The basic idea of a restomod is so tantalizing, so obvious -- combine classic style with modern technology and performance -- and yet so hard to get right. There is no shortage of questionable (and downright crappy) attempts on display at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas.

But this 1949 Mercury Coupe? Yeah, it nails it. We won’t even call it a restomod! It’s an Icon!

No, really; it’s the latest creation of Jonathan Ward and the Los Angeles-based shop Icon. And it actually takes the new/old concept a step further than most because there’s no souped-up fuel-injected Coyote V8 under the hood: The car has been fully converted to an electric powertrain.

This isn’t the only hot EV conversion at SEMA this year or the only EV-swapped classic we’ve seen recently (we’re sensing a trend here). Nor is it the first EV from Icon; it has produced a retro-futuristic electric bicycle in the past. But with its combination of cutting-edge tech, classic looks and the kind of authentic texture that only decades of use can create, the ’49 Merc is a completely different take on the concept. Which is exactly what we’d expect from Icon.

Built for one of Icon’s longtime clients, it’s one of the shop’s so-called “Derelicts.” In Icon-speak, that means it keeps its characterful exterior but gets new mechanicals and a snazzy, partially refreshed interior. (Compare this to Icon’s “Reformers,” which are reworked down to the last square inch of sheetmetal and paint.)

To get this look, according to Icon, the whole thing was “forensically disassembled” -- taken apart with the goal of preserving the Southern California car’s hard-won original patina -- before being reassembled with new rubber, extra sound-deadening and insulation, etc. The result, or so says Icon, is a car that’s been completely rebuilt without looking like it's ever been touched. If you’ve ever tried to sympathetically restore an old car, you’ll know that’s much, much easier said than done. We’d say they pulled it off.

Aside from the lack of an exhaust tip, the biggest exterior giveaway here is the stance; this thing rides low. But it hasn’t merely been lowered -- that’s not Icon’s style. We’re talking about the company that CNC-machined aluminum wheels for its Reformer Chevrolet Caprice and then painted them to look like cheapo black steelies because it couldn’t find black steelies in just the right size for the completely reimagined highway-conquerer. Icon does subtlety well, but that rarely means simplicity. And so this Mercury’s underpinnings have been thoroughly re-engineered; it now rides on a new Art Morrison Enterprises-developed chassis with independent suspension (and Brembo brakes) all around.

Save for the digital gauge cluster, the interior is almost pure throwback. Power windows are actuated via the old hand cranks, and switchgear looks suitably vintage as well. The gentle wear on the dashboard has been left intact, and the upholstery is, while brand-new, just right -- it plays with the colors of the weathered exterior but makes no attempt to fake the wear and tear of the exterior paint. The fact that it retains benches, rather than some undoubtedly more ergonomic buckets, is a nice touch as well.

Under the hood, there’s no engine (duh) but there is a sort of V8-looking … er, object that actually conceals battery controllers and EV system modulizers or something (there’s a whole new terminology of electron-shuffling devices we have clearly not yet mastered). The faux-V8 is a creative nod to the car’s internal-combustion-powered heritage; vintage-esque cloth-covered wires enhance the effect, but we appreciate that the packaging never tries to trick you into thinking there’s a dino-burning powerplant in there. We’d expect designers and creators to continue playing with all these newfangled electric bits as they start to become more common in cars old and new.

As for performance? It’ll do a respectable 120 mph thanks to two electric motors. The system has 470 lb-ft of torque and the equivalent of 400 hp; a Tesla-sourced 85 kWh battery system, which is spread across the vehicle for packaging and weight distribution reasons, gives an estimated 150- to 200-mile range. There are two ways to charge it up (with a full recharge estimated at 1.5 hours): a CHAdeMo 125-amp inlet behind the front license plate or a Tesla supercharger plug tucked away behind the fuel filler door.

Our Mark Vaughn is on the ground at SEMA and will be speaking with Jonathan Ward about his latest creation, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime, check out these photos, and remember: It might not be the way you'd do a vintage Merc, but that's the whole point of custom cars. Electric powertrains, it seems, are just one more option in the custom builder's toolkit, and this Derelict is an early look at the tech's vast potential.

Source: Autoweek

October 30, 2018