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The Guinea Pig

This Roadster Shop beauty was worth all the homespun effort.

Damon Lee Jun 30, 2005

Back in 1999, a young Chad Glasshagel, then fresh out of Wyo-Tech Automotive College, was looking to embark upon a career as a rod builder. In his small hometown of Elgin, Illinois, there was really only one option for a proper place to begin that new chapter in his life: the Roadster Shop. That didn't mean he was a shoe-in, though, Roadster Shop had a reputation to uphold, and therefore only hired the best. Proof of his passion and abounding ability can be found throughout the '56 Nomad pictured here--completely built by Chad from the ground up, of course, with the exception of the interior, which was stitched by his mom. But, we're getting way ahead of ourselves.

After a year or so working at the Roadster Shop, Chad decided to sell his first car, a '55 Chevy, because, as he so eloquently put it, "I couldn't say that I built it myself." As you might guess, he wanted something he could truly call his own, something created from his very hands alone, with little to no help from outside parties. As it turned out, his uncle offered him a '56 Nomad he'd had for 25 years, (but didn't have time to do anything with), knowing that he would do right with it. And do right he did indeed. Of course, while Chad wanted his own personal stamping on every facet of the build-up, he didn't go into completely alone. The Roadster Shop had plenty of input, and offered up the question, "Why don't you make it sit and ride low all of the time?" The answer to that was the use of The Roadster Shop's first Tri-Five Chevy chassis, which allowed the body to be set as low as possible, yet retain stock-like travel characteristics with the (non-adjustable) suspension.

On top of the chassis--which includes a modified TCI triangulated four-link and Heidt's IFS, supporting 18- and 20-inch American Torq-Thrusts, respectively, with Wilwood discs and Aldan coilovers--Chad went big with the drivetrain, too. Instead of a measly small-block, he opted for one of GM's healthier offerings in the form of a 427 big-block, which he traded the original wheels and tires off the wagon for with a customer. And because he's still young and full of vigor, an automatic transmission wouldn't do--try a '97 T-56 six-speed tranny, good for around town gear-bangin' and highway cruising (especially with the 3.89-geared Currie 9-inch).

Building the chassis was no walk in the park (considering it was a new venture for the company, as well), and neither was the bodywork. Rather than drop a primered or even resto-style shell over the beautiful foundation, Chad went full-bore with the exterior, too; nothing really major like some other well-known Nomads, but things such as the handles and various trim have been shaved, all inner fender panels and firewall smoothed, rear tubbed an inch on each side for the added rubber, hood de-birded, etc. Chad extended his resume even further by attempting, and successfully complet-ing, his first full paint job. He used DuPont two-stage metallic sage green and black for a perfect two tone and, as he put it, to emphasize "a sinister-looking, low car." The polished five-spokes and stationary dropped stance all work nicely to achieve his desired look, as well.

Finally, albeit the one minor area where he would need some help, Chad wrapped up his 3 1/2-year project by enlisting the help of his mother to complete the Nomad's interior. Of course, he takes the credit for the smoothed dash, elongated glovebox, and custom-built center console. But good ol' mom was called in to help stitch the inner threads up (a mixture of gray vinyl and black '56 Bel Air cloth material). Auto Meter gauges, Billet Specialties steering wheel, and a Kenwood/Eclipse sound system complete the package.


Oh What A Beautiful Frame You Have

From the outside, this Nomad screams 1956, but underneath screams 21st Century. The reason behind that is the fact that this Nomad rides on a state-of-the-art Roadster Shop chassis. The platform is constructed to physically resemble the factory GM foundation it is replacing, but with two main advantages: lowering the car 4 inches (without affecting suspension travel!) and allowing the use of larger/wider wheels while maintaining a proper turning radius. The drop-in ride height (actually car height--like channeling without the channeling!) is achieved by lowering the chassis center main rails, which are constructed out of 4x4 1/4-wall tubing, while narrowing the front frame horns, which are constructed out of 1/8-inch mild steel but still retain the factory appearance and mounting tabs (bumpers, core support, etc.). Each chassis also comes complete with body mounting tabs that require no modifications for remounting your sedan or wagon--this is a literal "bolt-on" deal!

0508sc_06z 1955_chevrolet_nomad Frame 7/6

Starting with the front, the package includes a Heidt's Superide II IFS complete with 11-inch disc brakes, rack-and-pinion, sway bar option, and Aldan coilovers. Upgrades to chrome-plated and stainless components are also available. Roadster Shop equips the chassis with 1 1/2 x 0.120-wall tubular center crossmembers, complete with dropout trans mounts. The rear suspension consists of a standard 9-inch Ford housing (with all new parts, excluding third member), 11-inch drums, triangulated four-bar, Aldan coilovers, and sway bars are optional. Third member options range from standard-type to full Positraction, in a wide variety of gear ratios. Roadster Shop can equip the chassis with any engine/trans mount combo the customer desires, and set them up so no firewall modifications will be required. Other notable options include mechanical clutch linkage that will allow the use of the stock swinging clutch pedal; rack location that allows the use of stock steering column (or aftermarket); and Wilwood disc brake upgrade, AirRide option, and The Roadster Shop can cater the stance of the car to a customers desire with a wide range of stance options. For more information contact The Roadster Shop at 275 North Grove Ave., Dept SC, Elgin, IL 60120, (847) 742-1932,

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