When Chevrolet created the Advanced Design pickups—the fourth-generation trucks that would eventually lead to the modern Chevrolet Silverado—it was intended to be the most, well, advanced pickup of its time. That brief was accomplished in its era, but compared to today’s standards, the Thriftmasters and Loadmasters are archaic to say the least. Thankfully, restomods like the Icon 4×4 Thriftmasters show us the potential for such trucks even today—they’re “what if?” scenarios come to life. For example, what if the body stayed the same but everything else in this old school truck was fully modernized? While it has offered the Old School series Thriftmaster restomod service before, Icon’s New School series takes a far more modern approach with a fully independent suspension, forged aluminum wheels, and modern amenities.
What Is a Thriftmaster?
The name covered the line of all 1947-1955 Chevrolet Advanced Design pickups under one ton capacity. It didn’t designate a lower trim, but was a particularly 1940s way of describing a working-class vehicle. Anything above their capacity was called “Loadmaster. ” The biggest advancements in the A-series trucks were its larger, wider cab that could fit three people; telescopic shocks versus the lever-action shocks of the AK trucks; cab corner windows; fresh-air heating and window defrosting; and an in-dash radio option. Along with the sleek, rounded features of the body and grille, the Advanced Design trucks looked nothing like the AK-series they replaced.
The 1952 Icon 4×4 New School Thriftmaster
We have seen this build type before from Icon 4×4, but now it will become a regular service from the restomod shop. Known as the New School series, this and other Thriftmaster pickups will be built with even more modern parts. It’s more than just a new engine, though. Let’s start with the suspension, as that is quite possibly the most dramatic change from the Old School series. While it’s common to replace the front solid axle suspension with an independent one, Icon went further by having Art Morrison Chassis create a fully independent suspension for this restomod. Yep, there’s no 14-bolt or Ford nine-inch straight axle under this athletic beauty’s rear. The rear differential is a Dana 60 nodular third member that is connected to those rear 18-inch forged Icon “artillery style” wheels. Behind those wheels is a Brembo Sport Brake system designed by Icon, while a custom coilover setup keeps the tires in constant contact with the road.
New World Power
Replacing the original 92-hp, 216-cubic-inch I-6 is a Chevrolet Performance E-Rod 6.2 liter LS3 V-8 that makes nearly five times that much grunt at 440 horsepower, as well as 430 lb-ft of torque. Unlike previous Old School builds, this New School package uses a naturally aspirated engine. Replacing the column-shifted Saginaw three-speed manual is a floor-shifted six-speed transmission. With the addition of a powered rack and pinion steering, this Thriftmaster has become a Trackmaster that Icon said could “easily keep pace chasing down a modern-day sports car through a canyon, no problem at all.”
Old School Body, New School Details
It’s not that the GM licensed reproduction steel body doesn’t have any work done. Quite the opposite, but the touches don’t take away from the original look and feel of the Thriftmaster 3100. The bed floor of the original truck incorporated eight planks of southern yellow pine, painted black. The Icon Thriftmaster’s eight planks are made from Shou Sugi Ban burned-finish walnut. In addition, this particular truck is painted a Porsche hue called Chalk. You can also see the chrome fuel cap that hints at the new placement of the fuel tank, which is moved from behind the seats to under the bed, just aft of the IRS system.
By 1952, the Korean War had started to take its toll on supplies here in the U.S., so the original Thriftmaster trucks didn’t have much chrome. The hub caps, bumpers, grille, and many other typically chrome items were painted thistle gray on 1952 and 1953 trucks. For the Icon Thriftmaster, these items were refinished in black chrome trim. Even the individual bolts have been given the dark, shiny treatment. However, the “Icon Thriftmaster” hood side badging is full chrome and brings back the original “Thriftmaster” logo that was only present on the 1947 to early 1949 trucks. One item that’s not a callback to the old trucks hints at what lurks underneath the sheetmetal: Icon’s lizard badge located just above the grille.
A Classic Interior With Modern Amenities
The original Thriftmaster 3100 was a simple machine and anything that moved inside required human power. The Icon Thriftmaster replaces the manual locks and windows with powered units, while the former can also be remotely actuated. Sadly, the window cranks’ original maroon plastic knobs have been replaced with chrome pieces, but they at least retain the period look. The original dash has been retained, but the gauges have been replaced.
Ambient LED lighting under the seat and dashboard set the vibe during evening drives while a hidden Pioneer 8600NEX sound system provides the sound track. Its head unit with screen is sited behind an articulating one-piece dash panel and works with a rearview backup camera, and the subwoofer now lives where the original fuel tank was. An in-dash climate control system is cleverly blended into the classic design of the original Thriftmaster interior.
Occupants sit on a bench seat with a foldable armrest, all covered in microsanded leather from Moore and Giles. The original Thriftmaster steering wheel has been replaced by a reduced diameter, tilting Tri-Five unit wrapped in the same high-grade leather, which also adorns the upper doors. Fitting into the original, open feel of the pickup’s cab, an Icon-engineered control box is tastefully tucked just below the dash.
Icon Can Build You One, Too
The truck you see here isn’t necessarily a one-off build just for Jonathan Ward, Icon 4×4’s founder, to enjoy. It’s a showcase for the company’s “New School” build series. “Our New School Thriftmaster presents a disarming duality found in all the very best sleepers,” says Ward. “At first glance, this is a beautifully restored 1952 pickup, but underneath it all is a vehicle with power and handling that are absolutely off the charts. These New School Edition trucks are exciting in that they give Icon the opportunity to creatively build on the Thriftmaster’s vintage style while cleverly incorporating the best of the best present-day elements that go into a truly one-of-one build.”
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