, and had fallen in really like with the ubiquitous, indestructible, go-anyplace machines. All these meticulously restored Mustangs and Camaros all over the place? No one was carrying out that to Land Cruisers. He explained all of this to Jamie, who seemed to realize. And with “no organization strategy, and no intelligent forethought,” the 2 made the decision to quit their jobs on the spot.
Into the shop now, from which emerge custom Broncos and gorgeous Land Cruisers that sell to the tune of 6 figures the vast square footage is divided by a towering rack of elements. On a single side is the TLC operation, in which they are currently exhibiting a Land Cruiser some Tender Loving Care by stuffing a small-block Chevy in it. On the other, an early Bronco in unique faded olive paint is obtaining a total Mustang GT drivetrain, its body panels piled in a corner against the wall across the aisle 2 Icon FJ44s are becoming finished, a bald and bespectacled shopworker hand-putting in a ragtop frame. He’;s squinting as he does so, arms over his head, doing work a screw into the metal roll hoop. Reggae music plays above a boombox, drowned out by the raw whirr of energy tools.
In the corner, previous yet another worker grinding a bracket, have been the Derelicts.
“Freaky a single-offs,” said Ward, who considers them the most entertaining element of the Icon business. At SEMA last yr, he brought a 1946 Lincoln Club Coupe with curved fenders that exhibited a burnished brown like a nicely-rubbed statue. It just so occurred to have an Ar2rk Morrison chassis, independent suspension, disc brakes, and a 5.-liter Ford Coyote engine. 2 SEMAs earlier, Ward developed a 1952 Chevrolet Styline Deluxe Coupe with, uh, an Ar2rk Morrison chassis, independent suspension, disc brakes, and a 6.2-liter LS3 V8. Up coming to it was a 1948 Buick Super Eight with an “Ar2rk Morrison chassis, independent suspension, disc brakes, LS9 from a CTS-V,” rattles Ward with an air of blasé.
“4L85E, paddle shifted, iPod controls…”
We went outside. He lit a cigarette, an American Spirit, offered an additional 1. “No? Effectively, you’;re sensible.” We stared at the store good deal, along the fence opposite the developing. Trucks and SUVs have been parked 2, 3 rows deep. A 1951 Packard Patrician sat in boring oxidized beige that was most likely when a really good shade of brown, a shade that a patriarch could be proud of, uncommon portholes lining the rear pontoon fender. Ward is preparing to gut it and create a Carrera Panamerica racer out of it. “Know anyone that demands Packard elements?” he asked. As a matter of truth, we right here at Autoweek do. “I’;ll donate components,” he stated with the utmost of seriousness. “Just let me know.”
Lots of Broncos, of program — it really is what received Icon its notoriety. “Broncos are on fire correct now!” he lamented. “I’;m paying out triple for Broncos nowadays than prior to we went public, prior to I opened my massive mouth.” He’;ll donate Bronco components to restoration outlets for free of charge — “the excellent ones, anyway.” Icon has 41 Broncos on backorder, spurred by GQ’;s nomination as its Auto of the 12 months. (“A reincarnated Bronco with the original’;s f**k-you ruggedness ratcheted so higher,” wrote the men’;s magazine, “You are not positive if you ought to drive it to the seaside or the front lines.”) Ward delivered just 9 Broncos last yr. If you phone him up for 1 right now, be ready to wait at least 2 many years. If you want an FJ, even so, Ward guarantees that you are going to get yours by Christmas.
The elegance of the Derelict program is that it enables Ward to increase outdoors his comfort zone, with autos he typically wouldn’;t consider. “I truly want to find a Series II Bentley Drophead,” he smiled, “really piss everyone off — but no 1 lets them go derelict. It really is a tough car to discover.” A 1964 Volkswagen Microbus is coming in for a Porsche drivetrain, a 3.2-liter engine out of a late-’;80s Carrera. There’;s a 1959 Mercedes-Benz 300D Adenauer, a rare breed, a beautiful battleship of a automobile: complete-length Webasto sunroof, no B-pillars. Ward and AMG had been initially supposed to collaborate on a Derelict project, but AMG proved challenging to perform with — hence, in will go a Corvette powertrain, and GM flacks want him to mention “reputable GM energy” when Ward finishes it.
Ward took in a 1951 Mercury from a client who informed him, “Give me at least 600 hp and an interior that resembles a 1940s Atlantic City steakhouse.”
Yeah, he can do that.
That aforementioned Chrysler with the DeSoto nose? That’;s Ward’;s day-to-day driver, with its patina pretty much glowing. It is built atop an Art Morrison chassis. A 6.1-liter HEMI underneath the hood generates 521 hp. “Leave the window down, sideways down a f**kin’; grime road, valet park it — no preconceived notions of wealth or crap you get with normal vehicles. Just enjoyable as all hell.” The Derelict side of his company is the most fun. How could it not be? The mindset that comes with the honesty of preservation is priceless it can not be fabricated from any CNC machine.
It truly is also the income-dropping side of enterprise — each and every car a a single-off, each and every rusty fender irreproducible. The supply of barn-uncover Lincoln Zephyrs and Buick Roadmasters is unstable, to say the least. Is Ward willing to venture into the back roads of Ellsworth County, Kansas? The spirit of Icon signifies that even if he was not backlogged with years’; worth of orders, he really well would.
Possibly which is exactly where he found the 1939 Nash wagon with “a kickass nose,” a vehicle as soon as made for traveling salesmen — the seats could fold down. It is quickly for the Derelict therapy, and will be acquiring independent suspension, disc brakes, a 6.2-liter LS3 V8, an Art Morrison chassis…
If you compose Ward a verify for around $ 300,000 he will grab a Dodge D200 from the yard and right away set to giving it the Icon therapy. 1st, the body comes off for a full metal restoration. Then it is plopped atop a contemporary Ram 3500 chassis, complete with contemporary diesel energy: a 5.9-liter Cummins is what seems to be doing work so far. It will make at least 550 hp, but more importantly, it will create 975 lb-ft of torque. “Gale Banking institutions is a buddy,” he said, with giggly self-deprecation, “so Banks f**ked with it. It’;s a freight train…heh heh. It is so f**king stupid.”
Underneath, “everything’;s all balls-out, polished…” Ward’;s voice trails off as he invites me to check out it out. The truck is lifted 4.5 inches and supported by a Fox suspension. The mirrors are CNC machined by friends at Nike, whose CEO Mark Parker grew to become intrigued by Ward’;s operate in 2011 and enlisted an army of Nike designers, engineers and machinists to give technical assistance. The windows are skyscraper glass, waterjet lower and heat tempered. The seats are reduce from Tempur-Pedic foam and wrapped in bison hide, supplied by one particular of Ward’;s friends. The instruments are reshaped to use Dodge’;s CAN bus interface. The tailgate latches were redesigned so the gate isn’;t going to basically crash down and at some point sag when you unlatch it, “which is just bats**t,” Ward swears, “but it truly is component of the exciting.”
Ward’;s design philosophy is straightforward, and this is how he puts it: to celebrate what the unique designers had in thoughts “just before the pencil pushers f**ked it up.” Unlimited price range. No elements sharing. No sacrifices. The original Bronco utilized mirrors from a Falcon, a truck speedometer, Ford F-100 axles and brakes. The Icon Bronco’;s upright a single-piece mirrors are CNC-machined, its speedometer bezel carved from one particular piece of aluminum and inspired by the observe situation of a Bell & Ross Tourbillon.
This is luxury nostalgia at its best: the car that could have been all individuals many years in the past, unrestrained in a way no factory could generate. “Transportation designs of the past,” mentioned Ward, “but in a modern context.” Toyota had that in thoughts when it approached TLC for input on what would become the FJ Cruiser.
Ward mentioned wanting to commence a watch business: “I’;ve been chomping at the bit.” Then he launched into an unfocused, stream-of-consciousness discussion about retrogrades, jump hrs, coaxial movements, tourbillions, energy reserves, his Jacques Cousteau observe, just one particular piece in his “entirely out of management observe assortment,” an out of handle company notion from a guy who operates very best when he’;s witnessed as out of control, reveling in the sublime and the ridiculous, the rational and the bizarre…
Yeah, Icon Watches would be a fitting proposition. Watches, like the higher-end Reformers, are all about stressing the information. “We’;re obtaining fun, for better or worse,” he explained. “Hopefully, the marketplace will tolerate our value stage, but fortunately there is enough folks who realize. It is a company founded on my lunacy.”
Keep tuned tomorrow when we deliver you element 2, a deeper dive into the Icon Thriftmaster.
Get far more auto news, reviews and view each and every day: Signal up to have the Autoweek Day-to-day Drive delivered right to your inbox.