By Matt Stone, photos courtesy Icon 4x4
Crave the ultimate crew cab?
Imagine a mid-1960s crew cab Dodge packing all the power, chassis sophistication and comfort of a modern Ram 2500 4x4, but built with quality and technology exceeding that of the world's most expensive show rods and factory concept cars with a look that respects the ethos and period of the original design. That loosely describes an Icon Dodge truck.
Icon founder Jonathan Ward's background is in authentic, historically accurate, Concours d'Elegance-level automobile restoration. Ward took a fancy to the early Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser and nearly 20 years ago developed a business to restore or more accurately, remanufacture as new, vintage cruisers. He, his wife and a merry band of hot rodders, fabricators, technicians and automotively talented elves opened TLC in a former car lot in Southern California's San Fernando Valley. They set up the shop and started restoring and essentially remanufacturing early cruisers to look and run just as they did the day they were built. The quality of these restorations is first rate, but this level of handwork is expensive, as the trucks are disassembled down to their frames, then virtually rebuilt as new from the tires up.
Customers loved TLC's level of quality and authenticity, and began asking for appearance and performance upgrades, which Ward at first resisted, then ultimately offered. Besides his exceptional technical and mechanical skills, Ward also is a gifted automotive designer, possessing great vision and the desire to create unique vehicles. From this he developed a sub-brand, Icon, which combines the profile and sheet metal of an early vehicle with a substantially upgraded and somewhat reimagined chassis, running gear, interior and exterior persona. The first Icon was a Toyota Land Cruiser, and the company has since developed Icon-styled Jeeps, Ford Broncos and now Dodge Power Wagons.
For the Power Wagon, Icon began with a mid-'60s Dodge crew cab and replaced the underpinnings with a modern-day Ram chassis and powertrain. The redone truck boasts a 5.9-liter Cummins turbodiesel modified by Gale Banks Engineering and backed by a six-speed manual transmission. The Cummins engine offers 975 pounds-feet of torque (that's not a typo, it's 975). Additional engine hardware includes a Six-Gun diesel tuner, a Banks iQ man-machine interface, a Monster-Ram intake manifold, a Banks monster diesel dual exhaust, a Banks power PDA screen and a Banks brake exhaust braking system.
The suspension and rolling stock are upgraded, while the factory 4x4 system is retained. Modifications include a 41/2-inch Baja 1000 Chase lift kit equipped with Fox 3.0 reservoir shocks underpinned by matte black finish Hutchinson 17-by-8 Monster WA-1175 series rims shod with BF Goodrich all-terrain 37-inch tires.
The cabin is substantively redesigned: It's trimmed in Rolls-Royce wool carpeting and upholstered in supple yet rugged bison hide. Upgraded air conditioning, navigation and Bluetooth are included — natch. Words can't describe the stratospheric levels of design, handcrafting and materials that go into making an old truck an Icon. Ward points to the truck's interior with pride, noting that "there's not a single bulb in it — all cabin illumination comes courtesy of various forms of efficient, high-tech LEDs." The sun visors are the same as those found in a Learjet cockpit. All the knobs on the dash are the same shape as the original black plastic Dodge pieces, except they've been remanufactured and machined out of brush-finished aluminum billet. The original radio head has been gutted, and now it controls a pop-up nav/entertainment/Bluetooth system that mates with your smartphone, which stays neatly out of sight in the factory glove box. The detailing, fabrication and finish work will drive even the most detail-oriented enthusiast just a little crazy (in a good way) with its imagination and execution.
Sitting on the big 200's re-engineered front bench provides a great view out of the decidedly 1960s window line. The tallish six-speed shifter recalls a bit of the old "granny low" stick that this truck might have had when it was new. The Cummins fires up with no drama, settling into a welcome and familiar burble at idle.
The new six-speed transmission packs a stump-puller low gear, so you can take off from a stop in 2nd and drive the box in 2nd to 6th gear most of the time. The clutch is relatively light, although the takeup is a bit higher than expected. You'll immediately notice a fountain of low-end torque, and so too many revs are needed before it's time for a higher gear. Third is a great around-town gear, and 4th will get you up any freeway on-ramp. The torque is so abundant that you won't find yourself doing a lot of shifting unless you want to, and the pitch of the turbo's gentle whistle raises and lowers like an audible tachometer. With nearly 1,000 pounds-feet of torque on hand, there's even a bit of meaningful acceleration to be found in 5th and 6th gears, so just a gentle tap of the pedal is all that's needed for most passing situations.
Since the chassis is taken from a modern Ram, the ride quality is superb; body motions are well controlled without too much pitching or harshness. The cab is well insulated, so it's quiet inside. And no 1965 Dodge truck ever steered as well as this one; of course the original black plastic tiller is now controlling a modern Ram power-steering system.
You want brakes? Here, you get all you want, with lots of stopping power and great modulation. For all of the D200's show-car levels of fit and finish, we can't imagine a better tow vehicle for your RV or car trailer, with its retro-modern look and a presence nothing else can match. The overall driving feel is one of strength, power and sophistication.
Hemi-gasoline-powered Icon 200s might cost a little less, but an elegant, luxury beast-of-burden just like this one costs nearly $300,000. Want your own? Visit the reformers gallery at www.icon4x4.