Icon BR Series Ford Bronco - Masterpiece In MetalPosted in Features on February 25, 2015
There are some vehicles that have a certain lore in off-road racing. One of those is the first-generation Ford Bronco. Who can forget Parnelli Jones winning Baja in a Stroppe Bronco? Sure, it had a lot of work done to it to make it was able to handle not only Baja, but Jones’ aggressive driving style as well.
Over the years, the ’66-77 Ford Bronco has taken on near mythical proportions; and we’re not talking just about how expensive they have become. These vehicles are hotly sought after, and one reason why is they seem to embody the carefree early days that many baby boomers want to relive.
At only 44, Jonathan Ward, CEO and Lead Designer at Chatsworth, California-based Icon, may not technically be a boomer, but he knows that certain vehicles are Icons in their own right, and that’s why his company specializes in rebuilding these early Broncos.
Hand-built, his Broncos are more works of art than work trucks, and at nearly $225K a copy, they should be. Icon begins by replacing the stock frame with an Art Morrison unit that features modern suspension. Anyone in the hot rod and drag racing industries knows that a Morrison frame and suspension system is one of the absolute best, but this is the first we’ve heard of his product being used on an off-road vehicle. With the radius arm front end (with Johnny Joints) to the triangulated four-link rear system, the Morrison stuff is very nice.
To those systems, Ward and his crew installed a Dynatrac Dana 44 in front and a ProRock High-Pinion Dana 60 in the rear. Both are equipped with ARB Lockers. They both also are suspended by remote reservoir-equipped Fox Racing 2.5 coilover shocks that have been fitted with progressive Eibach springs. The result is a true 12 inches of wheel travel both front and rear.
The Dynatrac units feature Warn hubs and Superior axles, which end with StopTech brakes. The front brakes consist of 355x32mm two-piece rotors, T4041 billet hats and six-piston calipers, while the rear have 328x28mm two-piece rotors, T4041 billet hats, four-piston calipers with a dedicated parking brake caliper built right in.
The performance continues as BFGoodrich A/T KO tires (285/70/17) reside on beadlock-equipped 17x8 cast-aluminum MHT Fuel Trophy wheels. The result is that this Bronco may look pretty, but it has the bona fides of a serious off-road vehicle.
It also has some serious horsepower, as the engine is a ’14 5.0L Ford Coyote that was originally intended for a Mustang GT. Producing 412 hp and 6,500 rpm, this fuel-injected, naturally aspirated, 11:1 compression ratio’d burner has it all: an aluminum block, forged crank and rods, cast-aluminum pistons, and aluminum heads. Inside those heads reside DOHC’s four valves per cylinder and feature variable intake and camshaft timing.
They both may have displaced 302 ci, but this engine is a huge departure from the one that came stock in 1971. That variable intake and cam timing were honed thanks to a custom ECU and tune by AEM, which unlocked the VVT and cam’s hidden potential. Giving the Bronco that throaty growl that Mustangs are known for are the custom-made and ceramic-coated Icon headers backed up by Borla mufflers.
Special itself, the Ford 4R75W four-speed overdrive transmission has been equipped with a special high-pressure solenoid, and is controlled by a stand-alone ECU and wiring harness by Compushift. The Advance Adapter’s Atlas II transfer case (3.0:1 low range 1:1 high range) is CAD-CAM designed and CNC machined for off-road performance, without sacrificing on-road performance. The Atlas transfer case also features synchronized shift on the fly capability, while twin stick controls allow individual front and rear axle manipulation for maximum control.
If the mechanicals were designed for maximum control, then the interior was designed for the cultured minimalist. From outward appearances, it doesn’t look much different than a stock Bronco interior: until you look a little closer. Then, the attention to detail begins to stand out.
Details such as the custom aluminum glovebox door, the Icon-designed Dakota Digital Instruments that sit in a custom CNC’d alloy and laser-cut stainless housing. The CNC’d aluminum knobs or the gecko that adorns the dash and Caterpillar steering wheel? OK, never mind the gecko, how about those seats?
Icon modified some Bestop seats by covering them with Chilewich and Mercedes vinyl, as was the removable Bestop rear bench. Beams three-point safety harnesses keep the operator firmly in those seats. Also found are items normally seen in high-end hot rods; items such as the Lokar floor shifter, the ididit tilt steering column, and the Vintage Air air-conditioning system. Put them, all of the aluminum work and the upholstery together, and you have one smooth interior.
The center console is actually gun-safe rated … and it has four large cupholders. What more could you ask for? How about that the wiring throughout the Bronco is rated mil-spec grade, including the wiring of the Alpine stereo system. Is mil-spec wiring overkill? Perhaps; but better safe than sorry.
If the body looks like a standard Ford Bronco, that’s because it is. It came to Icon as an original, two-owner truck with only 76,000 miles on it. Rare, to say the least. Since they were building what can be called a resto-rod, having a good body to start with went a long way toward it being easier for Ward and his Icon crew to deal with.
Once they had it though, they completely disassembled it and took it down to bare metal. A Polyurea coating was applied to the floor, and then the various pieces were painted with a matte green that is actually a modified version of the mid ’60s Ford Mustang green.
Once the pieces were reassembled, it was adorned with an Icon-designed, CNC-cut front grille with a laser-cut insert. Icon aluminum side marker lights and taillight guards feature a Volcanic black powdercoating. Those marker, taillights, and front turn lights are all LED, by the way, as are the JW Speaker LED headlights.
The Icon-designed front and rear bumpers are also powdercoated black. Inside the front one hides a Warn 9.5RC winch. A rear tire carrier, again an Icon-designed unit, carries a spare BFG KO and features two hidden storage lockers built right in.
As they are literally hand-built, it takes Icon nearly a year to produce one of these Broncos. Production is very limited and the work is done by craftsmen who have many years of fabricating experience. They did have help though, in the form of both the Ford Motor Company and, surprisingly, Nike.
Ward collaborated with Camilo Pardo, who is perhaps best known for designing the Ford GT, to fully realize a modernized take on this classic American utility vehicle. FoMoCo also helped in that they gave Icon access to key blueprints and offered engineering expertise when it came to integrating the modern powertrain into the classic Bronco. And what about a shoe company working on a truck? Well, Ward and Icon have worked with the Nike team in the past and they put together a 10-person team of engineers, designers, and fabricators who, Ward says, really helped to add a certain flair to the end result.
That end result is a Bronco that is not only capable off-road, it’s almost too pretty to take there. We hope whomever buys this Ford will not only take it on the trails, but we also hope that they know that they are driving an American Icon that deserves to be cherished and ridden hard. After all, they don’t call it Bronco busting for nothing.
Icon BR Series
Icon BR Series
Manufacturer Art Morrison
Wheelbase 91 3/8 inches
Overall Length 177 inches
Overall Height 79 inches
Track Width Front 69 inches, rear 67 inches
Manufacturer Ford 5.0 Coyote
Tuner Custom ECU and Tune by AEM
Horsepower: 412 hp at 6,500 rpm
Torque 390 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm
Air Filter Volant
Cooling High-density alloy radiator with SPAL electric fan
Transmission Ford 4R75W
Transfer Case Advance Adapter’s Atlas II
Front Dynatrac Dana 44 ProRock high-pinion with ARB lockers
Rear Dynatrac Dana 60 ProRock high-pinion with ARB lockers
Front Suspension Radius arm with Johnny Joints
Rear Suspension Triangulated Four-Link
Shocks/Front Fox Racing 2.5 coilover with remote reservoirs, Eibach Springs
Shocks/Rear Fox Racing 2.5 coilover with remote reservoirs, Eibach springs
Wheels 17x8 MHT Fuel Trophy
Tires 285/70/17 BFGoodrich A/T KO
Front StopTech 355x32mm two-piece rotors, T4041 billet hats, six-piston calipers
RearStopTech 328x28mm two-piece rotors, T4041 billet hats, four-piston calipers (dedicated parking brake caliper)
Modified ’60s Mustang color, matte metallic finish
JW speaker LED headlights. United Pacific LED exterior marker and taillights
Seats Icon-modified Bestop seats, Chilewich and Mercedes vinyl upholstery
Harnesses Beams 3-point
Steering Wheel Hellcat
Dash Icon CNC-cut alloy and laser-cut stainless steel housing
Gauges Icon-designed Dakota Digital units
Radio/Intercom Alpine-Focal-JL Audio