Behind The Build: Icon’s One-Of-A-Kind Cummins
A 1965 Dodge Is Transformed Into A Modern Masterpiece
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.
Q&A with ICON D200 Collaborator Gale Banks
Diesel Power: How did you become involved with ICON on this project?
Diesel Power: How did you become involved with ICON on this project?
Gale Banks: Jonathan Ward at ICON was looking to build a powertrain that was solid as an anvil that also didn’t smoke. The buyer wanted a clean, powerful, solid, streetable configuration. He wanted a truck that could be used for ranch work every day, not drag racing.
DP: What similarities do you see between both of your companies’ commitments to quality and reliable performance? GB: I was a hot-rodder in high school and always wanted the fastest car in town. You don’t set records without putting care and quality into the products you build. My company could be much bigger if I wasn’t directly involved with every step of engineering. Jonathan Ward is similar in his involvement in every part of the creation of his vehicles, from the vendors down to their final forms. Jonathan’s products also have a special “hip factor” that is a big hit with the public, and a unique, retro style that I really like.
DP: What advantages do Banks Power products provide for the Cummins 5.9L?
GB: Power and torque, first and foremost. The owner wanted something with less than 1,000 lb-ft of torque, not because it’s impossible, but probably to keep it unbreakable as a daily driver with a manual transmission. We designed a powertrain with 550 hp at 3,200 rpm and 975 lb-ft at 2,200 rpm using our Six Gun programmer.
It has six settings, and by using version 2.0 of the iQ display and controller, all of the programs include safety overlays. The safety settings measure things such as EGT, clutch slippage, water temp, and boost pressure—in short, temperatures, pressures, and slip—to make it virtually impossible to kill the engine. There are pure mpg programs, and even mpg components built into the most powerful settings.
The High-Ram Inlet intake air system is designed to maximize the density of the air going into the head to win the density battle. The concentration of air going into the intake is very important. With the factory turbo, the Big Head wastegate valve actuator prevents loss of torque at low and high engine speeds. You can’t ever totally get rid of turbo lag, but with a well-engineered wastegate, you can run a smaller turbine that spins up fast at low rpm and only blows off excess when more pressure than needed is produced.
The exhaust uses a Banks Power Elbow, which bolts directly to the turbine housing then expands to 4 inches for everything after the turbo to maximize flow by minimizing restriction. Like a megaphone, it expands quickly, and that diffuses the exhaust gas swirl, which creates drag inside exhaust pipes and produces unwanted backpressure.
DP: You helped General Motors develop the GMC Syclone and Typhoon powertrain; did your experience with these trucks influence your decisions about how to intercool the ICON D200?
GB: While working with General Motors, it took a lot of convincing to get them to use a turbocharger, and then, due to space constraints, we needed to use an air-to-water intercooler so the trucks could perform as daily drivers, not just drag trucks. With the large Cummins engine in the D200 engine bay and limited space for radiators behind the grille, there wasn’t much room, so we had to design a unique intercooler system with the capacity to perform the duties required of a work truck. The custom air-to-water intercooler system uses large, 1¼-inch lines and a 55-gpm water pump to move the coolant. Using a large reservoir with a lot of coolant in the system will help it avoid heat-soak, and the antifreeze in the coolant package should increase durability and keep it from freezing when temperatures are low. Now, the truck has a high-temp cooling system for the engine and a low-temp cooling system for the turbocharging setup.
DP: While the Banks intake system already had ports for aftermarket injection of water-methanol or nitrous, are there plans to come out with a Banks-branded water-methanol system like the one in the ICON D200 for “civilian” vehicles?
GB: Yes, we will absolutely have a water-methanol system for diesel “civilian” trucks, SUVs, and cars. Plus, we’re even testing systems for Detroit Diesel-equipped semitruck engines. Our product will use graduating injection levels that ramp up with the amount of fuel being used by controlling the flow of water-methanol going into the nozzles, and not just by turning on nozzle after nozzle. The system will also sense whether the system is out of water-methanol, or if the pump is losing pressure, using sensors before and after the pump. Testing has shown that with the proper tuning, water-methanol injection can reduce emissions and improve mpg. Everything I make is designed to be emissions legal in all 50 states—even with California’s strict rules.
DP: The ICON D200 uses the latest Banks iQ 2.0 programmer. What are some of the features it includes?
GB: This newest version of the Banks iQ 2.0 has a 5-inch color 16:9 touchscreen with GPS for the Banks Nav navigation system, full control of the engine and instrumentation, audible and visual drivetrain safety alerts, Bluetooth hands-free phone controls with a built-in microphone and speaker, an SDHC memory card slot with the ability to hold more than 8 gigabytes, audio streaming, video playback, and the ability to work as a backup camera display, along with lots of other features which get updated, such as increased boot-up speed when the unit is turned on.
DP: Do you have any plans for future projects with ICON?
GB: Yes, we are excited about plans to partner with ICON on a project using the Italian VM Motori-based Gale Banks V-6 diesel, which will possibly use the ZF eight-speed automatic transmission in a TLC Land Cruiser.
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