Icon gives the ’53 Chev pick-up new bones and organs to create one epic pro-tourer

Photographers: Alastair Ritchie

PUT simply, Jonathan Ward’s company, ICON 4×4, builds epic pro-tourers. The LA-based company started by building super-high end, retro-looking Toyota FJ40 LandCruisers and first-generation Ford Broncos, before moving onto the ice-cool Derelict machines.

Derelicts are ratty-looking, patina-covered cars from the ‘40s and ‘50s that retain the original style and feel the manufacturer intended, but feature modern chassis, drivetrains and suspensions under the weathered paint and classic interiors. What you’re looking at here is neither an ICON nor a Derelict – it’s Ward’s new creation, the Thriftmaster.

Jonathan is building five of these sweet ’47-’53 Chev 3100 pick-ups at a cost of between $US225,000 to $US250,000 each. That might sound like a hell of a lot of hooch for a farm truck, but there is some serious stuff under the skin.

Under the stock-looking sheet metal is a full CAD-designed Art Morrison chassis, rack-and-pinion steering, tubular control arms, triangulated four-link suspension, six- and four-pot brakes, ABS and an all-aluminium LC9 5.3-litre small-block V8. You can have your choice of four-speed auto or five-slot manual, blown or NA engine and satin or gloss paint, though this first model looks awesome in the dark olive satin.

“I chose this model because I was restoring one at my house years ago and was stuck under the bed when I heard footsteps,” says Ward. “A friend was coming for lunch with some of her friends. I asked the first person approaching to hold up the bed so I could get out; I then introduced myself to her and that turned out to be my future wife!

“I always felt they were the epitome of the classic American truck. I had restored a few but always tired of them quickly due to the driving experience. I also have been on a bit of a Raymond Loewy kick for a while, and had fun infusing more of an art deco design in the details, inspired by his work.”

Jonathan started by scanning an original Chev frame into CAD and sent it to chassis guru Art Morrison. Morrison then supplied a mandrel-bent mild steel set-up that featured laser-cut accessory mounts, before the brand new GM-licensed shell from Real Steel was mounted up.

ICON then fitted out the triangulated four-link, full independent TIG-welded front, JRE coilover struts, 20:1-ratio rack-and-pinion, collapsible stainless Ididit steering column and custom swaybar.

Four-wheel disc brakes were decades away when the original 3100s were around, but the ICON truck scores not only six-pot and four-pot calipers front and rear, but ABS and full stainless lines. The whole lot is perched on Circle Racing billet CNC-machined 18-inch wheels finished in matching body colour and wrapped in Nitto NT555 285/295 rubber.

Thriftmaster #001 has the herbs to back up the exotic price tag, too. With 435hp on tap, the emissions-tested LC9 5.3-litre Chevy small-block runs 9.5:1 compression ratio, meaning it runs happily on pump fuel, while the Magnusson TVS1900 supercharger uses an internal bypass valve to use less than 3hp at 100km/h.

The system is further bolstered by a water-to-air intercooler, TIG-welded headers and ceramic-coated dual three-inch exhaust, while the engine is kept cool thanks to an ICON-made alloy radiator and dual electric fans.

Transmission choices are between a Tremec TKO five-speed manual or optional 4L65E auto. Ward selected the 4L65E as it has five-pinion gears for better strength as well as the new adaptive shift technology, known as Electronic-Controlled Capacity Clutch (ECCC). ECCC is meant to allow smoother shifts and stop the ’box hunting between gears on hills.

The rear-end features a Currie nine-inch diff with Strange 31-spline axles and a 3.89:1 final drive.

The cabin would make ol’ Farmer Brown flip out with all the features Ward has packed in. On top of the air conditioning, power demister, power windows and tilt steering column, there are power door locks, Wi-Fi Hot Spot, web-enabled Kenwood and Audison digital audio, satellite navigation, full insulation, bison-hide on Glide Engineering seats, custom vintage-design reduced-diameter bison-wrapped 16-inch steering wheel, Rolls-Royce Wilton wool carpet, Alcantara headliner, smoked glass and brushed nickel-plated trim that has an aircraft-grade ceramic clear coat.

The whole lot is lit with modern LEDs and a complete custom wiring loom made by ICON from front to back, featuring a modern 140A single-wire alternator to help run all the tech. One really cool piece of modern ingenuity in the Thriftmaster is the ISIS wiring system, which uses a touch-screen and PIN code to let you start the car or access electronic functions, like fans, air con, sat nav and more.

“The biggest challenge was getting the whole enchilada into CAD, as no files existed,” says Ward. “Then the dash redesign was the biggest hour-eater, plus I had fits developing the ceramic-coated, brushed nickel trim – that took forever.”

There’s no word yet on how many Ward has sold, but going on the response to the new machine at SEMA it won’t be long ’til they’re sold out, as they have such a well-considered and respectful blend of modern smarts with ’50s style. As Jonathan himself says: “We celebrate the history, while infusing the best state-of-the-art content, to create unique daily drivers rich in character and distinction.”