Nomadic: 1956 Nomad

This show-stopping ’56 Nomad sees lots of miles, and family smiles!

Story and photography by Curtis Hawk, Bloomington, IL

In 2007, I purchased a 1956 Nomad from a friend's wife after he had passed away. In 1968, my friend had stripped the car down and let it sit in his home garage with the intention of someday restoring it. He had traveled around each year, purchasing old original Nomad parts from the dealerships– when they were still available that is. I had been hoping to find an old Chevy truck to restore, and then I heard about this car...

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The Nomad had 4,623 original miles on it when it was parked back in ’68. After I purchased it I sorted through his three garages, two sheds and the attics of the garages and his home. I located all of the extra parts he’d purchased, brought them home and began the 5 year restoration in my spare time. Purchasing many of my parts through Eckler’s Classic Chevy catalog helped greatly in my restoration project. In May of 2013, I completed the rebuild and drove the Nomad to a few local shows.

The restoration was frame-off, and I’d added some essentials such as a front power disc brakes and seat belts all-around (I always take a few of my seven grandkids for rides and tours around the county). I rebuilt the original 265 engine and Powerglide transmission.

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The body shop I picked did great work, but being that the car had sat for years in a dry, warm garage, it was in near perfect condition and had very little rust. After the shop completed the fitting of all doors, hood and tailgate and paint, I returned it to my shop where I refurbished all of the stainless steel body side moldings and interior moldings, the rest of the interior, seats and door panels. I also tackled the small items such as the speedometer, dash trim and clock. Since the headliner was secure and tight, I only had to polish the seven bows by hand. A few times I had to rely on my wife to come out to the shop and help me as a third hand in lining up the lift gate and to watch the timing mark as I lined it up to TDC. She was great help, although I cannot get her to help me polish the car or do any of the cleaning!

I was the proud of myself for refurbishing the clock because everyone told me they never work anyways. Not satisfied with that, I studied it and found that a good cleaning was all it needed. I care for it each year now by removing and dusting it out and adding just a pin drop of electronic oil. So it is no longer always “five-o-clock somewhere”.

We’ve had some fun with our Nomad!

I joined the McLean County Antique Auto Club (mcleancountyantiqueatouclub.org). That club turned 50 years old in August of 2013, and to celebrate the anniversary we planned a trip to LA following the old Route 66 and back. When we started, about seventy members of the club met us at our starting point for the sendoff. We took group pictures then fired up the cars. For this trip, I installed a new Chevrolet 350 cubic-inch crate engine and a new TH350 transmission. (I have since kept them in storage in my shop for the possibility of dropping them back in at any time).
Anyways, we ended up only having four vehicles take the Route 66 trip, mostly due to some last minute drop outs for many different reasons. My Nomad, two 1955 Bel Air sedans, and one 1965 Ford Fairlane made the trip. We took our time traveling and stopped at most of the sites and attractions along the way. One of my favorites was the old TeePee hotels.

After 31 days, we returned home from the long trip. The club members welcomed us back by being there at the same place we had started from. As for me and my road trip buddies, we have all stayed good friends and continue to enjoy each other’s company whenever we meet.

A little while back, the body shop that painted the car for me had their new grand opening. The owner had invited all of the restorations and other nice vehicles he had finished to the open house for a mini car show and building dedication. My Nomad was the center of attention when he placed it in the new paint booth. The others were located around in the shop area and outside. I am very proud to say that I am a Chevrolet Nomad owner!

I would like to personally thank the body shop– Bob Zook Auto Body, a Caldwell Company. Bryan Caldwell owner. Bloomington, IL

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