ICON & TLC4X4 Founder Celebrates 500th Land Cruiser Build

Since 2007, Jonathan Ward has built a legacy of specially crafted Land Cruisers...

After more than 30 years restoring vintage Land Cruisers between TLC 4×4 and ICON, Jonathan Ward is celebrating his landmark 500th project. The brand-new 1964 ICON New School Edition FJ44 marks a history of working to restore and reimagine one of the world’s most legendary vehicles, the Land Cruiser.

To honor the company’s 500th Land Cruiser, ICON is taking a look back at some of the most important builds that paved the way for Ward. The beginning of Ward’s career in Land Cruiser restoration started in Africa while on safari with his wife, TLC 4×4 and ICON co-founder Jamie Ward.

ICON & TLC4X4 Founder Celebrates 500th Land Cruiser Build | THE SHOP
Ward’s 500th Land Cruiser Restoration

“I came back from safari in Africa with my eyes opened to the capabilities of these vintage Land Cruisers after seeing what they could do in the wild,” comments ICON Founder Jonathan Ward. “Everyone has an opinion, but the camps with the Defenders and Series trucks seemed to break down more often than the Land Cruisers. Experiencing firsthand what a Land Cruiser could do in a highly varied environment made a huge impression on me.”

With 500 FJ projects under his belt, Ward got his start with pure restorations through TLC 4×4, ramping up to full ground-up restomods after building a reputation for turning out high-quality work. Ward’s encyclopedic knowledge of Land Cruisers would eventually lead to ICON, but not before restoring some of the world’s rarest Toyota trucks.

The first restoration to truly challenge Ward was a rare original Land Cruiser pickup truck built from a 1967 FJ45 found in the Mojave Desert. The FJ45 Land Cruiser pickup came in three body styles, a long bed, a short bed, and a fixed top short bed. TLC 4×4’s restoration of the long bed, removable top Land Cruiser pickup stretched Ward to the limit. With many parts simply no longer available, the detailed TLC 4×4 restoration remains a high point of Ward’s career as it is a truck virtually impossible to restore at that level today.

ICON & TLC4X4 Founder Celebrates 500th Land Cruiser Build | THE SHOP
Mojave Desert – FJ45 Restoration

The build that originated ICON was a 1965 FJ43. Instead of opting for a period-correct restoration, Ward worked with the client to create something completely original and premium in comparison to the safari and desert overlanding trucks.

“It sounds rather simplistic now, but I can assure you it was a pretty radical concept,” reminisces Ward. “This FJ43 showcased ICON with a premium charcoal gray metallic exterior colorway from Audi and high-end German leather seats integrated into the build. Today’s enthusiasts will think no big deal, but absolutely no one at the time in 2002 was integrating German luxury into a Land Cruiser.”

As word spread of the pioneering approach in Land Cruiser design, Ward received word that Mr. Toyoda himself wanted to see what he could do. Ahead of the upcoming FJ Cruiser launch, Toyota hired Ward to create an early prototype, pre-production vintage concept to inspire their production.

“Our original shop in Van Nuys was an ode to all things Land Cruiser. Filled with love and passion, but we could barely accommodate Mr. Toyoda and the executives,” recalls Ward. “At first, I think they thought that we were out of our minds, but they left inspired. Mr. Toyoda commissioned two more builds from us. ICON was born from that experience.”

ICON & TLC4X4 Founder Celebrates 500th Land Cruiser Build | THE SHOP
Ward’s First Restoration – FJ43

In 2003, Ward co-founded ICON with wife Jamie and started moving into engineering with a focus on high performance builds introducing modern engines, chassis, suspension and braking. It proved a revolutionary concept with Ward’s techniques being applied to other fledgling brands like Singer Vehicle Design and others.

The 500th Land Cruiser is a New School Edition 1964 FJ44. Outfitted with a high performance 6.2L V8 engine with a 5-speed manual with special sport braking and suspension. The ICON FJ44 New School Edition features a sophisticated custom interior with heated seats, a pair of rear jump seats with easy access through the truck’s bi-fold rear tailgate, a roof rack and ladder. ICON integrated an upgraded hi-fidelity audio entertainment system and other modern touches such as a rear reverse camera, MIL LED headlights, locking differentials, a ceramic coated exhaust, and exclusively designed ICON New School wheels.

As with all ICON Land Cruiser FJ builds, Ward’s focus is on quality, handmade design and proven engineering to make the perfect vintage truck.

“Since 2007, ICON has been creating vintage Land Cruisers. No company has more experience with these trucks or is making them at this high level of quality,” comments Ward. “Our commitment to clients is to provide them with a special modernized, one of a kind truck that lasts and can be enjoyed for a lifetime.”

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