If you thought BMW and Mercedes were first with the sporting uptown carry-all, think again. Chevrolet kicked off the genre as far back as 1955. The Bel Air Nomad was a development of Harley Earl’s dream wagon based on the Chevrolet Corvette; and although it looked like other ’55 Bel Airs, the V8 Nomad was the most expensive Chevy ever.
But despite the fact that Motor Trend described the ’57 Nomad as “one of the year’s most beautiful cars,” with only two doors its appeal was limited, its large glass area made the cabin too hot, and the tailgate let in water. No surprise then that it was one of Chevy’s least popular models. Sales never broke the magic 10,000 barrier and, by 1958, the world’s first sportwagon, and now a milestone car, had been dropped.
The Nomad was essentially a revival of the original Town and Country theme and a reaction against the utilitarian functionalism of the boxy wooden wagons that had become ubiquitous in suburban America.
Base unit was a 235cid six; grunty 265cid V8 was available.
Two-tone trim could be complemented by power seat, tinted glass, and seat belts.
The Nomad was the first car to use nonstructural corrugations on the roof.
Motorama ’Vette roof line was adapted for production Nomads in just two days.
Unveiled in January 1954, the Motorama Nomad—created by Chevy stylist Carl Renner—was such a hit that a production version made it into the ’55 brochures.
The classic Harley Earl embellished tailgate was taken straight from the Motorama Corvette and was widely praised.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad (1957)
PRODUCTION 6,103 (1957)
BODY STYLE Two-door station wagon.
CONSTRUCTION Steel body and chassis.
ENGINES 235cid six, 265cid V8.
POWER OUTPUT 123–283 bhp.
TRANSMISSION Three-speed manual with overdrive, two-speed Powerglide automatic, and optional Turboglide.
SUSPENSION Front: coil springs; Rear: leaf springs.
BRAKES Front and rear drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 90–120 mph (145–193 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 8–11 sec
A.F.C. 15–19 mpg (5.3–6.7 km/l)