The $350,000 Icon Defender 4×4 Needs No Justification

Aftermarket SUVs tend to err on the side of overdone and overzealous.

Sung Han

In terms of tuning and custom builds, today’s automotive aftermarket is filled to the brim with questionable body molds, interiors that would make Xzibit cry, and dyno destroying turbo kits. “Restrained” and “subtle” are two descriptors seldom used at car shows and gatherings like SEMA or StanceNation, and the veritable SUV is the most common victim in the aftermarket world. Jonathan Ward, a straight-talking, self-proclaimed “industrial design geek” and owner of Icon, stands in opposition. Before a build, Ward drives hundreds of miles in the car, and, he says, “I write a shitlist of things that really fucking irk me.” Then he scraps all the non-essentials and refines the rest.

With cars, the classiest, most elegant and timeless designs tend to be practices in minimalism and purpose. It’s the attempts to highlight, exaggerate or supplement — in luxe or opulence — that often destroys the purity of design in the auto’s original iteration. “Transportation has become so segmented and narrowly focused,” Ward says. So he looks beyond the industry, gathering inspiration from “anywhere outside of transport — fashion, architecture, aerospace, all industrial design.”

Ward’s projects run a common theme of “utility, but bespoke,” be it the Icon FJ, BR, TR or Derelict series. He files down the trucks and SUVs to their core purpose, getting rid of “the half-pound pieces of plastic you wouldn’t even put in your bathroom drain,” and replacing them with CNC’d metal. The end result? A no-frills utility vehicle, made from quality parts and materials; a well-tailored suit, with a V8 lump in the front.

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