To me, there’s nothing that screams Americana more than a ’49-52 Chevy. Stock, dropped, or fully modified, this era Chevrolet crosses over more hobby niches than probably any other make/model that I can think of—from restorers to lowriders and everyone in-between (and yes, that between would comprise mostly us hot rodders and custom folk). While my personal preference lies with the traditionally customized variety, I will say that a distant second would be somewhere along the lines of what Jonathan Ward has accomplished with his ’52 Styline DeLuxe Coupe: classic original on the outside, cleverly disguised modern technology underneath. However, that last part is something that’s quite difficult to incorporate into a vehicle without adversely affecting its true traditional values.
In Jonathan’s case, hiding late-model ingenuity into vintage iron is not just a passion, it’s his business. The company under which he transforms vehicles of all shapes, sizes, and pedigrees, ICON, has two subdivisions that produce two distinct styles of product: “Reformers” and “Derelicts”. Basically, both transform old into renewed—not new as in restored, necessarily, but more like resto-modded … sort of. I’ll let Jonathan further explain it. “All of my ICON projects focus on the marriage between classic aesthetics and modern chassis engineering, with the goal of creating unique daily drivers. The Reformers are concours quality restorations, hiding modern chassis, electrical, and powertrains. The Derelicts keep their vintage patina’d exteriors, with restored yet unique interiors, but also hiding modern chassis, electrical, and powertrains. Then we add in a bit of art design with the trim and details, making each a one-of-a-kind expression. The client can pick almost any vehicle from the ’30s-70s.”
That said, it should come as no surprise what banner the Chevy falls beneath—but by no means is it a true derelict. While it may have a hard time fitting with any one particular definition as previously described (which is likely one of ICON’s main goals), its truly unique style may just be what lends its acceptance in more circles than not. And in the case of not, well, a simple wheel and tire change could easily change that. Throw a set of Americans on and head to a Goodguys show, some wide whites and hubcaps and cruise Back to the 50’s Weekend, or just leave it be and hit the highway … get my point?
The ’52 came to ICON by way of Texas—an actual languishing, low-mileage barn find (as Jonathan reports, the odometer had but 8,000 miles racked up). Once in California, however, its farm freshness, at least everything below the exterior sheetmetal, wouldn’t last long, quickly giving way to a myriad of non-OE goods. Pop the hood and you’ll find a new Chevrolet Performance LS3 6.2-liter backed by a 4L65E automatic overdrive—far from the oil-slinger 216 and three-speed that originally resided in its place. Look to each side of the V-8 and you’ll see traces of Art Morrison chassis. Peep up under the rear bumper and, along with a stainless Rock Valley fuel tank with at least double the capacity of its predecessor, you’ll notice a 9-inch rearend—minus the enclosed driveline—supported by a triangulated four-link. What may attract the most attention, however, is the interior.