There's just something about a Nomad, something that elevates it above standard "station wagon" status, putting it (them) among some of the most style-noteworthy vehicles in GM's automotive history-in all of automotive history for that matter. But just what is it, exactly, that sets the Tri-Five longroofs apart from the rest of the wagons of the era? Whether you're armed with an answer to that question or not, it's pretty hard, if not nearly impossible, to dispute the nobility of the Nomad, period.
Long before the Chevy Nomad began its aristocratic reign with both restorers and customizers alike, General Motors must have had very high expectations for the two-door sport wagon even prior to its public debut in 1955, as evident by the Motorama Nomad concept car (or Waldorf Nomad, as it was nicknamed after the hotel at which it was unveiled at in 1954). Too bad that aristocracy didn't establish itself sooner-like, say 1958-as cutting-edge designs were not as well received by the car-buying community as GM had anticipated.
But who cares how the Nomad fared for Chevrolet's sales numbers in the '50s?! By the following decade, a whole new crowd of automotive enthusiasts took to the still-fresh styling cues of the wagons, including a young man from Palos Verdes, California, by the name of Sam Hollingsworth. As with the car's manufacturer a decade prior, Hollingsworth may have had no idea what an impact, if any, the '57 wagon he started building for himself in 1965 would end up having on future generations of hot rodders and custom builders. If he didn't know then, he sure knows now, thanks in no small part to a fellow by the name of Richard Graves.
Ironically, while Hollingsworth's '57 racked up numerous accolades over the years-among them, gracing the cover of Rod & Custom in 1967 as well as inspiring a Revell model kit-Richard had already built one for himself, two years before Hollingsworth even started his. Adorned with seaweed flames and outfitted with chrome wires, just like Hollingsworth's would later mimic-but unlike its successor, Richard's '55 Nomad fit the description of a mild custom more aptly with its 'flaked roof and more noticeably lowered stance. But still, there was just something about Hollingsworth's, and even Richard knew it-so much so that, four decades later, he would find himself cloning it ... for himself.
That "it" factor that might just be what separates the two Nomads has a name: Dennis Ricklefs. You see, Ricklefs was responsible for the stunning candies and pearls in golds and tangerines that literally drenched what was an otherwise stock assemblage of '57 Nomad sheetmetal-then and, collaboratively, now. Thanks to Wally Arnold, who originally made available the starting point for the Hollingsworth clone by offering up his car(s) he'd acquired for the very same reason, and Ricklefs encouraging Richard to facilitate a recreation of the wagon that earned Ricklefs his very first magazine cover (but hopefully not his last ... by a long shot!), the proverbial project ball began rolling in 2008.
From his shop in Long Beach, California, Richard knocked out the Nomad from start to finish in the span of 12 months, completing it just in time for a most fitting unveiling: the R&C cover car exhibit at the '10 Grand National Roadster Show, where it rubbed elbows with another famous custom clone, the Watson Grapevine owned and built by Randy Rhodes. Richard says taking part in that has been the most memorable experience he's had with the Nomad-then again, he also admitted that if he had to do it all over, he'd "maybe build a '55 again, like the one I had in 1963"!
Nomad'r, it's an honor to showcase the Hollingsworth Nomad once again, even if it isn't the Hollingsworth Nomad to begin with!
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Long Beach, California
1957 Chevy Nomad
Back in the day, if you wanted air suspension, you had to rob it from a fairly new Cadillac-so the cars that were low, were just that-low! Scraping and dragging was the norm, as adjustability wasn't a feasible option. Save for a set of air shocks in the rear, Richard Graves did the chassis on his '57 Nomad in the same fashion as its inspirer: stock, but low. Along with adding the aforementioned Monroe dampers, he rebuilt the stock Saginaw 605 box and beefed up the front sway bar-otherwise, it's all gennie-style between the drum brakes at all four corners.
Wheels & Tires
Despite Vogue tires not even being heard of in the '60s, Buick Skylark wire wheels were definitely "in vogue" with customs in Southern California. Richard's cloned custom uses a set of modern versions of the classic chromed rolling stock-these by way of The Wheelsmith (Bob Sage) in Santa Ana, California, which mount the equally modern yet era reminiscent narrow whitewalled radials. And while the option of running disc brakes up front may or may not have been considered at some point, the Buick wires leave little to the imagination, visually speaking, and thus no caliper clutter disrupts the flow of the roll!
While the original featured an injected '59 Vette 283, Richard's wagon runs a later ('62) mill of the same cubic inch variety. And also unlike the Hollingsworth version, the modern rendition has been equipped with a Camaro five-speed rather than the earlier four-gear manual. It's probably safe to say that Richard will further stray from the original by opting "not" to race the Nomad as Hollingsworth did with his on occasion in the '60s ... it's 40 years later, and cruising might be more Richard's speed these days.
Body & Paint
Speaking of 40 years later, there is one thing that's the same: Dennis Ricklefs, the man responsible for putting the magic color touch on the original and now, along with painters Jon Farguson and Alex Alejandro (Jon's Body Shop, Long Beach, CA), duplicating that exterior feng shui on Richard's wagon. It should go without saying, however, that the same nitrocellulose lacquer-based materials were not used, but rather, modern candies and pearls via PPG. Complementing brightwork is courtesy of Cal Bumper.
The final piece of the replicated puzzle-the original black pleated Naugahyde upholstery (based on a '64 Impala) by Eddie Martinez-was as closely emulated as possible by JC's in Long Beach. And like Hollingsworth's interior, the subtleness of the new version does a perfect job of not only complementing the custom paintwork, but allowing it to do what it did in the beginning: catch eyes and drop jaws. As for the wiring and pretty much any and everything else on the Nomad, it was all dutifully handled by Richard himself.