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.
Rather than going with anything remotely in the neighborhood of mohair, Jonathan’s thinking went way outside the box. But his thoughts would turn out to be quite the difficult task to fulfill. “I had never done a gator interior before. So I sketched it out, with no understanding of the limitations of farmed gators. I designed it with large panels using mostly belly sections. When we tried to find the skins, we quickly learned that we would need 10- to 15-foot wild gators, not the farmed gators, which are way too small. We were told it could not be done, but with further research we located a hunter in Florida who was able to get us the wild-caught hides we needed. We then found the original dye code used by Hermes on the famous briefcase gifted to JFK in the ’60s, and had the hides processed and dyed in that great color. It was quite the adventure, and took a lot of time and effort to do!” Take a peek and see what you think about that extraordinary effort.
So, all in all, the ICON ’52 Chevy may just be in a league of its own. That’s not a bad thing, at least not in my eyes. What Jonathan and crew have accomplished is pure and simple: They’ve given a piece of vintage tin a second chance at life on the road—a new life few classic Bow Ties will ever get the opportunity to share.
ROD & CUSTOM FEATURE CAR
Los Angeles, California
1952 Chevrolet Styline DeLuxe Sports Coupe
After being located hibernating in a Texas barn and relocated to ICON’s facility in L.A., one of the first orders of business was separating body and frame. The old top-hat–style foundation gave way to an Art Morrison chassis complete with IFS, four-linked 9-inch, power rack, and Wilwood disc brakes at each corner. A Walton Fabrication pedal assembly was also incorporated.
For more adequate “motorvation”, the decision was made to go with a brand-new, 430hp LS3 V-8 from Chevrolet Performance along with a 4L65E electronic OD trans. Keeping everything mostly as-is, the only real OE deviations required were a custom bracket system for the A/C and alternator and rerouting the air intake and mating it with a K&N filter. Further additions under the hood include an Optima battery and Griffin aluminum radiator. The aforementioned 9-inch rearend features Strange axles and 4.06:1 ring-and-pinion. For the exhaust, Art Morrison custom-made a set of headers that now feed into ceramic-coated tubing and Magnaflow mufflers.
Body & Paint
General Motors, Chevrolet Division, circa 1952—with a little help from Mother Nature and a rattle can or two somewhere along the line.
Wheels & Tires
Appearing as oversized steelies, 17- and 18-inch Wheel Vintiques Billet Smoothies have been painted body color—with a satin finish so as not to overwhelm visually—and subsequently wrapped in BFGoodrich g-Force 245-series radials. Each wheel is mounted atop a 14-inch Wilwood disc brake.
Far from its original mohair, the Chevy’s interior is now comprised of gator hides—roughly a dozen Florida-fresh skins at that. Once ICON obtained the material, it was specially dyed Hermes brown before being stretched and sewn in place. Dynamat-sealed flooring has been covered with a Rolls-Royce Wilton wool carpet and various hard parts repainted accordingly. Stock gauges have been retrofitted with VDO instrumentation, and a Vintage Air Gen IV unit integrated using ’50s boat bilge vents as ducts. A modified Billet Specialties steering wheel was used in conjunction with an ididit column. Inside the glovebox, an iPod interface feeds tunes through JL Audio amps and speakers.