Icon’s first derelict Bronco is burnished to perfection

1966 Icon Derelict Bronco parked on top of hill

All of Icon 4x4’s Ford Bronco or Toyota FJ40 restorations are built with an eye for detail, an emphasis on substance and usability over unnecessary flash. Icon built 14 Broncos for customers in 2017, with plans to build 17 by the end of 2018, but this 1966 Bronco roadster is new territory for the outfit. It’s the first that Icon has built in the ‘Derelict’ style that it adopted for a handful of previous car builds. The concept for every Derelict build is that it has to look untouched from the outside (read: patina), yet offer the reliability, drivability, and capability of a much more modern car.

The vast majority of the donor vehicles that Icon starts with need a full restoration, so it takes the perfect candidate to build a Derelict. It can’t have too much rust, and it must have its original paint—or what’s left of it. “It’s seldom we find one with the right patina but without the rust,” Icon founder Jonathan Ward says.

1966 Icon Derelict Bronco gauges
1966 Icon Derelict Bronco tailgate

It just so happened that this 1966 Bronco, fresh off its use as a ranch truck in Texas, was in just the perfect state of preservation for the Derelict treatment. In fact, as soon as it arrived at Icon’s Chatsworth, California, shop in June of 2017, Ward knew it had too much character and life left in the body panels to just strip it all down and start from scratch, as is usually the case. He posted the topless truck to Icon’s Instagram account and soon his phone rang with a buyer on the line. Instructions for the build were simple, “Build it like you were going to keep it.”

The build process for one of Icon’s completely resto-modded Broncos is lengthy, but practiced. The steps and procedures are ironed out in full. This type of build, however, requires a specific skill set, à la Liam Neeson. Everything has to function perfectly and still look good even though it’s spent the past 50 years at work, à la Liam Neeson.

Thankfully, the trucklet was almost entirely complete, and only a few pieces had to be blended into the well-worn interior and exterior. Icon aged the steering column a bit so it wouldn’t stand out, as it did for the gas cap and lockable center console. The upholstery is noticeably new, although the silver color doesn’t stand out much either. We did notice the heat-cured polyurea undercoating on both sides of the body tub that serves as part of the sound-deadening that helps the Bronco feel a whole lot more solid than its well-worn exterior appearance may suggest. Additional heat shielding between the body and the chassis keep heat from the transmission and especially the exhaust from cooking the floorboards.

Underneath the body, the roadster is just as modern and utilitarian as the rest of the Broncos that Icon builds, with an all new chassis and suspension and motivation from a Ford 5.0-liter Coyote V-8 crate engine. The tuning calibration, unique to Icon, ensures that the engine is comfortable at low rpm. When cruising around town and even on the highway it’s not especially loud. Even the BF Goodrich All-Terrain tires are quiet on the highway, although with no top or side glass, this true roadster has the appropriately aggressive wind noise.

1966 Icon Derelict Bronco  Back at Icon’s shop, an under-construction Bronco project gave us a chance to inspect an identical rolling chassis. Note the four-link suspension and ARB compressor and lines for the differential lockers.
1966 Icon Derelict Bronco driving dirt road
The DOHC V-8 is a bit of a tight squeeze in the Bronco’s engine bay, tubular headers help make it fit.
Brandan Gillogly
The DOHC V-8 is a bit of a tight squeeze in the Bronco’s engine bay, tubular headers help make it fit.

Aft of the Coyote V-8 is an AX15 five-speed manual transmission, the same type you’d find in a mid-’90s Jeep, followed by an Atlas II transfer case that allows for low range operation in both 4WD and 2WD. From the transfer case, driveshafts with 1310 U-joints send torque to a Dynatrac ProRock 60 rear axle and a ProRock 44 front axle, each equipped with an ARB Air Locker for ultimate traction. The axles are suspended from an Art Morrison chassis developed especially for Icon that uses radius arm front suspension and a triangulated four-link in the rear with Fox remote-reservoir coil-over shocks and Eibach springs at each corner. Each axle also gets Brembo disc brakes. The sheer size of the V-8 meant that a vacuum booster would be a tight fit. Instead, brakes are activated by a Hydratech booster and Wilwood master cylinder that leave plenty of clearance for the Coyote’s cam covers and literally tons of clamping pressure.

We rode along in the Derelict Bronco through the city one afternoon, hit the highway briefly, and even had the opportunity to lock the hubs and shift the Atlas II transfer case into four-high and scramble up some slippery, hard-packed dirt. Ward even took it through some mud and ran with a herd of mustangs (actual horses), so don’t think this is just some Cars & Coffee cruiser. The aged and worn exterior means that there’s one less excuse to baby this beast, and we’re sure it will have decades more service thanks to Icon’s attention to detail and thorough design.

Icon teamed up with photographer Shane Russeck to create 400 prints from the Bronco’s romp with the Mustangs. Each print is $400, with $100 of each sale benefiting the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.