4 Restomod Overland 4x4 SUVs That Redefine Classic Bronco Styling And Jeep Capability
Vintage trucks are back in style in a big way. After being ignored by collectors for years, pickups and SUVs from the 1960s through the 1980s (like the Ford Bronco and the Chevrolet C10) have seen a spike in interest due to how many are available, how easy they are to maintain and modify, and how well their squared-off lines have aged.
This surge in popularity hasn't escaped the eye of some of the most upscale outfitters in the industry. Customization shops, hot rodders, and bespoke builders are increasingly turning to classic trucks and sport-utility vehicles as a canvas for producing eye-popping projects. These vehicles offer a host of modern upgrades while maintaining the integrity of their vintage packages, making them appealing as daily drivers and trail rigs alike.
Which retromod SUV or pickup is right for you? Two major names, ICON and Legacy, stand apart from the rest of the pack with their attention to detail, their ability to offer more than simply one-off, attention-seeking builds, and their extensive options and features lists. Here's a look at the best of what they have to offer the modernized classic truck crowd.
The Traditionalist - ICON Ford Bronco
Ford Bronco values were taking off even before the new 2021 model was announced by the Blue Oval. ICON got involved with the Bronco world more than a decade ago with its BR Series of sport-utility vehicles, which are intended to capture the spirit of the original short-wheelbase off-roader while providing a significant upgrade in terms of power and comfort.
From the outside most BR Series builds closely resemble the original 1966-77 Bronco's stock look, with a mild lift, modern wheels, and ICON badging serving as the only real clues that you're in the presence of something other than a traditional restoration. ICON even offers a choice between roadster, soft top, hard top, and hard top 'pickup' BR models, which echoes the factory body styles of the era.
Under the skin, however, the BR Bronco features a host of goodies, including a reinforced steel frame, Dynatrac axles front and rear, 12 inches of suspension travel thanks to a coil setup, and a 426 horsepower V8 engine sourced from TRQ. Matched with a five-speed manual transmission (an automatic is available) and an Atlas II low-range transfer case, the BR Bronco's mechanicals provide substantial on-road power and impressive off-road capability. This is on top of a full list of comfort features and trail accessories (winches, diff lockers, leather upholstery) for those who wish to get granular on their SUV's specifications.
The Explorer - Legacy Jeep Scrambler
The Jeep CJ has long been a trail-ready go-to, but there's no denying that some aspects of the open-top crawler could easily be improved. Enter Legacy, which takes the bones of any 1981-1986 Jeep CJ and converts it into a long-wheelbase Scrambler (the name given to a version of the CJ that added 14 inches of extra gear-toting length to its package).
In addition to a stretch on an all-steel frame, the Legacy Scrambler replaces almost every body panel with corrosion-proof aluminum, which helps subtract substantial weight from the 4x4's overall package. Even the engine and the transfer case are made of aluminum, dropping the SUV's weight to roughly that of a C7 Chevrolet Corvette.
Like the BR Bronco, the Scrambler makes use of Dynatrac axles and long-travel shocks. Powertrain choices include a Banks 630T turbodiesel V6 that's good for 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque, as well as an LS3 V8 that provides a whopping 430 horsepower and the same torque as the oil-burner. Several automatic and manual transmissions are offered, on top of an Atlas II transfer case.
Inside the Scrambler the philosophy of 'less is more' guides the hand of Legacy's stylists. What this means is a simple presentation for gauges on a steel dashboard, although higher-end materials for seating and upholstery are available on demand. Still, keeping it simple has its perks: with the roof off, the entire passenger compartment is weatherproofed so you don't have to worry about mud or rain messing up your fun.
The Rugged Individualist - ICON Reformer Dodge D Series / Ford F100
ICON offers a unique twist on its complete custom truck capability with its Reformers. Unlike the BR Series, Reformers take pre-existing classic sport-utilities or pickups and apply the overall ICON esthetic and template for modernization—in effect, a turn-key restomod with broad, but defined boundaries for the customer.
Two of the highest-profile Reformers have been off-road ready pickups that are not quite as common in overland circles. The first is a Dodge D200 Power Wagon, a four-wheel drive, four-door iteration of the Pentastar's mid-60's workhorse. Featuring a turbodiesel drivetrain good for 975 lb-ft of torque, and riding on a recent Ram MegaCab heavy-duty chassis, the D200 Reformer stuffs all of the capability of a modern work truck inside classic sheet metal.
The most recent Reformer package makes use of a 1970 F100 Ranger platform. Like the Dodge, its powertrain has been updated to current-day figures, in this case sporting 420 horses from a 5.0-liter Coyote V8 (sourced from a Ford Mustang GT).
The Ranger makes use of the same Dynatrac axles found in the BR Bronco, comes with Brembo stopping power, and unlike many restomod trucks is a single-cab, rather than a four-door body style. Fox shocks and Eibach coil springs complete the rugged setup. All of this work is completely invisible from the outside, what with the F100 maintaining the Ford 'Hi-Boy' ride height and steel wheels that it offered when new.
The Head-Turner - Legacy NAPCO Chevy
What if you'd rather not blend in when behind the wheel of your classic restomod? The Legacy NAPCO Chevy turns the attention up to 11 with its big lift, bold styling, and sizable performance, celebrating the 1955-1959 Chevrolet NAPCO conversion trucks that were among the first at General Motors to offer four-wheel drive.
The in-your-face looks of the Legacy NAPCO are in keeping with the original elevated stance found on the factory conversions of the era. That being said, Legacy has dialed out the twitchy handling that was also a characteristic of those heavily-sprung trucks, with the entire vehicle having been re-engineered to modern standards. This includes a complete re-think of the chassis and body in order to reduce flex and improve overall stability, as well as fresh styling cues such as quad exit exhaust and a wooden cargo bed.
A reinforced frame is welcome when considering the power offered by the Legacy NAPCO's standard 5.3-liter LS engine, which churns out 350 horses and 350 lb-ft of torque (with additional LS options also in the cards). That's a massive step up from the Chevrolet's more modest origins. Hydroboost brakes, Dynatrac ProRock axles (44 up front and 60 in the rear), manual and automatic transmissions, and of course the company's preferred Atlas twin-stick transfer case are all present and accounted for.
Need more than a classic with four-wheel drive to get you where you need to go on your next overland adventure? Check out these high-end 6x6 conversions that never take 'no' for an answer out on the trail.