Corvette Powered Project: 1955 Chevrolet Nomad

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Nomad! OK, I’m in. I think Tri-Five Chevys are just alright, but a Nomad, that’s a completely different matter. From the very first time I saw one and learned all about it, I’ve had a fascination for these spiffy two-door station wagons like this 1955 example, located in Morgantown, Pennsylvania and available here on eBay for a current bid of $12,700, reserve not met yet.

The tri-five Nomad was a halo car for Chevrolet with a total of about 23,000 manufactured over the three-year span. The 1955, which is my favorite, is the most common with production figures trailing lower in ‘56 and ’57. The radiused rear wheel opening, which only the ’55 Nomad had, is a great styling cue and changes the dynamic of the car’s exterior appearance.

This ‘55 Nomad has an “elegantly worn” look to it. I will not, however, use that “P” word so commonly encountered today. The finish is thin or burned through in places, while some body panels are obviously primered; there are small rust holes present too in the lower quarters and tailgate area. The seller claims that he has all of the missing trim but some will need reconditioning – it’s good to see that the front fender eyebrows are still present, they seem to go missing on ’55 Nomads for some reason. There is some misalignment with the rear window and the roof-line. The seller claims that this is a common Nomad problem and due to “factory torsion bars” (I have no idea what that means, can one of our readers enlighten me?) but I would have some concern about it – it’s really misaligned.

The underside has big problems. There are a lot of rusted through frame members that have to affect the integrity of this Nomad. The seller is generous with the photos and description but downplays it by stating, “A few holes of invasive rust are seen on the floor pans, and all shirt braces to the body will need to be replaced due to invasive rusting. Noted all long braces are good.” Those “shirt” (probably means short) braces are going to take a lot of expensive and time-consuming metalwork to effect a proper repair.

The interior is a bit of a mixed bag. It basically looks pretty good with its two-tone, red, black and white vinyl upholstery – a very ‘50ish affair. The seat fabric is worn in places and we know that the nice-looking, probably never stepped on red carpet covers up holes in the floor. The steering wheel appears to be from a late ’50’s Impala, not correct but looks fitting in this Nomad.

The biggest and best surprise is under the hood. Instead of the original 265 CI V8 engine, new for ’55, a late model Corvette 350 CI V8 engine is found with what appears to be quite a few mods. This small block was originally good for 250 net HP in 1987 but I imagine its output has been extended well beyond that now. How’s it run? Well according to the seller, “Runs well but creaks in a turn (not sure what that means). It has nice acceleration.” The transmission is a late model Turbo-Hydramatic 350, three-speed automatic. The seller tells us that there are some other new mechanicals that have been employed with both the brakes and the suspension.

This Nomad is a real mix of old/original and new. There are many good images included with the listing, you should look them all over. The underside, frame & floors, etc. however, are a real cause for concern. While the Cragar wheels look great, I think I would have spent the effort and expense on getting some of the more obvious structural problems fixed and forgone the visual adornment – perhaps an attempt to pretty this ’55 up for a sale? Maybe so. It’s a Nomad and I like it; a lot of nice enhancements have already been completed. That said, structural and body alignment problems are troubling. Am I overreacting or would these issues keep you away?

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  1. 8banger David MikaMember

    the brightwork above the headlight brows ends up missing because the brows themselves are prone to rusting away.

    Like 5
    • jerry

      why is it we never see the pontiac safari wagons turn up here, they are a classy step up from a nomad, with a leather interior and alot more chrome! and I love chrome and white wall tires, this all black crap has gotten old big time!

      Like 0
    • treg forsyth

      That trim won’t be replaced any time soon either, the brow, fender and door tim is 1K each for decent ones, don’t belive me, check around, 6 grand for all 6 pieces, junk ones are a little cheaper.

      Like 0
  2. JOHNMember

    My favorite Nomad is the 55. This is a nice start, but a long way from the finish line!

    Like 5
  3. KevinLee

    “Creaks in a turn” might mean a broken, or rusted through motor mount. I think the lines of a ’55 Nomad are some of the best. I always thought the roof looks like it was chopped from the factory.

    Like 4
    • canadainmarkseh

      Or a control arm bushing.

      Like 6
  4. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Is it me or does it appear to anyone else that the top might be chopped a couple of inches? Nomads are unique and this one has merit but also the need for a bunch of work. Has potential but at what cost?

    Like 1
    • Barry O'Connor

      Nomad roof is 21/2 inches lower than a 210 or hard top. I can reach the middle of my Nomad and can’t on my 210. My 210 sits lower than the Nomad too.

      Like 0
  5. Classic Steel

    Nice salesman yarns for a rusted frame with bad floors needng a frame off and roughly 35 k dropped in it for fun…

    “ For consignment a Nomad that is in mid restoration, with many of the mechanicals buttoned up, a nicely done interior, new suspension and braking systems, and some undercarriage rust. The body will need some attention, but all is there for the taking and continuing of this 2-door wagon.“

    I hope it gets put back in order by a pro or a good welder craftsman with mechanics ability to frame off.

    Like 5
    • canadainmarkseh

      From what I can see it’s not the frame that’s rusted out it’s the body mounts other wise known as torque boxes that have rusted. There not that hard to make it’s the over head welding that the hard part which is kind of an unpleasant job. Anyone that has done over head welding will tell you that you need to be properly covered in leather to keep the sparks and slag off your skin.

      Like 13
  6. TimM

    I would love to get my hands on this car!! To me the best of the tri-5’s!! Everything is there and ready to be taken apart to do the body right!! My biggest worry would be the rust you can’t see!! I’ve always been a convertible guy but if a 55 convertible was sitting next to this in about the same condition!!! I would have to pick the two door wagon!!!

    Like 9
  7. Joe Haska

    I think almost everyone would agree the Nomad is the holly grail of the tri five Chevy’s, they also have the highest price tag. I think if you want one of these cars and you want to do, the restoration “your way” ,this could be the car for you, as long as you understand ,it is not going to be a bargain or cheap. This car is like a divorce, it’s expensive Why, because it’s worth it!

    Like 2
    • Barry O'Connor

      It could be a $100,000 project, I know from experience!

      Like 0
  8. CarlMember

    Factory torsion bars are what aligns and hold up the rear window. They are two bars under tension. I replaced mine with struts from Madmooks. They have a lot of great parts for Nomads.

    Like 3
  9. Steve H.

    I find it odd cosmetic upgrades were performed before the undercarriage rust was addressed. Not how I would do it. Wouldn’t bid on it without a complete inspection to know what I was dealing with.

    Like 4
  10. Tempo Matador Ray

    Agreed “canadainmarkseh.” I’ve owned several classic Chevrolet’s. Unless you replace old worn out bushings with replacement urethane or good quality rubber, you’ll experience the creaking mentioned by the seller. Not that difficult or costly of a “fix”…

    Like 2
    • Ward William

      All true but not just for older cars or classic Chevrolets. It’s as necessary in modern cars. I’ve lived in Brazil for 25 years and it’s amazing how many cars I see with front tires damn near bald on one side and still legal on the other. Squealing and wobbling down the road like an old hooker on acid. The cops don’t care about this sort of stuff and will never pull you for having an unroadworthy vehicle The roads are hell here and I have to change bushes, shock absorbers and suspension trays every 40k km.

      Like 1
  11. Thom Hastings

    the Radis rear wheel opening is what makes the 55 the best looking nomad

    Like 1
  12. Sunshine

    No one else noticed the fiberglass filling the holes in the floorboards? Jus Askin

    Like 0
  13. Keith W.

    I agree with all of the above, I built my ’55 Nomad from the ground up back in ’04 and my wife thinks I will be buried in it. The parts for restoration are available for a price, but really not that bad as the ’57 Buick Caballero we are building for my wife. Another source for parts and info would be Chevy Nomad Association.

    Like 3
  14. Del

    Back-ass wards restoration.

    Mechanicals done before body work.

    Strange case Watson.

    Someone may finish it but will not pay this much for it as it sits

    Like 2
    • JOHNMember

      Not so sure it is backwards… but if you plan to drive while you restore, you freshen up the mechanicals first, making it safe and reliable. If you plan to do a full blown resto, it would be a body-off and you would likely be doing both body and mechanical at the same time.

      Like 0
  15. Mike

    Since it’s already missing the original drivetrain, after a thourough inspection and handing over the cash, this is what I’d do. I’d put the body on a rotiserrie to get the floors and other body work taken care of. While that was in progress, I’d be in contact with Art Morrison and numerous others that build custom chassis for classic vehicles. In my mind, that would give me the classic looks that I love while also giving me modern suspension and brakes. Oh well, at least I can afford it in my day dreams lol!

    Like 1
  16. deak stevens

    Hate when people call these years of chevy’s tri five soubds l8ke your speaking ebonics. In otherwords makes you sound like your from a generation i’ve never seen.

    Like 0
  17. treg forsyth

    The back window frame is one big piece and made out of pot metal and it’s all pitty, just try and get that chromed for a couple hundred bucks, I work at a plating shop and done a few $800+ cad

    Like 0

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