We’ve been following the work of Jonathan Ward and his ICON brand for a while now, and the LA-based shop’s latest build is one of the most inspired to date.
ICON’s track record of restomodding vintage 4x4s—FJs, Defenders, the usual suspects—dovetailed nicely into a separate line of one-off builds centered on the idea of mixing a gracefully aged exterior with more modern or otherwise potent powertrains; bodies with patina, engines that you can cook and eat an egg on. That’s the basic idea of the company’s so-called “Derelict” builds, and the odd-dozen of projects completed under the banner thus far have relied on the same general formula of putting gregariously powerful American pushrods in big brash American shapes drawn in the middle of the 20th century. The motors are either brand new or built to today’s standards with modern components and techniques, but the bodies retain their marks of lives lived long.
They will take any body from any marque and put whatever you want under the hood regardless of piston count. It can even go down to none at all, as is the case with this 1949 Mercury Coupe. Lift the lead sled’s stately hood and you’ll see something that resembles a standard V8 shape until you notice that rather than valve covers and manifolds staring up at you from the spacious bay, it’s a pile of neatly arranged controllers and modules. Power and torque figures are 400hp and 470lb-ft thanks to a dual-electric motor running on a Tesla Performance 85kWh battery setup.
The concept of converting to electric isn’t a new one (this isn’t even ICON’s first go at it), but it’s unique for the same reasons behind everyone knowing who Steve Jobs is; it’s well-designed, packaged beautifully, and it’s simple to use. For instance, there are two means of charging it (range is estimated between 150-200 miles); one is a 125A fast-charge port stashed behind the rear license plate, the other a clever conversion of the original fuel-fill into a socket that accepts the typical Tesla chargers that you’d find at the gas station. The conversion was done in collaboration with Stealth EV, and the name fits the service. There aren’t stickers plastered on the bodywork to call attention to its whispering drivetrain, and you could park it at any lowrider show with none the wiser should you keep the hood shut.
The work on builds like this one begins in full once the body has been taken off of the chassis, which undergoes a process of reengineering to varying degrees depending on the project and its source of power, and while the patina is preserved on the removed shell (rather than faked with paint and solvents, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself) the whole car doesn’t come back together in the same way it came apart. On this build that means the interior has been reupholstered according to Ward’s aesthetics of period-correct looks that integrate modern amenities like air-conditioning, navigation aids, high-end audio setups, power windows, the works, if you want them.
We’re all about creations like this that merge two eras without one overpowering the other, but what do you think? Is the aged appearance dishonest to the batteries that undermine the original purpose of big cruiser coupes and other land yachts built in a time when a gallon of gas was measured in cents?