Jonathan Ward talks with us about the new ICON BR, his obsession with details, ICON’s collaboration with Ford and Nike, and why he loves to live and work in Los Angeles.
– jonathan ward
How does the ICON BR handle off-roading?
All design is a series of consideration and compromise. We try to ride the knife’s edge of on-road stability and comfort vs. off-road performance. There are more capable vehicles that focus on either priority, but we are about the balance between the two ethics.
And on the highway?
With surprising refinement. 75MPH you are turning 2200 RPM, with one hand on the wheel.
What were the biggest design/engineering challenges on the ICON BR?
1. Getting full wheel travel with the target tire size, without cutting the rear fenders (that was the traditional solution).
2. Redesigning the chassis from scratch to interface the modern suspension and large Coyote 5.0 Ford V8 with the original body.
You’re not afraid to use CNC for the Bronco: mirrors, handles, logos, door handles, gas cap and locks…it’s a bit on the insane side. Is this a “god is in the details,” or is something else going on here?
You got it. Bespoke craftsmanship should be in every detail or why bother?
What single design element did you obsess the most about on this particular truck?
The exterior door handles and the dash layout. The door handles involved shipping a cut portion of an original door to Nike, Camilo, and back to us several times, multiple clay and sls polymer printed samples, some sanding and bondo work to get the form just right. Then, crafting them took tremendous effort, as they are CNC’ed out of a solid piece of stainless, then hand sanded and assembled…
You’ve got some classic Ford details on the BR…can you elaborate on the design decision behind this?
Many of the stock trim parts such as lighting, mirrors and door handles, were borrowed from other popular Ford car and truck models. So they did not reflect the same principles of the body, in detail. That gave us the opportunity to design them as we thought Ford would have, without the constraints of big business cost savings over pure design focus.
When do you decide, in your words “to take liberties” with the Bronco’s detail or brand?
With ICON, a big part of our products is reflecting our taste and design sense, so that was a given from day one. We did go to Detroit several times and made sure that Ford agreed with our decisions and principals.
Tell me about the gauges. Am I wrong, but are they Bell & Ross inspired? You and Camilo worked together on that detail. What’s your design process like for details like this?
On the gauges and dash design, we had a few target elements and inspirations in mind, including the B&R Tourbillon, and some Learjet elements. So it started as sketches, then LS samples, then into CAd, then into sheetmetal and CNC work.
The ICON BR dashboard has no extraneous crap on it. Levers look like levers, and are clearly marked. Any aviation inspiration here?
Tourbillon Classic transportation and industrial inspirations, from trains and planes to vintage commercial stuff. Anything from the time when people built things to last and be of distinction and quality!
You worked with Nike on various parts of the Bronco, how did that come about and what was that like?
Nike did the grill, light guards, tailgate insert, handles, mirrors, dash panels etc…great partners. We have customers and friends there. Last year, CEO Mark Parker noticed ICON elements on several inspiration boards in different Nike divisions. We were invited to show an ICON at a private event they do for their designer staff. Then they said they would like to work with us on our next project. So when the Ford project was a go, I cashed in that coupon! Nike put together a ten man team of CAD modelers, mathematicians, engineers, and fabricators, to realize the designs Camillo and I produced. For them, it was an opportunity for isolated divisions to work together, in new materials and processes, to further their knowledge and communication. It was great!
Again the Chilewich mats – I’m guessing Sandy Chilewich is going to become a mogul when the automotive industry starts taking a clue from ICON.
She rocks. An ICON in her own niche. Love their product. So versatile!
What’s your design process?
Usually built and designed in detail (rotatable 3D model) in my brain. Then we illustrate it, set a list of tasks, and dive in. I usually have a 6-8 man team working with me to properly engineer and work through R&D, plus we pull a lot of favors from key suppliers and friends. I generally can go from concept to creation in less than a year. We start again next year on a GM heritage truck based project….
You’re an absolute design geek – what designs and brands are catching your eye out there nowadays?
:: Falcon Bikes
:: Local Motors
:: Singer Porsche
:: Urwerk watches
:: Pita Watches (from Spain)
:: Spada Concepts (Italy)
:: BAC Mono (Italy)
:: Restoration Hardware (doing the best versions of modern takes on classic designs in the commoditized realm)
First detail you focus on when see a car/truck that you like?
Silhouette and I ask myself, does the design immediately reflect the intended use and mood?
My design partner is a watch geek and wants to know: what watch are you wearing nowadays?
I am a nut. Despite welding and working today, I am wearing a rare Ventura COSC titanium crono… I often wear B&R BR03 series, Heuer Silverstone, Urwerk 101, JLC AM, Glashutte diver, Blancpain Leman Repetition Minutes Aqua Lung
Best thing about living and working in LA?
Food, friends, surfing, amazing local industrial resources, and the weather! Grew up back east, over cold weather for longer than a weekend!
About the ICON Bronco Project:
Inspired by the classic 1966 – 1977 Ford Bronco, ICON is excited to have its efforts supported by the Ford Motor Company and Nike, whose myriad contributions have allowed Lead Designer Jonathan Ward to further push the envelope with his team’s latest vintage-inspired incarnation.
From the start of the ICON Bronco project, Ward collaborated with famed Ford Designer Camilo Pardo (perhaps best known for designing the Ford GT), to fully realize a modernized take on this classic American utility vehicle. The design brief mandated a strong focus on maintaining the original Bronco’s classic aesthetic and design values while reinventing everything down to the smallest detail.