Birth of an Icon

The first thing you notice when you step into Icon's sprawling, 120,000-square-foot shop in Chatsworth, Calif.—past the fenced-in yard of Broncos of every size and Land Cruisers of every generation, past 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 old in here. Intoxicating and nostalgic, the lingering scent of worn leather and burnished metal mixed with sweat and oil. Old and musty like a church library. Old and unpretentious like your grandpa's cologne.

We toured the shop of Icon, famous purveyor of custom Broncos and beautiful Land Cruisers that sell to the tune of six figures. Icon CEO Jonathan Ward led us around, talking a million miles a minute; in a single train of thought he will spout technical details, craftsman minutiae, French-bodied cars, and the supplier of his bison upholstery with a certain boredom in his voice; one gets the impression that he's explained this to his wife and business partner Jamie in his sleep.

He is one of those no-bullshit kind of guys who we all thought didn't exist anymore, a 6-foot tall combination 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 whenever he latches onto a new project, or a design element that piques his interest, anything for him to dive into headfirst.

There's more at Autoweek.com, where we have a full gallery of his shop as well as a drive of the Icon Thriftmaster, Ward's reimagining of a 1950s Chevrolet truck. In Ward's world, it would have a 440-horsepower supercharged LS3 and remachined everything, including a Mercedes SLS AMG gas cap.