Small-Block Upgrade: 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad

The new owner of this 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad faces some choices. There’s little doubt that a fresh coat of paint would have it sparkling like a new penny. However, leaving the exterior untouched would garner similar levels of attention without breaking the bank. Adding to its appeal is an upgraded drivetrain which should offer significant performance gains. If you find yourself irresistibly drawn to this Nomad, you will find it listed here on eBay in El Sobrante, California. Sedate bidding has pushed the price past the reserve to $35,100.

The listing indicates this Nomad may have spent most of its life in California. That helps explain both its general lack of rust and its baked paint. When you look at its appearance, it is hard to believe it rolled off the line wearing Code 700 Adobe Beige and Sierra Gold. Traces are still visible in areas like the door frames, but that coating the exterior surfaces has seen better days. That leaves the buyer with choices to make. No doubt it would look stunning with fresh paint, but should they opt for originality or something more creative? Another option would be to add a coat of satin clear to retain the existing appearance. With classics of this vintage, the subject of rust deserves consideration. The news with this Nomad is positive. The car features a new front floor pan on the passenger side due to a water leak while in storage. Otherwise, the underside photos confirm the remaining floors and frame are rock-solid. There are minor bubbles in the tailgate and outer rocker on the passenger side. If an in-person inspection reveals no further problems, addressing the identified flaws in a home workshop should prove straightforward. One piece of glass on the passenger side sports a crack, but the rest is fine for a restoration of this type. Any trim pieces that aren’t perfect would be prime candidates for a trip to the platers. The Chevy rolls on steel wheels with dog dish hubcaps, but I’d find it hard to resist the lure of swapping them for a set of Rally wheels to provide an additional visual impact.

The seller indicates they recently installed a new cover on the front seat, but the remaining older custom upholstery has seen better days. It is serviceable as a short-term option, but the buyer will probably elect to replace it to achieve a high standard of finish. The dash features a complete set of Stewart Warner gauges, although I would prefer to see them mounted under, rather than in, the dash. Reversing the modification is possible and is an option worth investigating. There is a hole where the original radio once lived, but locating a factory radio to fill the void shouldn’t prove challenging. Overall, whipping this interior into shape shouldn’t be difficult and is a project the new owner could tackle at their leisure.

The VIN for this Nomad confirms it rolled off the line with a 265ci V8 under the hood, but it’s unclear which version. The company offered an entry-level version producing 162hp, although ticking the right boxes boosted that figure to 225hp. That question remains academic because this project build involved replacing the entire drivetrain. The engine bay houses a 350ci V8 that sends its power to a Ford 9″ rear end via a four-speed 700R4 automatic transmission. To cope with the potential performance increase, stopping duties fall to upgraded front power disc brakes. The car currently doesn’t drive, with the buyer needing to refit the fuel tank and connect the transmission linkages. The impression is that the drivetrain is healthy, with the seller suggesting a few weekends of workshop tinkering could return it to a roadworthy state.

Preserving the exterior appearance of this 1956 Nomad would cost little, and it would be the most cost-effective approach for a new owner on a budget. However, reinstating its original paint color to a factory standard would see it draw crowds wherever it goes. The drivetrain upgrades performed are carefully considered and should ensure that it offers its new owner many years of relaxed and rewarding classic motoring. What path would you choose if you found it sitting in your workshop?


  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    I’d put the tank in it, paint it, and drive it. Even though I’m a wheel freak of sorts the ones on this car look just right.

    Like 3
    • Ols Beach Guy

      Drive it…Check

  2. Bill W.

    I guess I don’t understand why, with so little supposedly left to make it a driver, they haven’t completed it. If it draws over 35K this way, what could they expect if it was a driver.
    The drive train is a good one, same as I have in my 56 210, except for a 3:42 10 bolt rear.
    It’ll make a nice car for someone, repainted or not.

    Like 2
  3. Rw

    Stock stance torq thust would be much cooler..

  4. Jay E. Member

    A listing like this is the reason I love Barn Finds! A ton of value here, with upside to the buyer. I’d put a couple weeks of rust repair and body prep and then shoot a nice single stage and drive it. A Nomad for 35K, whats not to like! I wish my dance card weren’t full, but I can dream.

    Like 2
  5. Rw

    Would look better not lowered IMO.

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