Icon breathes new life into an old farm truck

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If you’ve been paying attention to the vintage SUV scene, you’ll recognize the name Icon. The company, located on the western side of Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley, has been building high-end restomod Ford Broncos and Toyota Land Cruisers for more than a decade. About eight years ago, Icon expanded to include Chevrolet Thriftmaster pickups, which debuted for the 1948 model year as GM’s first new truck series after WWII. Icon’s latest Thriftmaster build comes from its Derelict line, which melds the original, weathered exterior with a modern engine and chassis.

We’ve driven some of Icon’s previous builds, including 5.0-liter Coyote-powered Broncos and even one of the previous Derelict builds, but this pickup is a bit different. While most of Icon’s builds use donor vehicles sourced from around the country for customers in search of a new vehicle, this well-worn 1951 Chevy was given the Derelict treatment by its longtime owner after it served in the family for decades.

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You’d never know it from the outside, but underneath the sun-baked bodywork is a totally new Art Morrison chassis with an independent rear suspension, along with a Chevrolet Performance LS3 E-Rod crate engine and six-speed manual transmission.

Thankfully, Icon moved the fuel tank from inside the cab to in the chassis, allowing the seat to move back to make the driving position far more comfortable for taller drivers. Brandan Gillogly

Inside the cab, new buffalo upholstery on the bench seat and door panels highlight the fresh green paint on the interior sheet metal. It takes some imagination, but it’s the same color that the truck wore from the factory. Icon color-matched a bit from underneath the side mirror that had escaped the weather beating that left the rest of the paint faded. Icon hid most of its work on the interior behind the dash and under the seats, where all of the wiring for the Bluetooth hands-free Out of Sight Audio system was hidden.

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This long-serving truck has been retired from regular ranch duties, so it’s not going to haul heavy loads over dusty roads. Don’t worry, it still has plenty of utility, as the bed floor, made from salvaged wood and new stainless hardware, is ready for tying down whatever needs hauling. A few small concessions were made for the new suspension and ride height, however, as the floor was raised by about two inches, and the wide wheels and tires required small inner wheel wells.

Brandan Gillogly

 

In some of its previous Derelict builds, Icon was forced to blend in new repairs with the aged, original paint. Their team is so good at it we’d have to point it out or you’d never be able to tell. However, for this truck, all the original body panels were left as-is, dents and all. The only pieces that were weathered to blend in are the passenger side mirror and the stainless steel hardware for the bed floor, which was brushed to cut down on the shine.

We got a bit of seat time in this latest Derelict creation, as we headed through the city streets in Icon’s home base in Chatsworth toward Simi Valley. The route took us through city traffic, where the truck responded just like a modern car, and onto Highway 118’s rolling hills. The Wilwood hydraulic clutch was a huge improvement over clunky mechanical linkages, and the suspension ate up speed bumps and road imperfections. Of course, the 430-horsepower LS3 was the most noticeable difference, blowing the old Stovebolt out of the water with more than four times the power of the original 235 inline-six, flattening the climbs through the Simi Hills.

Even with a rear axle geared for high-speed highway cruising, first and second gears offer swift acceleration, and we could short-shift the V-8 and keep the engine rumble down to a purr to stay under the radar. One aspect of driving the truck that did take a moment to get used to was the rather upright steering column and large-diameter steering wheel. It’s plenty comfortable driving the truck with the bus-like wheel, it’s just not a posture that’s conducive to performance driving, and this truck is more than capable of it. The quick ratio rack and pinion steering didn’t require too much travel of the big wheel though, and it wasn’t over-boosted.

This latest Derelict build from Icon has got to be one of the company’s best sleepers yet. Even better, it allowed a stalwart workhorse to keep on hauling 70 years after it was built. If you’d like to see more of the company’s creations, we’ve driven its Broncos and explored electric conversions as well.

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