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Reimagining the iron horse in Chatsworth

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Wed, Sep 28, 2016

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


The ICON kitchen in Chatsworth has some unique recipes (Nakano)

Story by Doug Stokes Pictures by Roy Nakano EDITOR’S NOTES 09.27.16: We saw a new definition of the word ICON today. As members of the Motor Press Guild, a number of LA Car staffers were invited to a luncheon meeting at the ICON works in Chatsworth for a unique opportunity to meet the main man, Jonathan Ward, and be treated to his delivering an easy-going master class in design theory and implementation that would not have been out of place if spoken to a third year class at Art Center. Ward and his staff at ICON are involved in the re-animation of some very special automobiles, with a very tangible penchant for classic 4X4s, but enough imagination left over to take their very special, cocked-head look at many other worthy machines.


The FJ was the first recipe cooked up by ICON (Nakano)

“Restoration” is just a starting word here, depending on the client’s wish, Ward’s incredibly talented crew can produce a perfect nut for nut machine that now exists precisely as it left the showroom floor, and they have for museums and collectors world-wide … or, just as easily, go hundreds of leagues further into the lexicon of design. Of course the real magic at ICON is the subtle, reimagining of classic machines that Ward and his people do with such alacrity. Dead serious, and almost deliriously happy to be so; Ward piles detail on detail … Some so subtle that they hide in plain sight, others (tiny notes, phrases) that are so true that they seem to engulf the whole automobile without a whiff of fuss, flash, or cuteness. The rather plain term “right” comes to mind as the perfect tribute to the artwork at ICON.


Patina and 21st century running gear make up the ICON Derelicts (Nakano)

The work performed there is neither easy nor cheap and there are no loss leaders, cut-rate or half-off/half-baked “deals”. This is all-in speciality building in the very best tradition of the early coachbuilders and it costs what it costs. I wear a very nice $19.95 watch, it tells time and reminds me of the date whenever I’ve forgotten it. I want to wear a Rolex Daytona (or a blue-green Milgauss). I also want Mister Ward and his team to slice about 20 inches out the middle of a Porsche Panamera (thus making it a two-door new-age 928) and I’m thinking about taking a sack lunch to work by bicycle (for the next 20 years) to save up for the down payment on the work. Take a stroll through and find out. … as they ask: What moves YOU. – DS


Tender loving care, yes, but TLC stands for Toyota Land Cruiser here (Nakano)

SIDEBAR COMMENT My personal truck of choice is a 1951 Chevy pickup. Trouble with old pickups is they were meant for an older era and are wholly impractical for modern use unless updated extensively. Mine has a front clip from a 1980 Firebird so I have power steering, power disk brakes, and a V* under the hood. Take that concept three steps further to replacing the entire undercarriage, driveline, and creating a modern interior while maintaining the exterior vintage character and you have ICON’s business plan. Yesteryears automobiles were visually distinguishable from one another. Before the corporate bean counters came along, motorists could express themselves through the car they drove. “Always been a Packard man,” they might say with pride. ICON’s Jonathan Ward searches out interesting old automobiles of character and breathes new, wonderful life back into them. His large Chatsworth operation is a dream job for metal fabricators, mechanics, and automobile artists looking to surround themselves with “look what we did!” attitude. The shop is clean, employees well fed, and high end customers are lined up down the street. ICON does not perform the classic restoration we often think of. They do little to the actual body of donor cars and insist on keeping as many chrome pieces, glass, sight lines, surface rust and general proportions inherent the the original designer’s thinking. Where my old truck is a hodge lodge of various parts, ICON builds entirely new components from the ground up. “I have customers who take them, park them and admire them,” says Ward, “and others who drive them every day. Regardless, they are built to the same spec and we are all proud of every piece that leaves the shop.” This attention to detail does not come cheap but ICON is not at all interested in building for the masses. If the project fails to excite Jonathan from the outset, forget about it. Bring him something challenging and the game is on! - Harold Osmer Glenn Oyoung photo gallery: R Nakano photo gallery: [nggallery id=icon2016]

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