Transforming a car that is more than a half-century old into a high-performance, crisp-handling automobile is not for the faint of heart. With the complexity associated with some of the high-tech upgrades available today, you might even label the effort as rocket science. In that case, Scott Kisner is right at home. When Scott was in the Air Force, he was working on Department of Defense satellites. When he retired, he worked with McDonnell Douglas and Boeing on the International Space Station, so he more than meets the prerequisites. "Cars were a disease I caught when I was about 14, and I've been playing with them ever since," Scott says. Over the years he's had about 15 performance-oriented cars. When it was time for something new, he turned to America's favorite automotive clearinghouse, eBay. The 1955 Chevy Nomad he found in Colorado had already been restored, and it was in good shape when it arrived at his home in Merritt Island, Florida. Scott was working on two other cars at the time so the Nomad went outside under a good car cover. It sat in the driveway for a couple of weeks and when Scott went to start it up, he found about 6 inches of water inside. The "good" car cover allowed moisture to seep through, and the seals around the Nomad's windshield and rear hatch leaked. Scott switched to a cheap cover, one that was waterproof, but unfortunately the hot Florida sun melted the plastic and bubbled the paint on the Nomad's hood and roof. The car covers were the domino effect that led to the car's new persona.
Everything begins with a plan, and Scott's goal was to create a classic car with modern technology. "It's as reliable as a new car with all the nostalgic looks of a vintage classic and," Scott adds, "it's a rocket ship!" Scott's background as a mechanical engineer means he does lots of his own work. Since the car cover issue caused the need for a repaint, the first step was stripping the old finish. Once the wagon was on the rotisserie, Scott didn't like the condition of the Nomad floor and decided it needed to be replaced. He also didn't like the looks of the chassis and decided that Art Morrison had the perfect upgrade. Right about then, a new motor made its way to the list, as well.
Having had experience with many big-block motors in the past, Scott opted for a modern crate motor but with a twist. Rather than build another gas-guzzling V-8, he chose an LS9 crate motor from Chevrolet Performance. Used in the ZR1 Corvette, his motor was one of the first crate versions sold to the public. Supercharged from the factory, the 6.2L V-8 is rated at 638 hp with 604 lb-ft of torque. Scott added Art Morrison 3-inch, long-tube headers and a polished stainless steel, mandrel-bent exhaust feeding MagnaFlow mufflers, raising the numbers even more. He says, "It is really strong, highly reliable, and gets 20 mpg!" The installation was not a simple bolt-on affair, however. One of his first tasks was the remote oil reservoir. Because Corvettes pull such high lateral g's on the road racing circuit, the LS9 uses a dry-sump setup. Since the crate motor did not come with its own reservoir, Scott provided the drawings for the tank and brackets to Peterson Fluid Systems, the folks who make reservoirs for NASCAR, and installed it in front of the front wheel on the passenger side. Cooling is provided by Arctic Chill with a custom three-in-one combination of radiator, A/C condenser, and intercooler, all augmented with a pair of 12-inch SPAL fans. The radiator package was so wide that Scott had to modify the original Chevrolet hood brace and hood latch. Two additional coolers manage the transmission fluid and engine oil. Wrapping up the details are the Weldon Racing fuel pump, stainless 18-gallon tank from Rock Valley, aftermarket intake tubing, and a K&N air filter. The TCI-6X transmission, from Torque Converters is an upgraded version of the GM 4L80E. Originally a four-speed automatic, it is now a six-speed that is all electronic, allowing laptop control of shift points, street or strip mode, manual shifting with paddles, or fully automatic. It also helps with mileage since Fifth gear is 1:1 and Sixth is 0.75:1. Wiring in the Nomad is equally unique with Scott choosing the ISIS Intelligent Multiplex system with its microprocessor-controlled power distribution system that eliminates the old wiring harness and allows modern and efficient connections. It has a remote control option for all functions, and there is a security mode that prevents the car from being started. The rear-mounted module is visible inside the gas filler door. The front module is above the driver-side headlight.
Rollers & Stoppers
The Art Morrison chassis uses Wilwood drilled and slotted, four-caliper disc brakes to scrub off speed with 12.19-inch versions up front and 10.75-inch units in the rear. The Wilwood tandem master cylinder on the firewall features an adjustable proportioning valve. The stylish wagon rolls on 17-inch Billet Specialties rims up front and 20-inch versions out back. The rear tires are equipped with 305/35R20 Nitto Drag Radials to plant the power and 205/40R17 Nitto NT-555 rubber up front.
Nomad liftgates all need work and Scott's was no exception. The sagging pot metal hinges were duplicated in billet aluminum, and the rear window frame was realigned by MadMooks in California. LED taillights and parking lights combine with halogen headlights for modern illumination. Charcoal-tinted glass replaced the original, there's a new billet grille, and all the chrome on the car was replated. After mediablasting the body on the rotisserie, the classic two-door hauler was sprayed with a combination of PPG Viper Red and Shoreline Beige. Scott's good friend Walt Biddle handled the bodywork and spray gun.
The Art Morrison GT55 chassis is designed for Tri-Five Chevrolets and came from the factory equipped with the transmission and motor mounts that Scott specified. He took it apart, had everything powdercoated, pinstriped it himself, and then reassembled it. The Art Morrison suspension uses polished stainless steel A-arms and a polished triangulated four-bar holding a powdercoated Strange 9-inch rear. It's equipped with 3.50:1 gears and Strange 31-spline axles. Front and rear antiroll bars and Strange adjustable coilovers stabilize all four wheels while Energy Suspension motor and body mounts ensure a quiet ride. Power rack-and-pinion steering assures crisp handling.
The interior had been previously restored but lots of changes are already on the short list for the future. The black vinyl bench seat is original but the back seat was cut and recontoured to accommodate the mini-tubs for the fat rear tires. The dash uses Classic Instruments' BelEra package, a six-gauge grouping that fits in the original bezel. A Flaming River steering wheel and ididit paddle shifters keep the driver in close touch while the Vintage Air tames hot Florida summers. An auxiliary switch panel on the dash controls the lights, fans, and fuel pump. With a rare nod to tradition, Scott retained the GM Wonder Bar radio, although it's now been updated for FM. The car took four and a half years to complete (although it may never be finished!) Special thanks to Walt Biddle, John Fincanon, Mike Carlean, and Greg Pittinger.