This big-block Nomad packs both brawn and beauty—and you can buy it
January’s 2020 Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale will have at least two highly customized wagons for sale, one Ridler-winning, Cadillac-based variant using a Nomad roof and this green and gold beauty dubbed “Gone Mad,” a Nomad outright.
Chevrolet’s 1955 Nomad is arguably the most beautiful wagon GM ever built. Pontiac lovers will—correctly—note the ’57 Pontiac Safari, but let’s stay on topic here. The already-clean lines of the ’55 Bel Air Sport Coupe were enhanced by adding a long roof with gorgeous styling and a forward-canted B-pillar that matched the slanted rear glass and tailgate, giving the Nomad a clear sense of motion and separating it from the pedestrian two- and four-door wagons available in 150 and 210 guise. It was the more attainable version of the Corvette Nomad shown at GM’s 1953 Motorama, taking the wonderful roof design and applying it to a mainstream car. Yet Chevrolet sold fewer than 8500 Nomads for 1955, which made them a rarity among the popular tri-fives.
This fine custom example was built by Classic Car Studio in St. Louis, Missouri, for Art Boze, who had a vision for hot rod Nomad that added plenty of performance to the Nomad’s fantastic looks. Starting with a sun-baked and dinged-up but otherwise complete Arizona car, the team at CCS replaced the wagon’s floorboards and gave it room for a tough 4L80E transmission. The electronically-controlled overdrive is the successor to the venerable Turbo 400 and was used in luxury cars and heavy duty trucks alike. Its brawn is necessary, as Boze chose a 509-cubic-inch big-block from Shafiroff Racing to power his hot wagon.
The engine, which produces a healthy 565 horsepower, is based on a World/Bill Mitchell Products aluminum block that uses a combination of Chevrolet W-motor and Mark IV big-block components. It looks the part of Chevrolet’s iconic 348/409, with its signature water pump and instantly-recognizable scalloped cylinder heads and valve covers, but uses a Mark IV big-block Chevy bottom end. The aluminum heads, cast by Edelbrock, vastly increase airflow. With an aluminum block and heads, the big-block combo likely weighs less than the iron small-block that would have originally powered the Nomad.
A custom leather interior features diamond-stitched low-back buckets for four occupants and matches the coppery metallic finish used on the wheels and the roof; the rest of the body was finished in an understated metallic green. No factory 1955 Chevy chassis would have been up to the task of handling such a robust powerplant, so a Roadster Shop REVO chassis was chosen. Its 4×4-inch main chassis rails are far stronger than the original frame and its suspension, with a four-link in the rear and coilovers all around, offers a much more modern driving experience.
Gone Mad clearly features amazing build quality and the engine, chassis, and interior choices were all top-notch. The no-reserve auction price will come down to how well the choices match with bidders’ tastes. Will the unique green-and-copper color scheme be a deterrent? We won’t have too long to wait and find out.