Icon 4×4 adjusts its Bronco formula—for the better
The Ford Bronco has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity long before fans began to anticipate the model’s 2021 return. Icon 4×4 in Chatsworth, California, has been at the forefront of designing and building beautiful and functional Bronco restomods that maintain the brawny little trucks’ charm and polish off the rough edges that make the originals less-than-ideal daily drivers. If you want some of the rough edges, Icon has you covered too; just opt for its Derelict line, which keeps the hard-earned patina.
We recently took one of the company’s latest builds for a short drive around the company’s HQ. We hit the highway to see how the tall, stubby trucklet handled daily life and to test out the newest iteration of Icon’s ultimate first-gen Bronco. Our takeaway? This restomodded Bronco behaves more like a modern Wrangler than a 45-year-old hunting rig or farm truck. Considering all of the improvements Icon has made along the way (and the six-figure price tag), this mature, cohesive persona is exactly what you’d expect.
Icon will build your Bronco in any color and interior finish you like; while no two will be the same, each will use a common foundation. Icon’s proprietary chassis is far more rigid than any first-gen Bronco frame that came from the factory. While the Ford frame did use boxed rails, Icon’s is much beefier, with .180-inch wall rectangular tubing and improved cross members. The chassis uses a four-link in the rear to locate a Dana 60 axle, while radius arms control the Dana 44 up front. The latest change is a switch to Currie axles, chosen for their known durability and meticulously correct details. Both are fitted with ARB air-lockers to get the most traction in any given scenario.
Broncos ride on a wheelbase that’s shorter than a Pinto’s, but even with a small lift and nearly 33-inch-tall BFG all-terrain tires, Icon’s model demonstrated nimble handling and avoided any darty behavior on the highway. That settled behavior is no small feat, in part because Ford never installed the Coyote V-8 in a vehicle that had hydraulic power steering. Icon’s solution pairs a power-steering pump and box that are quick enough for easy, low-speed driving but slow enough that you can drive on the highway without constant correction. As we mentioned, the Icon Bronco drives a lot like a coil-spring Wrangler: The truck behaves far better than you might expect, although it is still a solid-axle 4×4. Even with just a few minutes behind the wheel, we felt secure enough at highway speeds to steer with one hand when we needed to downshift to pass.
As for shifting, Icon has a new clutch master cylinder that makes getting rolling a cinch. The clutch doesn’t grab but applies grip predictably and progressively. The Aisin-Warner AX-15 five-speed has a nice gear spread, and the torque curve of the V-8 is broad enough that it can lazily shift at modest engine speeds without bogging down. Road noise is minimal, even given the all-terrain tires, thanks to polyurea coating that’s applied to the underside of the body. This Bronco was equipped with the less aggressive of the two exhaust options, but there was still enough wonderful exhaust note when the throttle opened. If you can manage to drive with some civility, however, your neighbors really won’t be able to complain.
Powering Icon’s Bronco is a 426-hp Coyote V-8. It’s based on the second-generation of the 5.0-liter Coyote, not the latest Mustang variant, so it’s port-injected only. The wide V-8 squeezes into the engine bay thanks to tubular headers and, considering it has no problem hauling around a full-size F-150 and its payload, you can imagine that this mill has more than enough grunt to move the small 4×4.
With this latest Bronco build, Icon uses a fantastic combination of OEM and existing aftermarket products along with plenty of its own solutions to bridge the gap between classic style and modern drivability. Even when the new Bronco starts hitting lots, there will be plenty who will prefer one of these top-notch restomods—even if they pay a premium. (The cheapest Icon Bronco is the roadster, which carries a $190K starting price; hardtops start at $207K, and soft tops at $210K.) If you’re in the market, get in line. We saw a dozen or so crusty Bronco hulls sitting at Icon’s restoration facility ready to get stripped down and rebuilt with new sheetmetal, and each one is spoken for already.