Back to the future: Classic cars go high tech

ICON's vintage custom cars use beautiful design to challenge the notion that we live in a disposable world.

Watch on YouTube

The innovative designers and automotive specialists at ICON’s boutique classic car restoration shop are revolutionizing the industry by crafting quality custom cars that are truly meant to stand the test of time. And in doing so, they’re also changing our outlook on living in a throwaway society.

Many people are attracted to the timeless design of vintage cars – their sleek lines, sophisticated color palettes, and attention to craftsmanship that just doesn’t exist with modern vehicle manufacturing.

But one of the biggest drawbacks of driving a vintage car is that they lack modern amenities such as air conditioning, automatic windows, contemporary sound systems, and of course, efficient engines.

So with a focus on high-functioning, high-impact design, ICON exists to create custom cars for the future, all while maintaining a sincere appreciation of the vintage designs that autophiles love.

Unique Classic Cars with a Modern Touch

ICON doesn’t just recycle cool old cars. They entirely rebuild them into something their clients will appreciate and cherish for the rest of their lives. They’re pushing the boundaries created by automation and rapid industrialization.

“Industrialization, standardization of automotive manufacturing was a game-changer,” says Jonathan Ward, ICON’s CEO and Chief Design Officer. “But to me, the most interesting products coming out are these clever mashups of traditional craftsmanship and modern solutions.”

Ward says that one detrimental result of automation in the automotive industry was that quantity began to overpower quality. With ICON, he’s setting out to honor the well-loved designs of the era, while reimagining every component to produce custom cars of a superior quality.

ICON infuses classic designs with the latest technologies in a seamless integration of function and beauty. Their custom cars are what’s known in the industry as restomod cars – fully restored classic cars that have been updated with modern, aftermarket parts and features that wouldn’t have been included in the original model.

In these custom cars, power windows are controlled by the original, analog cranks, but the driver simply needs to push the crank up or down. EV charging ports are smartly hidden behind license plates. Vehicles also feature digital, touch screen displays with gauges programmed to resemble those from the vehicle’s original era. 

Recycling vs. Refurbishing Cars

ICON isn’t simply redesigning and reimagining cars for the next generation, as automotive expert, Michael DiTullo says. The business is also helping mitigate our global waste issue.

Each year in the U.S., just under 12 million vehicles reach the end of their serviceable lives (and about 27 million vehicles worldwide). If all of these cars were simply heaped up in junk yards and left to deteriorate, we’d have a massive problem on our hands.
Junked vehicles, however, rarely go to waste because there’s an entire industry built around them. The automotive recycling industry is the 16th largest in the U.S. It generates about $25 billion a year and employs around 100,000 people.

The junked cars are scrapped for salvageable parts that can be resold to help car owners repair their vehicles at a lower price. Salvaged parts are much less expensive than those obtained from a manufacturer and are often the only option available for repairing older vehicles.

Along with their parts, tires, batteries, and metals, cars are about 80% recyclable. The leftover steel alone is enough to build 13 million new vehicles every year. Additionally, prior to vehicle shredding, fluids like gas, oil, and antifreeze are removed and either resold or reused.

So it’s clear that the auto recycling industry does their part in reselling and reusing materials from end-of-life vehicles. But many people argue that recycling isn’t enough to solve our waste issue, especially proponents of the circular economy who want to eliminate garbage altogether. This is where companies like ICON come in.

Can ICON’s Business Model Scale?

Although not everyone can afford the luxury custom cars that ICON produces, if the company’s model were replicated on a larger scale it could make a noticeable difference in the amount of waste we generate.

ICON’s “quality over quantity” principles can drastically alter how we view consumerism in general. The idea that we can get more mileage out of our belongings inherently challenges a widely accepted concept that we live in a disposable world.

We can even apply this principle to smaller purchases that we use everyday, such as clothing. Many learn the hard way that they can save more money in the long run by purchasing a higher quality product from the get-go. Even though the outright cost is greater than a lower quality product, over time you’ll end up with fewer worn out items in need of replacement.

ICON stands to shift the consumer’s focus to this new kind of business model. If every product was crafted with the same attention to detail that ICON’s custom car builders put into their restomods, we’d never want to throw anything out again. And what better way to get the world excited about mindful consumerism than with swoon-worthy, souped up, custom cars?

For more interesting news about the people and ideas that are changing our world, subscribe to Freethink.

Subscribe to Freethink for more great stories