“They don’t make them like they used to.” It’s a bit of a cliché, but when it comes to cars, it happens to be true. They don’t make them like they used to – they now make them a whole lot better.
Modern cars are fantastic things. They are powerful, comfortable, incredibly safe, frugal and very reliable. New vehicles are so packed with safety, entertainment and information technology that they make the cars of a couple of decades ago look positively prehistoric.
But there is one area in which modern vehicles sill struggle to compete with older cars — design. Today’s cars are great in just about every way, but they struggle to offer the emotive and evocative designs of the classics.
There is something about the cars of the middle decades of the last century (the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s) that speaks to us – speaks to our souls. They have an indefinable “magic” that modern vehicles struggle to capture.
And you can’t simply ascribe this attraction to nostalgia. Even young people respond to these classics. Why, for instance, did the latest instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise feature vehicles such as a 1967 Camaro, 1969 Charger, 1969 Mustang, 1970 Ford Escort and 1971 Jensen Interceptor? Perhaps it was because these vehicles have been so embedded in popular culture that they appeal to us. Heroes drive classics – that’s just the way it is.
When Nissan asked a bunch of people from what it called the “digital native generation” to help it “co-create” a RWD sportscar, these 20-year-olds came up the IDx Nismo — a concept vehicle that looked oddly retro, and reminded one of the 1969 Hakosuka Skyline GT-R.
This, then, brings me to my point. Provided you have the money, there are companies out there that will allow you to have your cake and eat it – companies that take the classics and fill them with all the latest technology they can get their hands on.
One such company, Icon, builds an SUV called the Icon Bronco. As its name suggests, it is a “re-imagining” of the Ford Bronco, and it is possibly my favourite vehicle in the entire world.
The Icon Bronco is based on the 1966-1977 Ford Bronco, but very little of the original vehicle remains. In fact, only the body is used. Icon search until they find an immaculate body that hasn’t been customised or cut to accommodate large off-road tyres. Once they find one, they remove the body, and sell everything underneath. All they want is the body.
The body is completely restored, and is also improved by insulating it to reduce road noise. It is then fitted to an Art Morrison chassis. Fox Racing shocks and Eibach coils are used, which allow for more than 300mm of wheel travel. A Dana 4×4 axle is used at the front, and an even stronger Dana 66 at the rear. ARB lockers are fitted to both axles.
What powers this off-road monster? The Ford Mustang GT’s burly five-litre, V8 Coyote engine, which provides 303 kW of power. It is mated to an AX-15 five-speed manual gearbox, and an Atlas II transfer case with a 3.0:1 low-range gearing ratio, or an optional 5.0:1 ratio, is installed.
The interior remains very basic, but everything is made to the highest standards. According to Icon, the interior is inspired by Bell & Ross watches.
The Bronco isn’t the only SUV that Icon transform in this way, either. They also make a Defender 90 and an Icon FJ Cruiser. The 90 has a 6,2-litre V8, while the FJ has a 5,7-litre V8.
These vehicles aren’t cheap, of course. The Icon Bronco will set you back around $150 000. And it’s available only in the US.
So the Icon Bronco is a fantasy – something that only movie stars and rockers will ever be able to afford. And, if I’m honest, I don’t think I’d actually enjoy living with one. It would be too thirsty, too impractical and, with that V8, way too powerful for its own good.
But I’m glad it exists. It’s whimsical, bizarre and completely over-the-top. And, if you ask me, far too few modern cars boast those three attributes.