Icon Motors Re-engineers the King of the Trail
Back when records were state of the art, the pre-Jeep Willys CJ3B was king of the jungle trail. Unfortunately, its skills haven't held up as well as its looks. Loving its style but not its capabilities, Icon Motors produced an aesthetically faithful update.
OK, update may be understating it. Severely.
Icon acquired a few old CJs and laser-scanned all of their surfaces, generating a 3-D model of the 70-year-old vehicle. Then, they pressed new body panels out of modern steel (the old Willys was made of wartime metals that aren't as tough as modern stuff) and coated it all in a Teflon-polyurethane powdercoat that we couldn't scratch despite hurling the truck at trees instead of around them.
While the outside looks just like an old Willys, a 1940s mechanic would never recognize the undercarriage. The new, mandrel-bent frame is designed to accommodate a fully independent suspension, instead of the old leaf springs. The Chevy-sourced 4-cylinder engine makes 205 horsepower, but gets 23 mpg.
The 4WD system is adapted from a 2010 model-year Jeep: It's more advanced, and, as an added bonus, owners won't have to scour eBay for antique replacement parts when they get overambitious in the off-road park.
And while a 1950s 3B tops out at around 50 mph on the highway, we throttled the Icon down L.A. freeways upwards of 80. Then, when we hit the Miller Jeep Trail, we switched into 4WD low and went way beyond our comfort zone without seeing the Icon balk. With 24 inches of wheel travel, it can scurry over boulders, romp rutted trails, and negotiate inclines that would make a Hummer run screaming for a pedicure.
WIRED Every light is LED—from the dashboard to the headlamps. At just 64 inches wide, it's narrow and capable enough to tackle trails that Jeeps aren't technically allowed on. Just try to scratch the paint: We drove through a big-ass thorn bush and wiped away the evidence with a rag. Attracts more thumbs-ups than the Colosseum. Only 83 grand.
TIRED Only 83 grand?! Just like the old CJs, high-beam switch is next to the clutch. (They moved that for a reason.) Shifter feels sloppy, er, retro. Seat belts were a little janky, prone to locking up even in the rare moments when we had the Icon sitting level.