It’s been awhile since we’ve taken you out to lunch in a cool car, so how do you feel about picking up some Filipino-fusion with Icon’s Jonathan Ward in a big-block Chevy-powered 1946 Oldsmobile?
If you’re unfamiliar with Icon, imagine it like, “If Roadkill had money and did things nicely.” Same general love of rule-breaking and well-worn patina, but with working brakes and less duct tape. Ward’s company has several offshoots, working on everything from overlanding Toyata Land Crusiers to Hellcat-powered Superbirds. Some of them are shiny, some look like barn finds with suspiciously nice stance, but all make use of Jonathan’s love of metalwork, new technology, and old styling. We met up with HOT ROD Magazine’s Brandan Gillogly to take a quick look around the Chatsworth, California shop, and then fire up the 502 in one of Ward’s newer Derelict series machines and find us some food.
A lot of Icon’s customers are people who like old car style, but have no interest in the wrenching or learning old driving skills part. As Jonathan says, “To hell with carburetors.” The customer who ordered the Olds was a little different. He wanted to be part of the build, so much so that he built the engine himself, and that’s why there’s a rowdy Hilborn injected 502ci Chevy between the fenders rather than Ward’s more usual LS power. We lit that sucker up and have to say we go on side-customer for this one. Vroom! Rumble! Pow!
Driving a modernized ‘40s car has some uncanny valley moments. It will stop, it will make that turn, but your eyes and hands on that hula hoop of a steering wheel tell you there’s just no way. Ward restores many of the original wheels, and often works with Ididit Steering to make custom hubs and columns to avoid having to modernize the wheel itself. He’s big on this sort of thing, not originality, but the feel of originality. It’s like an engineer from 1946 time traveled to now before returning to their own time. What would they have brought home and incorporated into the machines they built?
Our lunch destination had a similar idea of fusing the best of one’s background with new ideas from a new land. The founding chef of Oi Asian Fusion, Eric de la Cruz is Filipino, but his rice bowl lunch counters—he has one in Canoga Park and one in Hollywood–pull from Japan, Korea, and America to offer pork belly, Bibimbap, crayfish, and hamburgers. It seemed like a good spot to take the Derelict.
Once you got used to the wrongness of 650hp in a car that originally had maybe 110 if it was the straight-eight performance version, the Derelict Olds was a blast. People hung out their car windows to try and make sense of its puttery good looks and street machine roar. The steering was tight, the brakes perfectly boosted—Ward has spent a lot of time working out the exact right combo of Wilwood components and hydroboost help to get brakes that are neither too mushy for the weight nor so grabby as to test the custom-made safety glass in the windshield. A little tap on the stock-looking window cranks activated power windows and moved the coffee-tinted glass out of the way and the California winter breeze into the cabin. If we’d wanted to leave the windows up, the Olds has working heater and air, but half the fun of an old car is the wind in your hair and being able to hear the gasps of delight from folks on the street.
Slightly less delightful was parking the beast in Oi’s very busy and compact minimall parking lot. I can only imagine the challenge of moving a stock non-power assisted version into position. We got it mostly between the lines, and took up a booth position in Oi’s small lunch room where we could keep an eye on it through the glass while we ate fried eggs, pork belly in soft buns, and thinly cut, sweet beef on rice. A little side note here for Roadkill fans. Oi came highly recommended by Diesel Power editor and Stubby Bob cheerleader, KJ Jones. Yeah, we’re all friends around here, just like you’d imagine.
Full of interesting flavors and healthy protein, we climbed back in the Oldsmobile to enjoy its interesting textures and healthy horsepower. I backed the Olds out of its spot—many of Ward’s cars have backup cameras to make maneuvering them in modern traffic easier but this one did not—and gunned it up Canoga Avenue. We might only have enough money for a lunch date with an Icon car, but we sure do envy those who can get one for a lifetime. Next lunch better be in that Hellcat Plymouth!
Got an idea of a place we should eat and a car we should drive there? Let us know in the comments.