1956 Chevy Nomad

1956 Chevy Nomad

In the early 1950s, the flamboyant Harley Earl was still running GMs styling department, and used GM’s famous Motorama Shows to push not only new products but exciting new concept cars on the public. One such car was the Nomad, introduced, prior to its tour with the Motorama traveling show, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City in 1954. This first Nomad was actually based on a Corvette, previewing the trademark Nomad greenhouse that would sit atop every Tri-Five Nomad in production. Because of the place of its debut, this unique one-off show car became known as the “Waldorf Nomad”, and today it has become popular again for kit car builders. I’ve seen a couple at shows and they’re nice. Just months later, Chevy unveiled the production 1955 Nomad and that same greenhouse was now grafted on top of a standard 1955 Chevy passenger car body. The look was stunning, clean and uncluttered. And practical. Having owned a ’55 Nomad myself, I can attest to its space inside, and the utility of the cargo hold in back and the fold-down rear seats (although they didn’t fold flat). Unfortunately, the pricing of the Bel Air-only top-of-the-line model was higher than any other 1955 Chevrolet passenger car, only the Corvette was pricier, and the Nomad found few takers, barely 8,000. The following year, the styling changed along with the rest of the 1956 Chevy line, hotter engines were offered, and the styling juiced up, but sales actually fell. 1957 was the final year for the classic 2-door Nomad, which despite the extroverted fins and trim of the ’57s, declined in sales yet again. When the Nomad returned in 1958, it was in name only, slapped onto the top-of-the-line 4-door Biscayne station wagon. There would never be a unique, stand-alone Nomad body style again.

Many styling cues are common to all Tri-Five Nomads, and they’re all above the waistline. The rakish greenhouse, that is the windows and roof, were the same from 1955 through 1957. They all shared the same signature 9-lines stretching side-to-side across the roof, and the sloped tailgate with 7 vertical chrome spears. And of course, all Tri-Five Nomads were Bel Airs, in terms of their trim level, so the 1956 Chevy Nomad had the full compliment of chrome trim arching from bumper to bumper, and the option for the first time, of two-tone paint. Otherwise, the ’56 Nomad followed the styling of every other ’56 Bel Air. Inside, in keeping with the Bel Airs status as Chevy’s top-of-the-line, the interiors were very nice, well-appointed, and pleasing to the eye.


Total production
Price when new
Overall length
Overall width
Track, front
Track, back
Wheel size
Tire size
Brakes, front
Brakes, rear
235cid OHV inline 6-cylinder
265cid OHV 90-degree V8
265cid OHV 90-degree V8
265cid OHV 90-degree V8
265cid OHV 90-degree V8
$2,707 (V8)
5.00″ X 15″
6.70″ X 15″
11.0″ drums
11.0″ drums
3,362 lbs140hp @ 4200rpm; 210 lb-ft @ 2400rpm
162hp @ 4400rpm; 257 lb-ft @ 2400rpm
170hp @ 4400rpm; 260 lb-ft @ 2400rpm
205hp @ 4600rpm; 268 lb/ft @ 3000rpm
225hp @ 5200rpm; 270 lb-ft @ 3600rpm
1X 1-barrel
1X 2-barrel
1X 4-barrel
1X 4-barrel
2X 4-barrels

VIDEO: “Anatomy of a Nomad”
A video walk-around of a ’55 Nomad and a ’55 Chevy 2-door wagon, pointing out the differences, and what makes Nomads unique.

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