There can’t be many better ways to spend a Saturday than to drive out to the valley and visit with Jonathan Ward, founder of ICON. I’ve been threatening to come and visit for some time, but hadn’t stepped up to make the trip until last week. The shop and showroom aren’t open on Saturday, but Jonathan didn’t mind coming by and showing me around on his day off.
I’ve admired ICON from afar for some time. The trucks are some of the most aesthetically appealing things I have ever seen. They also could be the most tortuous things for me, because I want one and am no where near being able to buy one. Frankly, I don’t know if I will ever be able to buy one. That said, I’m cool with not owning one. Visiting the garage and talking with Jonathan was pretty much as inspirational as it gets. I spent about three hours at ICON talking, looking around and taking pictures. When I left my head was spinning with ideas, books too read, investigations to conduct and things to learn.
Much of what goes into making the ICON is either custom done (or very small production) or comes from either aerospace or military applications. Being located in the San Fernando Valley lends itself to leveraging the now struggling Southern California aerospace industry. Jonathan eagerly speaks to the advantages of working with the Aerospace manufacturers: “They don’t mind making small quantities, and the quality is off the charts.” If you go into the ICON garage and look at the builds in progress, this quality is easy to spot. I learned that, more than anything, ICON wants to make the best possible truck that it can. If that means using a super high quality $8 part when the OEMs are using a similar part that costs 27 cents, then that is what ICON is going to do. It’s this crazy quest for the best that also leads to the very expensive price tags. Jonathan doesn’t hold back when he explains that he is making something very specific for a very specific customer.
After a few hours of talking Jonathan told me more about his interest in restoring Toyota Land Cruisers and the “irrational passion” that led him to eventually start TLC in 1996, and then later to establish ICON. Like many novel ideas, people told him he was crazy. When he opened his TLC showroom in Van Nuys, California (which is still in the same location, though it has grown over the years) people would tell him he was nuts and they didn’t hold back from letting him know they expected TLC to go out of business any day. That was 16 years ago and ICON still lives on today to make amazing vehicles that are the dreams of many, including myself. [ICON]