The ICON Bronco
Jonathan Ward isn’t your average auto enthusiast. Where most people might find a hobby, Ward found a life mission. The history of ICON Motors dates to a trip that Ward and his wife made to South Africa in 1996. Land Rovers and other popular 4x4 models could all be found in the country’s milder terrain, but whenever the going got tough, there was only one model that was trusted - the Toyota Land Cruiser.
When Land Rovers got stuck in the deep African mud, it would be vintage Land Cruisers that were called to the rescue. The image of these vehicles that seemed to defy the ages stuck with Ward, and when he returned to Los Angeles he soon founded TLC motors.
Under the TLC moniker, Ward purchased every early model Land Cruiser he could get his hands on, and quickly became one of the premier restorers of vintage Land Cruisers in the world. TLC gained such recognition that Toyota Motor Corp. called on the shop to create one-off Toyota and Lexus show cars, before eventually asking them to help design what would become the modern FJ Cruiser.
It was this experience with Toyota that inspired Ward to change gears - and brand names. With the founding of ICON in 2007, Ward would focus not on preserving museum-quality pieces, but on building vehicles that blur the line between new and old, and challenge all preconceptions about what a car should be.
When you stop to consider the average lifespan of a car today, it’s rather unsettling. A machine that requires an incredible amount of natural resources to build, and can cost as much as a year’s salary, is tossed out as often as a pair of shoes. Sure, a brand new vehicle may last you ten to fifteen years before quitting on you, but the styling, features, and marketing that are used to sell it ensure that a car bought today will be considered junk before five years is up.
Improving gas mileage is a noble goal, but is essentially pointless as long as we are replacing our vehicles at the rate we are today. Why is it that a wristwatch that costs $4,000 is considered an heirloom, and a sedan that costs $40,000 considered a fashion accessory?
It is against this culture of disposal that ICON stands out as a beacon of promise. With ICON Motors, Ward takes classic 4x4’s and reengineers them into high-performance SUV’s with drool-inducing styling. Out of largely pre-existing parts, ICON builds vehicles that are designed to last throughout the owner’s lifetime and beyond.
Its newest model, the ICON Bronco, is the best example yet of these design principles. While advanced techniques are used to turn old Ford Broncos into top-of-the-line 4x4’s, the models are nearly devoid of the technology that comes standard in today’s vehicles. Every ICON Bronco is designed with one purpose in mind - to perform exceptionally well for as long as possible. Looking good is just a fortunate side effect.
With a price tag starting at $150,000, it’s easy to write the ICON Bronco off as a symbol of excess. Even the most budget automaker, however, has something to learn from Ward and his team. By foregoing short-lived trends in styling and technology, and focusing on the vehicle’s most basic purpose, ICON Motors offers a product that lives up to its sticker price and then some.
As long as major automakers are focused on building great quarterly reports and not great cars, they will be prime examples of waste and poor design. Until then don’t be surprised if it is Ward’s 4x4’s that are called to the rescue when the next generation of SUVs are stuck spinning their wheels in the mud.