Edmonton Journal

Beat up exterior, modern interior

California firm gives new guts to classic ‘Derelicts’

- Clayton Seams Driving

Classic cars are great to look at. Their sharp chrome bumpers and bold grilles might not be ideal for aerodynami­cs or pedestrian safety, but they sure do look good.

The problems with owning a classic car start when you climb behind the wheel. Most pre-1960 classics struggle to drive at highway speeds for extended periods, and braking must be done well in advance to prevent flying through a red light. What are people to do when they want that cool 1950s style but still need a daily driver?

Jonathan Ward of ICON in California thinks he might have the answer — an unassuming-looking vintage car with modern underpinni­ngs?

He realized early on that using a stock 1950s car as daily transporta­tion was fraught with issues, so he decided to build a 1950s car of his own.

He started with a 1952 Chrysler station wagon that had a lovely rusted and faded patina and added the front clip of a similarly aged DeSoto. Then he got creative.

The ancient Chrysler underpinni­ngs were replaced with an advanced Art Morrison chassis with modern suspension and disc brakes, then a modern 6.1-litre Dodge Hemi engine was installed.

This is where most hot-rodders would paint the wagon a deep metallic red and add modern leather bucket seats to the interior. But Ward did the opposite. He clear-coated the original faded paint on the wagon to preserve it and kept the original layout of the interior. He kept the pizza-sized steering wheel and made all the old chrome switches and knobs work with a modern climate-control system.

It started out as a personal project, but when he was finished, he realized, “This is ICON,” and he turned it into a business.

The car went on to win multiple awards, made it onto an episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, was featured on the cover of Hot Rod magazine, and soon requests starting pouring in from people who wanted their very own “brand new” beat-up hotrod.

Ward calls these cars Derelicts and if you want one, you have to put down a hefty deposit and then wait more than two years before they can even start work on your car. But when you see these cars up close, it’s easy to see why people are willing to wait.

The attention to detail borders on insanity. Every visual cue of the cars’ modern underpinni­ngs is carefully hidden.

One customer wanted a centre armrest with a modern big-gulp sized cupholder and a charge port for his iPhone. Ward says it took more than 140 hours to design, prototype, cad plate and upholster. And that was just for the armrest!

Even the bench seats, which look low-tech, feature different kinds of foam to create a bucket sensation as you sit on them with a subtle bolstering effect. It’s easy to walk around one of these cars for hours just soaking in the details.

The fact that these cars don’t require intensive maintenanc­e opens up the market for a whole new buying demographi­c. Many of the people who buy ICON Derelicts aren’t the type who spend their weekends rebuilding engines on their kitchen table, but are a new kind of enthusiast who want classic style with modern drivabilit­y.

But the Derelicts are just one part of ICON’s business. ICON started out as a company making off-road parts for Toyota Land Cruisers and now they make turnkey Land Cruisers and Ford Broncos with modern components. But their off-roaders have paint.

Of course, they’ll still make you a Derelict should you wish, but Ward acknowledg­es that the Derelict cars are “the dumbest business thing we do” because of the insane amount of time it takes to build each one.

There are, of course, people who don’t “get” the Derelicts. The whole point is to preserve that beautiful natural patina the cars have earned, but some people just don’t understand the appeal. But if you want a truly one-of-a-kind classic that gets attention at every car show and can drive you to and from work without issues, you might want to consider getting in line for a Derelict.

 ?? Photos: Clayton Seams/ Driving ?? California’s ICON shop is always busy, so if you want a vintage 1950s car with modern underpinni­ngs, be prepared to wait up to two years.
Photos: Clayton Seams/ Driving California’s ICON shop is always busy, so if you want a vintage 1950s car with modern underpinni­ngs, be prepared to wait up to two years.
 ??  ?? ICON brings rusty classics into the modern age but allows them to retain the patina of age they’ve richly earned.
ICON brings rusty classics into the modern age but allows them to retain the patina of age they’ve richly earned.

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