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Custom Icon 4x4 “Woody” 1965 Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer Re-engineered with Modern Technology

The renowned FJ and Bronco customizer creates a stunning Kaiser-era SUV

If industrial designer Brooks Stevens had today's materials and manufacturing when he designed the Jeep Wagoneer in 1963 as the successor to the Willy Wagon, how would it have been different? Noted vehicle restyler Jonathan Ward of Icon 4x4 asked himself that question when undertaking a 1965 Wagoneer project. "We wanted to basically build an all-new vehicle but keep as much of Stevens' Jeep DNA as possible," Ward says. The underlying goal for Icon's customer was an ultimate family beach Jeep.

Icon 4x4 began their build with a good-condition 1965 Wagoneer. Jonathan Ward prefers the early 1963-1965 shovel-style grille, so the vehicle search focused on those years.

Even on pre-smog vehicles, Icon prefers to use the Erod LS3, which usually has considerably more power than the original powerplant, runs on inclines, and burns infinitely cleaner. Turn Key Engine Supply is the source for this 420-hp version.

Once the vehicle was disassembled, key components were scanned and converted into CAD files. This data allowed Art Morrison Enterprises to build a new chassis from 2x4-inch and 2x6-inch rectangular tubing. The frame was finished with mil-spec epoxy primer under black powdercoat for corrosion-resistance.

The rear suspension features a custom triangulated 4-link setup. Up front, Icon created a 3-link system that uses radius arms. Tires are LT265/65R18 BFGoodrich KO2s on Icon-designed 18x8 billet wheels.

For bulletproof durability, Dynatrac axles were chosen. The rear ProRock 60 connects to the custom Art Morrison frame with a triangulated 4-link system. Other details include a tunable swaybar and Brembo GT brakes.
In the front, Icon used a 3-link suspension with Fox coilovers, which have Eibach springs. Suspension mounting points were engineered into the one-off Art Morrison frame.
Smaller wheels might have looked more correct, but 18s were necessary to clear the Brembo calipers. Icon painted these custom billet wheels body color for a more stock-steel effect and also machined them to accept factory hubcaps. BFGoodrich KO2s put the power to the ground.

The Wagoneer's interior received an even higher level of attention. Icon CNC'd custom faceplates, bezel, knobs, and trim pieces from aluminum and stainless to eliminate every component formerly made of plastic. Combining the best of the old and the new, Icon restored the factory steering wheel, then adapted it to a modern Ididit tilt column.

The factory steering wheel was restored and mounted to a modern Ididit tilt column. Similarly, Redline Gauge Works restored the original gauges, then updated the internals for OBD-II compatibility with the GM ECU.

Comfort and style were also priorities. Icon added Dynamat sound-deadener throughout and coated the floor on both sides with heat-cured polyuria. Removable aviation-grade carpet was sourced from Douglass Interior Products. Upholstery is loosely based on the factory patterns but executed with UV-stable vinyl from Knoll Textiles. Modern entertainment was covertly added with a Mark III Bluetooth head unit, an Arc Audio amplifier, and Focal speakers.

Bodywork was saved for last. AK Autoworks (Santa Clarita, CA) laid on the Land Rover Tamar Blue paint. Icon restored most of the factory badges and made some new ones that mimic the originals. Partners who contributed to the finishes included powdercoating by Extreme Performance Coatings (Oxnard, CA) and chroming by Ace Plating (Van Nuys, CA).

The average enthusiast thinks of Wagonners as woodgrain Limited models from the 1980s-1990s. Icon included this later styling cue. Different grains and widths were tried on the computer.

The final touch was the exterior woodgrain. This signature styling cue first appeared on the 1979 Wagoneer Limited. However, Jonathan Ward felt that a self-respecting Wagoneer should have woody side graphics, so Icon mocked up various treatments on the computer. They eventually chose a subtler woodgrain approach than the factory. The actual vinyl was ordered from the 3M graphics catalog. Icon's approach admittedly exceeds how any normal Jeep owner would attack an early Wagonner project.

Why This Jeep?

Although the average Jeeper won't go to these extremes, this Wagonner shows what might have been possible had Kaiser had today's tools and technology — and not had to use the most cost-effective solution throughout the process. The attention to the small details sets this Jeep apart.

A venerable Advance Adapters Atlas t-case is mated to the 4L80E transmission. Icon created a custom tubular crossmember to support it.
Factory touchpoints are often plastic to save money. Icon prioritized the feel of the buttons, knobs, and pulls, using the originals as starting points before creating custom CAD-manufactured replacements.
Textile technology has progressed significantly since the 1960s. Icon used the factory stitching and design as influence, then executed the new interior in durable UV-stable vinyl.
Carpet is aviation-grade. For after-beach clean-up, it is easily removable.
Although the dash looks factory, it is one-off. A modern Vintage Air A/C system was added, requiring custom vents.

HARD FACTS
Vehicle: 1965 Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer
Engine: Turn Key 420hp 6.2L Erod LS3, Griffin radiator, Spal fan, Setrab cooler
Transmission: Gearstar Level II 4L80E 4-speed automatic
Transfer Case: Atlas 3:1
Suspension: Fox 3.0 bodies, Eibach coils
Axles: Dynatrac ProRock 44 (front), Dynatrac ProRock 60 (rear), 4.10 gears
Wheels: Custom Icon 18x8 billet aluminum, machined for OE hubcaps
Tires: 265/65R18 BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2
Other: Custom Art Morrison frame, custom Icon mil-spec wiring harness, Brembo GT rotors/calipers, Wilwood master cylinder, Hydratech hydroboost, Hella H4 headlights, LED lighting, custom General Driveshaft driveshafts

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