Donna H

THINK THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A '61 NOMAD STATION WAGON?

We had admired, driven, and owned classic cars for years. On occasion, we

would see a nice '50's or '60's car (our favorites) similar to one we used to have

that would bring back fond memories. But you can't always keep the old car

when you need to buy a newer one, no matter how much you'd like to, so

you just smile and move on. That is, until, purely by accident, you happen to

stop in Medford, Oregon (because it was half-way home from a 1989 visit to

the SeaTac area) and discover there is a Classic Chevy Club National Meet

going on at the motel you're staying in. Suddenly your old feelings over-power

your common sense and you conclude You've got to get yourself one of these

again! But which one?

So, the rest of the way home, and many times in the days that follow, you

wrestle with the issue and conclude that the favorite you'd like to own again,

your all-time most favorite car, was your 1962 Chevy Super Sport convertible.

You ordered and purchased it new after careful consideration, and drove it al

over the country while in the Service as an Army helicopter pilot.

You might have kept it indefinitely if the chance to get a Caddy dealer's

loaded personal (new) '65 Caddy had not come up. Our first Caddy!! We'd like

to have kept the SS, but I was on my way to Viet Nam again and we couldn't

keep them both, so with 99,000 on the clock, the SS was traded in. Still looked

brand new. White body and top, with turquoise bucket seats and console, just

like the day it came off the showroom floor. Ahhh, good memories. The Caddy

was great, but time marches on and in 1968, after 65,000 miles,it was just

another car we used to own.

Now zoom back to that post-Oregon experience. I keep good records,

and have a good memory, and with this in the back of my mind, I wondered if

we could find our actual '62 SS Convertible. I recall asking the Caddy dealer

"Whatever became of our '62?" I remember him saying it was purchased

by a gentleman who worked in a sawmill in Cross City, Florida. Heck, that's

only 3000 miles from here! On an upcoming trip to the East Coast to visit my

sister in Florida, why don't we just swing up through there on Rt 27 and see

if it's still around??? Yeah....

So, upon arriving in Cross City, we stopped at the local Florida Highway

Patrol Hq and asked if there was a sawmill there that had been there 30 years

before? He said Yes, there were 3 still there! WOW!!! So we went to the first

two sawmills, spoke to their leader, showed him the '62 SS PIX,and asked if

anyone had ever seen it. Struck out on both. But the owner of the third one

said "Yeah, that was old Leroy. He's long retired, but his ex-wife still works

here" and paged her to the office. She spoke fondly of the car, but didn't know

what he did with it, since he got a "newer car (and wife) every three years."

Worse yet, for financial reasons, her "Ex"wouldn't reveal to her where he was

or any contact information, but, she did have a phone number of a relative in

Alabama, where he had presumably gone. So we tried something else.

We motored to Tallahassee, the state capital, to the FL DMV and tried to

see if they still had any record of the car's VIN. You've seen the TV "Where's

the Beef" commercial? The DMV clerk looked just like that lady. She sweetly

told me that, due to the time span, she'd have to go pull up an archive file,

"so just sit down and make yourselves comfy". She returned about 15 minutes

later and said the records seemed to show the Chevy had left the state nearly

30 years earlier and it wasn't clear exactly where it went. (Note: The first car I

bought in Alabama in 1954, a '55 Chevy Bel Air 2 DHT, had the title filled out

in PENCIL! Before the days of computers.)

But "Granny" was determined to aid my search by noting that Leroy had

bought a lot of cars (8) over the years and noted that a number of them were

re-registered in Alabama. So, Montgomery DMV, here we come!

We were able to meet with the supervisor of the AL DMV office, who was

similarly accommodating, but he gave the bad news that due to the giant task

of entering registration data when they converted to computers, they only

entered VINs that were active within the previous 5 years, so, while it was

likely Leroy had probably had it there a long time ago, it was not in their

records and was likely just sitting behind one of his relative's chicken house

and rusting away (a not uncommon fate in that area many years ago).Bah

Humbug! So we came home.

Once back here, we started looking at older cars parked alongside houses

around here, and drove down streets we didn't normally use, to see if we'd

find a '62 SS Convertible anywhere. We did see one, an overpriced red one

we wouldn't have taken if they gave it to us. Then, one day we saw a different

car that caught our eye, a '61 Chevy Nomad Station Wagon that, although

deteriorated from sitting alongside a house for four years,was still appealing in

its Ermine White over Seafoam Green colors, and only about four blocks from

our house! Whoa!!

We spoke to the residents, whose brother owned the former family car,

nicknamed "The Boat". Purchased here in the San Francisco Bay Area, the

once "Family Car" later became the family's second car when a newer one

came home. The kids learned to drive in "The Boat" and it saw shopping duty

at the malls as Mom's Rural Assault Vehicle. Finally, the parents retired to

Arizona, the daughter got married, and the car was given to the son, but he

never re-titled it. It really didn't excite him, so he started to take the engine

apart to do some sort of imaginary upgrade,but couldn't figure how to do

whatever he had it mind, so much of the engine was laying in the back.

Imagine! A rear-engine '61 Nomad SW!! What a concept. The head of the

house wanted it gone, so for $300 we had a rear-engine '61 Nomad! Well,

almost. We drug it home on a rope and I titled it as second owner and started

to get it going again, ostensibly as a "driver" for my wife.

Years earlier we had picked up a similar 6 passenger '61 Nomad for

$120 and found it to be a utilitarian truck (today they're called SUV's), but

we didn't like the color and it had the 348 engine and would pass everything

but a gas station, so we sold it. But The Boat had the 283 with "Power Pack"

and there was something about the color that quickly grew on us, and it had

just a few miles short of 100,000 on the odometer, so we decided to go the

other way and make it a "show car". This was 1991 and the original interior

fabrics for seats and headliner were still available.

So we worked on everything to the smallest detail to Concours Level

for almost 10 years. Inside, outside, mechanical, electrical, underneath.

Even took the door locks apart. Fortunately, the car was quite complete and

not abused, except the easily replaced valve covers had vanished, so starting

with an unmolested car, and getting lucky finding original correct vinyl, it was

possible to build a brand new '61 Nomad 40 years later.

I didn't say it wasn't expensive, just that it was possible. We lucked out,

finding engine and tranny rebuilders and exterior painters (no body rust in this

area) and an upholstery shop that did outstanding interiors (and who would

let you in their shop to guide exactly how the interior needed to be sewn (by

1961 practices). After getting the vehicle driveable, I drove it to the shops

to get it painted, headliner installed, etc. I detailed all the accessories like

the power steering and generator, including re-stamping the ID tags myself.

Finally, it had all come together beautifully and I was polishing and

waxing a couple final items in anticipation of driving the product of our ten

year restoration project to its first show at a nearby college in the morning.

I went to bed a happy person.

Next morning, after a nice breakfast, we loaded a few necessities in

the back of the wagon and started down the street, headed for the show.

As we turned the corner onto Rainbow Drive when I happened to glance

down at the odometer as it rolled over to 00,000.00 !!! The car confirmed

that indeed, it was brand new again with "0" on the clock! Actually, it had hit

100,000 miles, but we knew what it meant and I took a picture of the event!

Since then we have driven the Nomad all over the country and to Canada.

It attracts attention everywhere we go, whether in parades or shows or just

driving across the country. It has appeared on the cover and in stories in

National magazines. In 2000 it was awarded the AACA Bomgardner Award

in Philadelphia for the Best Restored Postwar Car (Western Division) in the

country, and in 2002 was one of the featured cars at the International Chevy

Show in Vancouver, BC. It's one thing to win an award at a show; it's another

to see YOUR car on all the posters and T-shirts for a prestigious show. At

national Chevy Club Shows, it wins all the "Best" Awards and scored 992 out

of 1000 at a show in Southern California. More significantly, this car has never

been trailered; we drive it to all the shows!

It doesn't have a nickname ~ any suggestions?

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