1957 Chevy Nomad: One for the Sho and Plenty of Go
Photos by Mike Harrington
Long before earning a cult-like following among car enthusiasts and Tri-Five Chevy aficionados, the 1957 Chevy Nomad had its roots as a bona fide show car. The stylish sport wagon concept – originally based on the Corvette platform – was showcased at the 1954 GM Motorama as one of Harley Earl’s dream cars before making its way to production as part of the more practical Bel Air model lineup in 1955. More than just a two-door station wagon, the production Nomad featured upscale styling cues like hardtop-style doors and deluxe-level trim that lifted it above the more spartan, utilitarian wagon offerings of the day.
Dubbed the Shomad, Ron Maier’s breathtaking 1957 Chevy Nomad lives up to its show-stopping lineage. The golden Nomad is largely a coach built creation crafted by A&M Deluxe Customs in Cornelius, Oregon, and showcases a tremendous amount of custom design, fabrication, and engineering.
Maier has owned the Nomad for 30 years, enjoying it as a driver-quality classic for much of that time. After deciding it was due for a more dynamic makeover, Maier brought the sport wagon to Aaron Atnip and Mark Spurlock and their team at A&M Deluxe Customs, providing them with a few basic ideas. “Ron wanted a brand new chassis, independent rear suspension, an LS motor or big-block Chevy engine, a one-piece hatch in the back and four bucket seats with the console down the middle,” Atnip said. “He also wanted the roof of the car chopped a little bit. Then he was open to suggestions from us.”
With those clear (though not necessarily simple) marching orders, the A&M crew began what would become an eight-year construction process, using an Art Morrison frame for their foundation. A fully polished Dutchman independent rear suspension took care of one of Ron’s wishes and was fitted with a Strange 12-bolt carrier with 3.73:1 gears. RideTech Shockwaves allow for fine tuning the wagon’s altitude, while polished Wilwood calipers – six-piston in front, four-piston in the rear – clamp down on 13- and 12-inch rotors to bring things to a halt. The chassis assembly got up and rolling on 18×8- and 20×10-inch Boyd Flare wheels with BFGoodrich 255/40/18 and 295/45/20 tires.
The chassis is undoubtedly impressive, but A&M Deluxe Customs is renowned for custom metal work and the Shomad is a shining example of their skill and creativity in that arena, as well. Let’s take the top, for example. Tri-five Chevys in general – and Nomads in particular – are difficult to chop. We’re not just talking the physical effort involved; there’s an equally important aesthetic component to consider. Cut too much, or in the wrong places, and you can easily throw off the proportions of the entire car. For the Shomad, a conservative 2-inches out of the top proved to be the perfect formula. It’s a noticeable amount but doesn’t look silly or cartoonish.
The same can be said about the wagon’s other body modifications. The front wheel arches have been raised 2-1/2-inches and the rears 2-inches, which not only allows better clearance and visibility for the wheels but almost gives the effect of the body being sectioned. The A&M team took a bit of a risk removing the signature ’57 Chevy “gunsight” trim pieces and corresponding pontoon blisters from the Nomad’s hood and replacing them with a hand-formed (and functional) center scoop, but the results are both bold and stunning. Below the hood, the bumper has been tucked and relieved of its original bullets, while the grille opening is fitted with a custom stainless steel mesh insert and one-off grille bar that borrow design cues from the originals, but with a cleaner, contemporary flair.
More signature 1957 Chevy elements – namely the louver-style front fender trim and distinctive side spear – have been shaved in the quest for smoothness, while the original two-piece tailgate assembly has been altered into a one-piece liftgate. The rear bumper is also narrowed and tucked closer to the body. After years of massaging and perfecting the body panels, Ben Conley at Ben’s Custom Paint was called on to lay down a stunning finish of custom-mixed House of Kolor gold with a pearl white top for accent. The paint simply glows, doing a perfect job of showcasing the flawless bodywork beneath.
The Shomad’s custom metalwork extends into the engine compartment, where a smooth firewall and fabricated inner fenders and front panel frame the 427c.i. LS7 engine. The engine itself is a work of art, with custom chrome-plated coil covers, a smoothed and painted engine block and a sculpted, handmade air intake assembly fed by the hood scoop. Stainless steel headers and a custom stainless 3-inch exhaust system carry fumes to outlets crafted into the rear bumper pods below the taillights. The LS engine is backed by a 4L80E overdrive automatic transmission for effortless cruising.
Inside, Ron’s seating request was achieved using a quartet of 2000 Monte Carlo buckets, sculpted and reshaped by Gabe’s Custom Interior in San Bernardino, California before being custom stitched in Irish Cream and Mocha colored leather with copper piping accents. A hand-built console bisects the seating and is home to a Gennie shifter and controls for the air conditioning and RideTech shocks. The console flows into the original dash, using custom trim and the original-style waffle-pattern stainless insert material to keep everything looking integrated. The A&M crew also extended the raised dash area over the gauge cluster to accommodate two extra gauge pods on the right side of the speedometer. The gauges themselves are from CON2R and mimic OEM ’57 styling, but with Shomad lettering. Similarly, the American Retro steering wheel mirrors the original, but in a smaller diameter and with a custom A&M logo center insert.
The 1957 Chevy Nomad winning Goodguys Custom of the Year honor comes on the heels of a spectacular reception at the 2016 SEMA Show, multiple awards in the Custom d’Elegance class at the 2017 Sacramento Autorama, the Goldmark trophy at the Boise Roadster Show and the King of the Customs title at the Portland Roadster Show. With more events on the schedule for 2017 – including appearances at the Goodguys Northwest Nationals in Puyallup and the Southwest Nationals in Scottsdale – it’s clear that Maier’s Shomad is comfortable on the show stage where the Nomad concept was born, which gives us all the benefit of seeing it shine.