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Icon unveils high-dollar Thriftmaster pickup at SEMA

November 05, 2013|By David Undercoffler
  • The all-new Thriftmaster is the latest creation from Chatsworth-based Icon. Custom built by hand, this truck sells for between $230,000 and $250,000 and comes with a 435-horsepower supercharged V-8. It debuted at the 2013 SEMA show in Las Vegas.
The all-new Thriftmaster is the latest creation from Chatsworth-based… (David Undercoffler / Los…)

$250,000 buys a lot exotic curb candy.

This kind of cash will net a nice Lamborghini Gallardo. Perhaps an Aston Martin DB9 Volante. A Ferrari 458 Italia is even possible.

Or, $250,000 can buy a hand-built pickup truck with gobs more exclusivity than these three, and a cloak of anonymity they don’t offer. Icon, the Chatsworth-based shop known for custom replica Broncos, FJ Cruisers and CJ-style Jeeps, unveiled such a truck Tuesday at the 2013 SEMA show in Las Vegas.

PHOTOS: Icon's new Thriftmaster pickup

Dubbed the Thriftmaster, the truck is a modern -- and powerful -- interpretation of a postwar icon.

“It’s the classic American pickup,” said Jonathan Ward, Icon’s founder said of the Chevy Thriftmaster his model is based on.

This was one of several reasons Ward -- who counts among his well-heeled clients famed Apple designer Jonathan Ive -- chose the Thriftmaster as his next project.

There’s also the romantic reason: Ward working on such a truck the moment he met his wife, Jamie, in the 1990s. And the practical reason: So many of these trucks were made in the late 1940s and early 1950s that donor parts are easy to find. There’s also the truck’s aesthetic.

“There’s something almost animated about it,” Ward said during a recent visit to his shop ahead of the SEMA unveiling. “The’re something about the shape and form and surface tension that I thought would really lend itself to a project like this.”

Icon will initially build a first run of only five Thriftmaster trucks in 2014. These models will be the “Ultimate Edition,” Ward said, with a price tag of $235,000 to $250,000. Icon may build less expensive models in the future, depending on demand.

Despite looking like something ripped from the Eisenhower and bobby socks era, everything under the steel body is new and built from the ground up.

The frame is a hand-welded steel unit. The body panels are also steel; though they look the part for a truck that originated roughly 65 years ago, they’re new and stamped using license GM molds.

Two engine choices are available. Future models can be ordered with a small-block V-8 crate motor from G.M. It uses 5.3-liters to make 315 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. But the five Ultimate Edition copies Ward will sell first come with a supercharger bolted on top of the engine; horsepower jumps to 435 and torque to 458 pound-feet.

A six-speed manual transmission sends this power to the real wheels, though a four-speed automatic gearbox is available for customers who like their shifting done for them. Ready to slow all this power are Wilwood brakes at every corner; they’re slotted and vented ABS disc brakes for good measure. A limited-slip differential keeps things controlled at the back, while an independent front suspension grabs the road up front.

An afternoon test drive of the concept Thriftmaster Ward is bringing to SEMA showed the truck blended modern (and prodigious) power with an old-school feel for the road.

The truck’s V-8 roars away from stoplights with a helpful whine from the supercharger. There’s something deliciously naughty about going so fast in a truck that largely flies below the radar of the average Joe. Fortunately, the brakes are wonderfully modulated to keep your speed tidy.

The large, retro-style steering wheel has some play in it that’s reminiscent of older vehicles yet still allows plenty of meaningful control for a truck with this much power.  The upright seating position is like that of any vintage truck, though the custom-formed bison leather seats are a significant upgrade from the bench seats of yore.

As with Ward’s other hand-built ventures, the devil (and price tag) is in the details, and nearly every surface you see and touch was custom designed and hand-built by Icon.

The carpets are Rolls-Royce Wilton wool; as mentioned, the seats, steering wheel and nearly the entire cabin is lined with black bison leather. The flawless Audison Audio system (and almost every other function on the truck) is controlled by a Kenwood receiver with a touchscreen navigation system built in. There’s a state of the art Wi-Fi system wired throughout the truck.

The knobs on the dashboard are jewelry grade, CNC-machined pieces. The power windows are operated with vintage-style crank handles. The bed of the truck is lined in the same ash wood Louisville Slugger uses in its bats.

With an unparalleled attention to detail, and using some of the best components available,
the Thriftmaster continues Icon’s trend of high-dollar vehicles that are designed to fly below the radar of everyone except detail-oriented design fanatics.

Despite its vehicles’ six-figure price tags, Icon has found a loyal following: More than 22% of buyers own two or more of his vehicles, Ward said. His buyers can afford their pick of vehicle, yet that doesn’t mean they’re satisfied.

“He’s bought every new car he thought he wanted, and at some level he’s disenchanted with it,” Ward said of his audience. “The craftsmanship ethic is really gone; he’s losing his faith. He’s looking for more story, more craftsmanship and detail” in his vehicles, Ward said.

It’s curb candy for a quieter palette.

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