California-based restoration shop ICON 4×4 has earned its reputation in the automotive community with spare-no-expense restomods. But, amongst the hundreds of shops capable of shoehorning modern amenities into a vintage car, ICON 4×4 stands out by emphasizing the restoration before the mods. Like all great business ventures, it starts with the first project. For ICON 4×4 founder Jonathan Ward, one of the first examples of the ICON style came from a Toyota FJ Bandeirante.
Within the Toyota FJ community, the Bandeirante, aka Bandy, is a rare breed of the popular 4×4. These models were exclusive to Brazil and sold from 1968 to 2001. They were built with a longer wheelbase and featured Mercedes-Benz engines until 1994. Before ICON 4×4, Ward gained “exclusive access” to parts and Bandeirante bodies from the Toyota factory in Brazil. He became a trade member with Toyota corporate, which gave him the keys to Wonka’s factory.
Ward flew to Brazil and had his pick to buy anything that wasn’t bolted down in the factory. As a result, Ward stockpiled a horde of rare, discontinued Toyota FJ parts made only in Brazil. Soon afterward, Toyota demolished the factory in Brazil. Thankfully, Ward had enough parts to build his own Toyota FJ Brandy, which would become one of the genesis models for the ICON 4×4 brand.
In true ICON-ic fashion, Ward’s Toyota FJ Bandeirante is powered by a 5.7-liter Chevy small block V8. The secret to the ICON 4×4 is to build them better than stock without losing the charm that made them iconic in the first place.