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Ford ICON Bronco review

By Matt Raudonikis, 07 Aug 2014 Road Tests

Ford ICON Bronco review

Hold on tight. This classic Ford packs a modern chassis and a V8 powertrain to deliver neck-snapping performance.

California's ICON 4x4 is best known for its high-end FJ Land Cruiser creations but this specialised workshop is keeping the dreams of other classic 4x4 vehicle enthusiasts alive.

ICON was established out of a leading LandCruiser restoration company called TLC but its latest creation pays tribute to an American off-road icon, the original Ford Bronco.

The first generation Broncos of 1966 to 1977 were Ford’s answer to the versatile CJ Jeep and were a compact vehicle, not a big truck as many Australians would regard a Bronco. They rode on a 92-inch (2337mm) wheelbase so they were more akin to a Defender 90 than anything else.

Ford Icon Bronco rear drivingLike the CJ and the Land Rover, the early Bronco was a minimalist yet functional 4x4 built to go anywhere and it’s this reputation and classic styling that has made them so desirable and collectible in the USA today – this has led to a thriving aftermarket Bronco parts and restoration industry.

You can’t call the ICON BR a restored Bronco. It’s remanufactured to offer the mod-cons and reliability of a modern vehicle yet retains the classic styling and diminutive dimensions.

“At ICON we aim to address the shortcomings of the original, re-engineer the mechanical content and all factors that would allow us to create a more modern driving experience fused with the vintage aesthetic,” ICON founder Jonathan Ward said.

Ford Icon Bronco interiorUnlike the ICON FJ vehicles which use a bodyshell that is new and manufactured specifically for the purpose, the ICON BR uses the original Ford body that is stripped and restored.

Jonathan and his team scour the US classifieds and scrapyards for suitable Broncos to use as donors and while some are too far gone to rescue, others are too good to cut up and are kept for classic restoration. The main requirement for an ICON is a good clean body, almost everything else is trashed.

Original box section Ford chassisThe original box section Ford chassis is replaced with one that is custom made using 2”x4”x0.180” mandrel-bent tubing and laser cut mounts from chassis guru Art Morrison. The more contemporary design of the replacement chassis features wider rails for enhanced rigidity and better weight distribution, thus improving dynamics and handling.

Fully remanufactured Dynatrac axles are fitted front and rear, with a high-pinion Dana 60 used at the rear and Dana 44 at the front, both with Superior 36-spline axles and 4.56:1 geared ARB Air Lockers. This particular vehicle features the optional Sport Brake Package with six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers and massive 405mm brake rotors.

Ford Icon Bronco driving rearThe diffs are mounted to the chassis via custom four-link suspension with Fox coil-overs fitted with Eibach springs and Hotchkis sway bars. The trailing arms use ‘Johnny joints’ which are softer riding and quieter than heim joints yet allow the same amount of movement for excellent articulation, giving this rig a full 300mm of travel at each end. The wheels on this BR are Pro Comp alloys wearing 285/75R17 BFG All Terrains.

Ford Icon Bronco engineIn line with the idea of creating a modern driving experience, the ICON specials are fitted with modern drivetrains and the BR gets a new five-litre Coyote V8 with more than 410hp, just like you’d find in a 2014 Mustang. The transmission is a Ford 4R75W auto running higher shift pressure for more positive gear shifts. A five-speed manual gearbox is also available if the owner wants one.

The twin transfer sticks operate an Atlas II transfer case with 3:1 low-range gears. Super low 5:1 gearing is available as an option. The twin sticks allow you to select rear, front or locked four-wheel drive to get you out of any situation. Custom driveshafts send the mojo to the Dynatracs axles and BFG rubber.

Ford Icon Bronco driving uphillThe vehicle might run original, restored Ford sheetmetal but it’s in the body where you can see the thousands of details typical of ICON. For example, The grille is laser-cut stainless steel and the side mirrors, fuel filler, door handles and light surrounds are also machined from billets. The headlights are LED units and LED lighting is used throughout.

A custom-made wiring loom is used and integrates with the new Ford engine loom. Modern, waterproof connectors and the fuse box are included and the dash features Dakota Digital gauges. It’s all designed to make operation as simple and reliable as driving a new 4x4.

Ford Icon Bronco driving over rocksUnfortunately for most of us, very few people will have the good fortune to own and drive an ICON be it the BR, FJ or other unique models. These vehicles come at a high cost and the price of an ICON Bronco can exceed $US200,000. You also have to wait for up to a year for it to be built. We can only dream.

Specifications: ICON BR
Engine: 5.0-litre petrol V8
Transmission: Ford 4-speed auto. Atlas 2 dual-range part-time 4WD
Power: Approx 320kW @ 6500rpm
Torque: Approx 529Nm @ 4250rpm
Suspension Front: Live axle Dynatrac Dana 44 with Fox Racing coil over springs.
Suspension Rear: Live axle Dynatrac Dana 60 with Fox coil over springs.
Wheels & tyres: Pro Comp Alloy wheels
Tyres: 285/75/17 BFG All Terrains
Price: Built to order but expect around US$200,000 depending on specification

Icon 4x4 was created by Jonathan Ward.

Icon badgeAfter starting TLC (A Land Cruiser service centre) in 1996 with his wife Jamie, Jonathan saw the need to develop a concept in response to the direction the vehicle collector market was heading.

“The results are what we know today as the ICON, a vehicle without peers for a journey without boundaries. Classic styling, modern performance and timeless utility,” says Jonathan of his creations.

As well as the ICON BR (Bronco), the California-based shop manufactured the ICON FJ (Land Cruiser) ICON CJ (Jeep) as well as one-off ICON Derelicts which put modern drive trains under old American cars and trucks.

For more info checkout www.icon4x4.com