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Behind The Build: Icon’s One-Of-A-Kind Cummins

A 1965 Dodge Is Transformed Into A Modern Masterpiece

Text By Trevor Reed, Photography by Courtesy Of Icon, Trevor Reed

Back in 1965, few folks probably thought of a Dodge D200 crew cab as a potential collector’s item. Four-door versions of the pickup were mainly sold to the government or businesses for use as a work truck, which could hold six employees. This was long before the days of a Mega Cab full of electronics that might be used for grocery-getting more often than hauling. Jonathan Ward, the owner and creator of ICON, saw a lot of potential for upgrades when a rancher asked him to turn a ’65 Dodge D200 into a custom truck with all the style of a ’60s Chrysler pickup and the performance of a 21st century ¾-ton 4x4 truck. Sporting a Cummins diesel under the hood, advanced suspension at each corner, and a simple yet richly trimmed interior, this build surpasses anything you’ll ever find on a dealer’s lot.

This SEMA-bound project has been more than a year in the making, with about three months spent finding the perfect donor vehicles that could be combined into a one-of-a-kind work truck and showpiece. Ward spent a lot of his time tracking down an original crew cab ’65 Dodge D200. While four-door versions of the truck can be found, many, if not most, came from the factory as two-door regular cabs but were then stretched into crew cabs. That was not an option for Ward, who is known for focusing on the details when restoring vehicles, such as the Land Cruisers his company, TLC, transforms into better-than-stock condition. His meticulous searching paid off when he found a pristine D200 that went up for sale, and it was just a couple hours drive north from the ICON headquarters in Los Angeles. The truck turned out to be exactly what he had been looking for: a real factory four-door model that was originally owned by the U.S. military and looked as if it had been sealed inside Tupperware during the past 3½ decades.

The second donor vehicle wasn’t nearly as hard to find, but it still had to meet Ward’s strict specifications. He ended up purchasing a lightly used ’06 Dodge Ram 3500 with a manual transmission behind the tried-and-true Cummins 5.9L turbodiesel engine. With four-wheel drive, single rear wheels, and just a few thousand miles on the odometer, the Ram was barely broken in and would provide the perfect backbone for this modern interpretation of a classic truck. In addition to the frame and drivetrain, multiple modern parts would be used to upgrade the ’65 Dodge to current standards.

This truck might not seem right for the pages of Diesel Power without the aid of the engineers at Banks, who helped maximize the potential of the Cummins engine. In addition to computer programming via a Banks iQ 2.0 module, a Banks Ram Air, an intake elbow, an improved turbo wastegate, the added stopping power of a Banks exhaust brake, and a Banks Monster dual exhaust system, this truck got some very special treatment. While most modern turbodiesel trucks use air-to-air intercoolers, which are fairly simple contraptions, limitations on space led Banks and ICON to build a custom water-to-air intercooler system.

Lots of work went into creating a setup with custom coolant reservoirs, and a one-of-a-kind heat exchanger box connected to a specially fabricated ram-air intake system. As if the ECU and intercooler upgrades weren’t enough, Banks and ICON decided to take advantage of the ports on the Banks Monster Ram intake to install a large-capacity water- methanol injection system for added power and mileage. If that piques your interest, then keep an eye out for Banks’ new line of injection systems for modern diesel trucks. With all these engine upgrades, the lucky owner of this one-off Dodge will have 975 lb-ft of torque on tap—pretty awesome for a so-called “ranch truck.”

Since every ICON project is much more than a body and engine swap, there was plenty of room for improvement on the original truck, while maintaining the look of the original vehicle. To complement the upgrade to four-wheel drive, the suspension got a 4½-inch suspension lift with reservoir shocks and large off-road tires on two-part military-grade wheels. The factory body was altered to fit the big rubber with reworked front wheelwells while keeping the truck looking stock by avoiding the appearance of cut fenders. Gaps and lines in the doors, bumpers, and every body panel were worked to make them look as good, or better than when the truck left the factory, and the dash was even stretched to perfectly fit the modern Dodge instrument panel inside.

Plenty of other details are being added, combining the functionality and style that have made ICON creations famous. The interior surfaces are made using custom-dyed free-range bison hide, a motorized pop-up engine control system utilizing the factory storage bin, integrated modern four-wheel-drive controls, a hidden iPod-controlled audio system with JBL speakers and custom steel speaker enclosures, and plenty of sound-deadening material to bring the ’65 Dodge up to the standards expected while inside a modern fullsize truck. On the outside, custom badges with the ranch owner’s logo, custom exterior mirrors, ICON badging, and other contemporary touches hint that this is not your typical D-series truck.

The Dodge was just leaving for custom paint when we had to send this article to the printer, but we’ll have a full-coverage feature with exclusive photos and information in an upcoming issue of Diesel Power magazine.

By Trevor Reed
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