The 12 Classic Cars ICON’s Jonathan Ward Dreams Of
LA’s maverick car builder on his favorite whips of all time
Jonathan Ward loves old cars.
He loves them big as boats. He loves them matchbox-sized. He loves them well-loved and covered in rust, because, in his words, “They’re batshit f***ing crazy.”
His companies, ICON 4X4 and TLC, remodel classic Broncos, FJs, Land Cruisers, Thriftmasters and any other rustbucket that tickles his fancy.
The football field-sized yard next to his manufacturing facility in Chatsworth is lined with rows of cars slated for remodels, and inside the adjacent 50,000-square-foot facility, 40 men work in teams of five on each of ICON’s five lines (the four aforementioned models, along with a series of one-offs Ward calls “Derelicts”).
When he gave us a tour last month — something he does for all prospective buyers — he also unloaded more automotive esoterica than you can shake a Model T at.
We asked him for a list of the classic cars he’d most like to get his hands on, and brother, the list is a long and sumptuous walk through automotive history.
1938 Dubonnet Hispano Suiza H6C
“I’m gonna break into the Petersen Automotive Museum one of these days and steal the Hispano Suiza H6C, known as the Xenia Scope. Everything down to the f***ing tailpipe is out there … streamlined, modern, aerodynamic. That car is magic.”
1925 Rolls Royce Phantom 1 Jonckheere Coupe “Round Door Rolls”
“The history of the car is insane. This car, the lady used it in the Hamptons to take to her country club and her chauffeur was obese and one day he got stuck in the door of the car. She was so embarrassed that she left the car there and told them to put it in storage. She passed and it ended up at a junkyard. A collector knew the car, tracked it down and bought it. Mr. Petersen restored it.”
“The engineering on this car and the aesthetic are unbelievable. The Saoutchik-bodied TAV8-32 — I can’t afford these. Even their ads were on another level. They had 3D ads in the ‘30s that came with the glasses. They were out there. It was designed to fight the Bugatti Royale.”
1964 Facel Vega II
“One of those midcentury, collaborative European-American cars that nailed it. The Bentley designer did the interior. Ferrari’s brake partner was the brake supplier. The engine was a f***ing Hemi out of Detroit. A Spanish company built it. It was an incredibly complex range of designers and suppliers resulting in just a kickass, gorgeous, beautifully proportioned car. I want one of these bad, and unfortunately, gone are the days of me seeing them in the local recycler for 20 grand. Now they’re six digits or more and impossible to get your hands on.”
Mercedes Benz W196R
“Not the fenderless, but the full-bodied version. Famous early Le Mans car for them (Mercedes).”
1938 Bentley Embiricos by Jean Pauline
“The first Bentley to deviate from the vertical grill. It pissed off Bentley big time. The only reason this car got built was that the client was Bentley’s top annual buyer at Bentley’s top dealer in London. The guy said Bentley had become stodgy and ‘I think I’m gonna get one of those French cars because I want something with a little more panache, times have changed.’ And he went to Bentley and they said, ‘No, we don’t do that.’ So the client and a distributor hired a dentist who was a part-time car designer to render this car. Bentley was so impressed with the guy’s work that they hired him as their first niche designer.”
Monteverdi Hai ‘60s Continental Collaboration
“Another freak of a car from the ‘60s continental collaborations. It’s a one-of-one car. It’s like a 918 meets Ferrari.”
1937 Lincoln Zephyr Coupe
“I’m actually kinda living the dream, building two of them for clients.”
1937 Cord Sportsman 812
“If I can’t find the DeSoto, I’d want either a sedan or Sportsman. They’re gorgeous. Best gauges of any car ever designed.”
Unknown 1930s Mercedes
“I was at a swap meet in Paris and saw this model in a collection of pocket watches and general shit. And there was a cut-out picture from newsprint of this car, the Mercedes, and I was so enamored with the shape and have been grilling every car geek I can find. All we can tell is that it’s a European showcar body of a fairly pedestrian ‘30s Mercedes. But, you’ll start to notice there’s a theme in my favorites: it’s that streamlined modern look. Even the uber geeks can’t figure it out. Maybe we’ll model it out from the photo.”
1973 or ‘74 Volvo ES Wagon
“The most practical car of the bunch. But I just love that car.”
1917 Miller Aerodynamic Coupe Golden Sub recreated by Webb’s Automotive Art
“A landspeed car back in the day that got totalled in a wreck. A guy remade it. It’s only senseless oddball shit that I want.” [Editor’s note: the above image is a different recreation than the one on Jonathan Ward’s wishlist].
Nota bene: ICON is hosting a charity event at their factory on May 7, Cars and Casino, featuring gambling and cars and Aaron Eckhart mc’ing.