More Project Cars Should Be Built Like Icon’s Derelicts

If you’re into old cars and fancied doing a project someday but were turned off by what you think it takes in both ability and cha-cha, you should watch this Icon vid at the bottom of the post. Really.

There was a time when something old was not considered used up. If it was an old derelict it was acknowledged as a unique automobile from a different time and was celebrated. That’s why Duesenbergs, supercharged Cords, and Coupe de Villes get so much attention and are coveted by owners, builders, and enthusiasts alike.

But over the years things got way over the top in the vintage car world. Cars became more like challenges to see who could out-wow and out-finish an old car. And outspend.

Car shows encouraged it. Builders being builders sought more over-the-top changes, details, and ultra-perfection to get a plastic trophy. The pursuit was not about bringing back a cool old car. Instead, it became about seeing what finer degree of finish and over-engineering could be applied to an old car.

It was now a builder competition and the car was secondary. Then it became too nice to drive. The owners had so much money into them that driving might damage the perfect chrome. Or the immaculate paint. Or the flawless undercarriage. It went from being a functional machine to a large piece of jewelry requiring a trailer to get where it needed to go.

The enthusiast magazines loved this because it was fodder for articles, advertising, and still more crazy builds to feature. Now, these old cars took a gang of skilled craftsmen, over-the-top professional designers, and gobs of cash. And as these projects took on more complexity, cost, and pursuit of the wow factor, they became more like spaceships and less like what they were—cool old cars.

All of the changes to achieve super-coolness eliminated original details and design that was more super-cool than the new super-cool. Few recognized this because that old super-cool had been around for 50 or 70 years. We became jaded. This new super-cool tickled our fancy because we had never seen it.

But there is another approach as the people over at Icon4x4 in Chatsworth, California, build these old heaps with a different way of seeing them. Icon celebrates its rebuilding approach with its “Derelict” series. Icon’s philosophy may appeal to you not only because the finished result is so cool without changing everything and over-massaging components like they were jewelry, but because of the things it doesn’t change.

That philosophy makes an old car even more unique and takes them into the realm of regular enthusiasts like you and me. We’ve thought about doing an old car project but figured we don’t have the time, money or talent to build a million-dollar 1948 Kaiser, 1953 Customline Ford, or step-down Hudson.

Rather than have blather on about it, check out this vid where Johnathan Ward, the guiding light for Icon, explains why the team did what it did and didn’t do. Get it?

A whole different take on professionally building an old heap!