Rare ’56 Chevy Nomad with needs presents a project opportunity

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Chevy
The Chevy Nomad wagon is a classic piece of mid-'50s design artistry

After all the high-dollar auction craziness of the past Arizona Auction Week, it might be time to come back to earth with a desirable collector car that is attainable for regular folk.

The Pick of the Day is a 1956 Chevrolet Nomad that’s complete and drivable but needs cosmetic work, making it a good entry point for acquiring the rarest and most-sought-after version of the Tri-Five Chevys. Fewer than 8,000 of these attractive two-door wagons were built for 1956, and they can command top prices when offered in restored or street rod condition.

Chevrolet
The canted and slatted rear hatch is an iconic feature

From the galley of photos with the ClassicCars.com advertisement placed by a Concord, North Carolina, dealer, this Nomad looks like a car that was restored at some point but then allowed to go south, with numerous surface-rust spots around the trim, and ripped front-seat upholstery.  Or maybe it’s original paint and interior; the ad doesn’t say.

The upsides of this car are shown under the hood, where a newer Chevy 350 V8 resides in a clean engine compartment, and under the entire car on a lift, where it is looks to be solid-looking with no obvious rust problems. Just 52,000 miles shows on the odometer, but no indication that it is original.

The ‘55-57 Nomad is an iconic model from the 1950s, which started out as a General Motors Motorama show car of 1954 based on the Corvette, then applied to Chevy’s newly redesigned ’55 models as a unique top-of-the-line halo car.  Pontiac had a similar model called the Safari.

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Chevrolet
The upholstery needs replacement

Many of these Nomads, in particular the 1955 versions, have been redone as street rods and show cars, but this one looks factory correct aside from a set of American Racing Torq Thrust wheels – which look great on this car – and the engine swap.

While the engine is an update, the seller points out that it continues the small-block magic that began at this time.

“The 350 cubic-inch crate V8 is much younger and larger than anything offered in ’56,” the seller notes.   “It still has that great classic style with the bold block and finned valve covers. It really embraces the small-block performance attitude by inhaling through a four-barrel carburetor and exhaling from long tube headers that add power as well as growl to the dual exhaust.

Chevrolet
A newer 350 Chevy V8  and aluminum radiator is under the hood

“More than a powerful presence, you’re going to enjoy how this V8 fires readily. That’s thanks to good maintenance, including newer components like the plugs, wires, distributor, and large aluminum radiator. Plus, with a three-speed automatic transmission, power steering, and power brakes, this Nomad is ready to enjoy right now.”

While the Nomad is complete, including all of its complex chrome and interior pieces, the seller says, it will take plenty of cleanup to turn it into the sharp-looking resto-mod that it should be. Bodywork, paint and upholstery – that’s expensive stuff unless you’re skilled enough to tackle the labor yourself.

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Chevrolet
This classic Chevy deserves a restoration

But with an asking price of $34,995, this is a rare classic that would be worthy of spending the time and money to bring back. And as the seller says, it can be driven now.

“There’s potential here for everything from a cool rat rod to a restoration that’ll command top-dollar,” the seller adds. “That’s the beauty of a having a rare Nomad that’s so complete and already so powerful.”

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

6 COMMENTS

    • That would be a "yes", Bill. I saw this ’56 at Streetside Classics (near my house) before it was advertised and took photos. I love the car but don’t have room.

    • No doubt about it. One of the pics shows holes in the fender. He is absolutely right that it will take plenty to bring this to a high level. Body, upholstery & paint. All big bucks jobs. Wish I had the bucks & experience to do that. I’ve wanted one of these since 1955. Probably a pipe dream.

  1. Nice car but …… but from an investment point, if the original drivetrain was with in the car or available, it would be worth investing the time and money to bring it back.

  2. This ’56 is located four miles from our house at Streetside Classics. I saw it before it was advertised when it first rolled into their showroom and took plenty of photos. Love the car, however, pictures do make it look a touch better than it actually is…but it’s not bad at all! Our three-car garage in full including my ’72 Camaro and my wife’s ’64 Corvair (her parents first new car) or she would be mine. Love the ’56 Nomad and ’57 Safari.

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