A Joyride in an Icon 1965 Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer Reformer
Jonathan Ward & company create the ultimate luxury beach wagon
MANHATTAN BEACH, California — Jonathan Ward is really excited about his company's latest project, the Icon 1965 Kaiser Jeep Wagoneer Reformer, and so are we.
It's a big departure from the SoCal customhouse's superb fleet of hand-made, bespoke Broncos, fabulous FJs, and demented Derelict offerings.
Icon's founder and CEO told us his latest ride was so subtle and understated that it is like peeling an onion's thin layers that conceal its sweetest bits. Plus, it's even more fun to drive, so he had it delivered to our HQ for a closer inspection.
We met with Robert Wood, Icon's build coordinator, and took the rather stock-looking Reformer in a perfect shade of Land Rover Tamar Blue for a quick beach cruise before it goes to its lucky owner—a client that can likely afford to buy several Icons for the undisclosed six-figure price of this one-shot build. We fired up the potent LS3 crate engine, which has a custom ECU tune, and away we drove.
"We craft our own intake cold air system. So we had it tuned specifically to that system, and you can just putt it around. It's really kind of agile," said Wood.
It's fast if you need a quick getaway and the beautiful beast is ready to climb the San Gabriel Mountains if you need it to. The tuned truck has plenty of passing power and the 6.2-liter V-8 engine produces 430 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque. The LS3 is mated to a Gearstar 4l80E four-speed transmission with a torque converter.
The modernized jewel of a Jeep also has power steering, a fully custom Art Morrison chassis, Fox Racing coil-over shocks, Brembo brakes, and it drives like a refined late-model 4x4. It rolls on beefy 18-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 rubber with custom aluminum rims and original vintage Jeep hubcaps found on eBay.
"You can just barely feather the throttle, super smooth, the steering is very responsive, and it's odd because you're in a 1965 Kaiser Wagoneer," Wood adds.
A brand new one that's even better than the original tanker thanks to all its delightful upgrades that you don't notice right away—like CNC aluminum knobs, bezels, and door handles that Ward replaced the original plastic pieces with in the same design or a modified reinterpretation.
It even has a Vintage Air A/C unit built into the center glove box and heater vents where the former ashtrays used to reside—plus some cool retro dummy lights that all look original.
AM radio? No, but there's a Mark III Bluetooth audio system with Arc Audio amps and Focal speakers instead. The dome lights even have modern buttons to control them.
The donor Wagoneer was a local car found on Craigslist and more than 2,300 hours were spent on its transformation. If you have plans for one, expect to wait at least a year or two for Icon to start on its creation.
Shutting the doors, trunk, and tailgate with an electric window of the Wagoneer Reformer feels as sturdy as a modern Mercedes-AMG G-Wagen. The bench seats in UV stable vinyl with a blue and white fabric inlay by Knoll Textiles are springy, colorful, and super comfy. Leather and real wood were not an option since this was designed as a beach cruiser.
Ward even made a new cast of the steering wheel, which is my favorite touch—it feels like you are behind the wheel of a time machine piloting the tony truck down the road.
Icon nailed the California vibe with its Jeep Wagoneer Reformer. It reminds us of a vintage 1960s beach chair with plenty of 21st-Century flair. Just add kids, pooch, surfboards, and a cooler.
It's simply brilliant.