Restomod Project? 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad

The Tri-Five Chevrolets of 1955-57 have been in the Automobile All-Star Hall of Fame (if there was such a thing) since almost the beginning. And none more so than the 2-door sport wagon, the Nomad. Decked out in Bel Air trim, the Nomad was a variant of the 1954 Motorama show car, which itself was patterned after a Corvette. For whatever reason, sales of the wagon didn’t meet expectations, so the name was transferred to Chevrolet’s other wagons after 1957. This ’56 Nomad looks to have been sitting for a while but also has several mechanical upgrades that we’ll discuss later. Located in Mesa, Arizona, the car is available here on eBay for the Buy It Now price of $30,000 (offers also entertained). Thanks, Larry D Brooks, for providing the tip of this one!

Nomad initially was the “halo” model of the Chevrolet line of station wagons. It borrowed its roofline and rear deck from that Corvette show car and became a sport wagon. Although it was sold as its own model line, the Nomad shared Bel Air sedan trim and badging. Pontiac had a companion in the form of the Safari, which had the same chassis and roofline but Pontiac engines, front sheet metal, and interior components. The bodies were all made at a single plant in Cleveland and then distributed to 10 others for assembly, assumed to be in concert with Bel Air production. A total of 23,167 Nomads were built in 1955-57, with sales declining in successive years. 8,103 Nomad sport wagons were built for 1956.

It looks as though this ’56 Nomad was on its way to becoming a restomod. The seller says it has a 361 cubic inch V8 under the hood. My first reaction was “what is a Chrysler motor doing in a Chevy” until I read there apparently is such a thing, but the only reference I could find was that it was a “small block Chevy nitrous motor”. It also has a 700R4 transmission, a 4-speed Turbo-Hydramatic that General Motors developed in the early 1980s as an upgrade to the TH350. Other changes include front disc brakes, relocated rear spring frame pockets, a new wiring harness, Holley fuel injection, and a host of other NOS items, some of which may still be in the box.

We’re told the two-tone paint is original, but the front clip and roof have already received a coat of primer. As a California car originally, it hasn’t seen any rust – at least on the sheet metal – but it did spend quite a few years sitting under an oak tree (wasn’t there an old song about that…never mind). The floorboards, however, are going to need some attention. Part of the exterior trim has been removed and is available. In the passenger compartment, the only photos are of the dashboard (notice the transmission gear selector pattern), which looks okay. The seller says both bench seats are present, and the headliner has a case of the droops.

This looks like a good candidate for a restoration if you don’t mind the mechanical modifications. Or you can undo all of that and go back to stock. As the rest of the Chevy line was little changed from 1955 to 1956, the same was true of the Nomad. As a piece of car trivia, did you know that Ford came out briefly with a competitor to the Nomad in 1956? It was called the Parklane (see pic above) and – while it would outsell the Nomad by a healthy margin — Ford dropped it after just one year, later using the nameplate over at Mercury.

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  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    What you have here is kit car with all the pieces available. No reason to reinvent the wheel as the drivetrain modifications aren’t going take away anything away from what is a good looking car needing some paint, upholstery and assembly.

    Like 5
  2. roger pence

    I bought a 56 Nomad that looked just like that for $350 in 1975. And sold it six months later for $500 or so. I remember thinking that I made a killing on it. Sigh.

    Like 15
    • David Gearhart

      Roger, Same experience ; But I got my Nomad a bit cheaper I pulled into a Drive in food place on Belmont Ave in Fresno about 1970. A guy was driving a ’55 Nomad with a For Sale sign. I bought it running ‘OK’, looking ‘pretty good’ for $265 . Drove it for a few months, sold it for $365 , thought I did ‘OK’ ! I Bought other running Fords and Chevys then, some needing a battery or starter, for $50 – $100 .

      • Jon

        Those were the days my friend, those were the days. 🤗. I remember them well. I bought my 57 for $95.

  3. Jason

    Would be nice if the lazy turd selling it would provide some decent pics!

    Like 9
  4. JB

    Would be nice if the lazy guy provided some decent photos!

    Like 3
  5. Charles Sawka

    Just yesterday on San Diego area Facebook Market Place, there was a Safari listed for 16k that looked way better than this.

    Like 4
  6. Charles Sawka

    Yesterday on Facebook Market Place,in SanDiego, there was a Safari listed . Looks way better than this one.

    Like 1
  7. nycbjr Member

    Always liked these.. mcguver fans will know he drove one for 3 seasons, and of course Tim the tool man drove and destroyed one lol!

    Like 2
    • Jon

      a nomad wasn’t destroyed on Tim’s show. If you look closely that was a 2dr wagon.

      Like 1
  8. Bowtiecarguy

    Noticed a couple of things. Aftermarket gauges cut in where the lighter is normally located and between that and the radio. Also since stock would be PRNDL, this has a replacement gear selector indicator. That plus the Painless wiring harness (a great product) would indicate that this old girl has been through a quite a few changes.

    Like 1
  9. jerry z

    I laugh at the listing, no salt rust but sat under an oak tree. So now there is different types of rust. Learn something everyday….

    Like 7
  10. John Brenneke

    Too much money; note enough car.

    Like 6
    • 57 Chevy belair

      I agree to much for so little they will have to come down on price if he ever expects to sell it.

      Like 1
  11. HC

    Hefty price for a project car. Although its a Great year Nomad it still has a long way to go. The Safari someone else mentioned here sounds more realistic.

    Like 4
  12. Will Fox

    For what it is, it’s buy-it-now price is way too high but that’s how Tri-5’s are.

    Like 3
  13. Chuck Foster Chuck Foster

    I put a 56 Nomad on Ebay in 2016 no reserve, went for $4200. I had given $4500 for it and the 55 ht I was keeping, so did ok.

    Like 2
  14. Bob

    I would not pay $30K (or $20K or $10K) for this car based on the very limited information available now.

    Like 1
  15. ACZ

    Nice project with a not so nice price.

    Like 3
  16. Maestro! Member

    The car is absolutely over priced. It’s also my favorite year for Nomads. It’s also a major project. Someone, maybe the Seller, had some good ideas. But the thing isn’t worth that much money; I ignore market values in general.

    Like 1
    • ACZ

      It’s not so much a car as it is a pile of parts. Giant jigsaw puzzle and you don’t know what percentage of the parts are there.

  17. CaCarDude

    She is a very rough ’56 for the kind of money being asked. I see the tin worm has gotten to the top rear corner as well as floors and other typical area’s. This will be a major project and I would think the seller should show a picture under hood, also a firewall ID plate pic, would tell us more. The back half of car appears to maybe have been Sierra gold and Adobe beige, but the front is a mismatch marriage of part’s. This would tell me it probably was in a front end collision sometime in it’s life. This might be a $10-15k car today’s money, if you can do most work yourself.
    My brother has a rust free CA ’56 Nomad blue/white he bought in ’98 for $10k and is worth a minimum of $50k today if this is worth anything close to the asking $30. Wish the seller and buyer good luck with this.

    Like 1
  18. vintagehotrods

    It’s worth about $10,000 less than the asking price. Either that or I sold my ’57 Nomad way too cheap eight years ago for$20K that was much nicer than this one!

    Like 2

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