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He makes millions from SUVs headed for the scrap heap. Learn about a mechanic whose custom restorations turn beat-up 4-by-4s into lean, mean, road machines. The story of Icon.

Jonathan Ward was a car lover who got into the restoration business in 1996 when he and his wife Jamie opened up a garage focusing on restoring old Toyota Land Cruisers.

“During my travels, I saw that the more remote the terrain, the more people were devoted to their Land Rovers,” Ward told Entrepreneur. “I thought there had to be a much larger market.”

Ward was attending a business class at USC, where one of his fellow students bet him $1,000 that he couldn’t increase the market for restored vehicles. He took the bet.

In 1996, Jonathan and Jamie started TLC, geared specifically towards restoring Toyota Land Cruisers. They began advertising in local auto-sales magazine, and traded their first job out in exchange for a website.

Just as Ward had predicted, his unique, high quality restorations began attracting new buyers into the market. According to the Brown Safe Research Labs Blog, “These buyers loved the exterior aesthetics but desired the up-to-date driving characteristics to match the finish quality… Jonathon felt there wasn’t much advantage to swapping one archaic system for another. Instead TLC met the desire of improved performance and handling with the modern technology, tunability and efficiency of a refined contemporary system and expanded its scope to incorporate fuel injected V8 engines, five speed transmissions, and four wheel disc brakes.”

It was this passion for quality details that brought in the customers.  Soon, his designer touches were getting attention from people in high places. Universal Pictures called, ordering five identical FJ60’s for their film Dante’s Peak. Then, the president of Toyota called requesting his help with pre-production designs for the 2007 FJ Cruiser!

The Toyota contract left him inspired and well-funded. He used the money to make the first vehicle for his new company, Icon.

Today, Icon has grown into a 28-person, $5.2 million business with revenues expected to triple in the next few years. They restore vehicles, modify vehicles, and build reimagined versions of classic old SUVs.

But don’t go dragging your old Bronco to him anytime soon. He’s booked out for years down the road. Icon takes eight months for a truck restoration, which then gets 400 miles of test drives just to make sure there’s no rattle!

Jonathan Ward exemplifies an axiom featured on our website:  Think Tried and True and Make it New.

He turned 4-by-4s headed for the scrap heap into CUSTOMIZED lean-mean-machines.

Now Why Didn’t I Think of that?!?

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