In most series that feature coupes and convertibles, these are the most sought-after body styles. But one exception to the rule is the famous Chevy Nomad, described by one authority as ‘the prettiest station wagon ever made’. This may display just a trace of hyperbole, but there’s no doubting the enduring appeal of this handsome vehicle — though in truth its reputation has largely been established with the benefit of hindsight.
The Nomad was hastily introduced in 1955 after the prototype received a great reception — perhaps too hastily. It was nominally part of Chevrolet’s Bel Air line but differed in most respects — not least in being the most expensive Chevy ever, which didn’t help sales. Neither did the fact that it had but two passenger doors, a slanting tailgate that was both heavy and prone to admitting rainwater, inadequate interior ventilation and a nasty habit of sucking in exhaust fumes when the engine was running with the tailgate open.
Even so, the Nomad offered excellent performance and many people were seduced by its looks. So it returned for 1956, albeit with some of the more expensive trim features dispensed with, putting the Nomad in line with comparable Bel Air models. Chevrolet hoped that sales would take off, but even with production economies the price went up and the ambitious target of 10,000 sales proved to be a forlorn hope. Plans for an uprated 1958 version were therefore quietly abandoned.
The name lingered on, but the ‘true’ Nomad expired after just three years, a victim of its status as a flawed upscale vehicle with a hefty price tag to match. But the 1955-57 Nomads remain coveted classics, with their undoubted beauty more than overcoming some beastly faults in the eyes of Chevy enthusiasts.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1955 (until 1957)
4.3 l (265 cid) V8
With the ‘Super Power Pack’ engine, a top speed of 120 mph (km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8.1 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
The Nomad prototype was one of three concept cars based on the Corvette shown at the 1954 General Motors Motorama at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel – intended as no more than a ‘halo car’ to showcase Chew’s design abilities, the reaction was so positive that this racy station wagon was hurried into production.