Jonathan Ward’s ICON began as a cult backstreet workshop re-making iconic 1970s 4x4s for an appreciative audience of fashionable LA types. Models like the ICON Dog, FJ and BR took the Jeep, Toyota Land Cruiser and Ford Bronco and gave them elaborate overhauls, customising every conceivable detail. While the company’s Derelict line restores and patinates even more unlikely classics, from 1950s Americana to vintage Rolls-Royces, even electrifying models like a classic Fiat Giardiniera, there’s also the Reformer Series.
1970 Reformer by ICON
This is the ‘1970 Reformer’, the latest in a line of one-off projects that starts with a ‘timeless classic vehicle from any maker, from almost any era’, which is ‘then re-imagined for modern use’. The starting point was a 1970 Chevrolet Suburban, the sixth generation of a pioneering truck-based wagon that many cite as the original SUV.
ICON’s take on this classic family wagon is typically avant-garde. For a start, the 1970 Reformer sits low to the ground, the classic contemporary custom ‘stance’. Under the meticulously smoothed and restored bonnet sits a 1,000 horsepower Twin-Turbo Alien LS 427 developed by Californian specialists Nelson Racing Engines. The chassis is also entirely new, as is the drivetrain, gearbox, suspension and braking systems. All this high-performance extremity sits within a loving restored 1970 Suburban body, with an additional rear door added for easier passenger access.
Ward cites the influence of none other than Mies van der Rohe as one of the key inspirations behind the 1970 Reformer’s starkly minimal appearance. ‘This build was an incredible experience because the client kept wanting us to push further and further from the traditional, which I really enjoy,’ he says, pointing out that the car’s exteriors and interiors are directly taken from the legendary architect’s buildings and furniture.
Although the ‘less is more’ mantra can hardly apply to the 1970 Reformer’s performance, you can sense some of Mies’s famed meticulousness – like the one-piece grille machined from a solid billet of aluminium, or the bespoke one-off door handles, the leather trimmed interior and custom dashboard.
All of this comes at a quite staggering cost. ICON is offering the Reformer Series Suburban for $1.1m, a figure seemingly more suited to a bespoke supercar than a slice of 1970s-era Detroit design. Ward and his team are at the cutting edge of something relatively new, and that’s the evolution of the custom car scene into something more akin to the art world.
Although builders and enthusiasts have always treated custom cars as rolling sculptures, the 1970 Reformer goes further, evoking not just Mies van der Rohe’s steely perfection, but the intriguing installations of Donald Judd. As a powerful symbol of a vanishing age, this car says more than a thousand words.
For more details on ICON’s various projects visit ICON4x4.com
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Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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