As a regular reader, you know the automotive hobby can be enjoyed on dozens of levels. Grandpa’s old truck can be brought back to life as a pristine original that pays tribute to his memory. Or, on the other hand, a high school favorite could be the recipient of modern aftermarket upgrades. Then, there’s the path the guys at Streetheat in West Melbourne, Florida, chose.
Gavin Broome and Matt Verzi were active in the automotive repair industry separately before they decided to team up and create their own unique business plan. With 30 years of combined experience, they had accomplished thousands of minor auto repairs in the past but decided that concentrating on one vehicle until it was finished was a more satisfying approach. They eliminated outside work and focused on creating a single, signature ride that blended their distinctive sense of style with go-anywhere reliability. In the half-dozen years they’ve been together, they have created dozens of vehicles to their credit and have achieved a worldwide reputation.
With almost a missionary zeal for vintage Bow Ties, the Streetheat guys are always on the lookout for that special vehicle to complement their style. In the case of this ’61 Chevy Nomad, it was part of a local collection and one of five cars they bought that day.
Note: While Nomads are best known for the flashy, two-door hardtop versions produced from 1955-’57, Chevrolet moved the Nomad name to its top-of-the-line, four-door Bel Air-based wagons in 1958-’61, resurrecting the name again in 1968-’71.
Once Gavin and Matt determined that the four-door wagon was a true Nomad, (and a rare Canadian-built Nomad at that!) they knew it was the right choice for their specialized rejuvenation scheme. As with all their builds, reliability and performance are at the top of the list, followed by an all-new interior. There would be only limited changes however, when it came to high-dollar exterior cosmetics. The patina finish along with a few dings and dents would remain, an essential element of their ‘sleeper mystique’ plan for the wagon. When they began their initial assessment, it didn’t take long to get the original 327 V-8 up and running and it took even less time to decide that the old engine would have to go, making way for a new LS engine. The half-century old suspension would also be consigned to the trash bin.
The year long, part-time effort began by removing every piece of the original suspension, reconditioning anything that they planned to reuse and preserving it with a coat of Hot Rod Black. The series of aftermarket upgrades began with a new tubular front suspension from Performance Online. In the rear, they kept the original three-link that holds the Eaton Posi rear with 3.08 gears.
To achieve the sought-after low profile, the Nomad rides on 2,600/2,400-pound Air Maxx ’bags, energized by a Viair 480C compressor with a 5-gallon return reserve tank and 1/4-inch lines, all controlled by Easy Street paddle valves. The wagon runs C6 Corvette 13-inch power disc brakes on all four wheels with a Classic Performance Products 8-inch custom master cylinder/booster combo. Hotchkis Big Bar sway bars front and rear along with Speedway shocks at each corner keep the boxy Bow Tie flat in the corners. They also used a Performance Online kit to adapt the GM 605 power steering box. Getting the wagon rolling is a staggered set of classic US Mags rims, 18x8 up front and 20x9 in the rear.
When it came time to energize the wagon, the engine was chosen with good looks as strong a consideration as power and reliability. Gavin says, “Pop the hood at car shows and you get a wonderful surprise!” Matt says “It’s fun passing modern cars on the highway, knowing you are still getting 25 miles per gallon!” The fuel injected 4.8L V-8 is from a Tahoe and they outfitted it with a custom Streetheat cold-air intake, LS1-style coil packs, and ceramic-coated Hooker Shorty headers that flow into a 2.5-inch mandrel bent exhaust, complete with H-pipe and MagnaFlow mufflers exiting in front of the rear tires.
A Champion large-core radiator with a 12-inch electric fan and custom shroud keeps temps in the green. Streetheat engine detailing included Matrix Jewel Blue Metallic and Coarse Silver base/clear accents. Power gets to the ground thanks to a 2004 4L60 four-speed automatic with a torque converter lock up and a BP Automotive engine harness. Matt from Nomad Tuning, a mobile tuning service out of Orlando, finished the job, adding a mild street tune that generates approximately 325 hp.
Moving inside, everything in the Dynomat’d interior was unbolted, sandblasted, and either polished or painted with Matrix Midnight Blue and Jewel Blue Metallic base/clear. Both Matt and Gavin agree that nothing looks quite as good as the factory Impala interior and Cars Inc. re-creates it perfectly. They sent the door panels off and installed the seat covers themselves, following up with matching blue loop pile carpet front to back and a blue vinyl headliner.
The original instruments were replaced with a Dakota Digital VHX gauge cluster that has settings for modern warning signals that include a check engine light, low oil pressure, high temps, and more. An Easy Street analog gauge under the dash monitors the air suspension. All the aluminum dash trim is new, contrasting nicely with the refinished steering wheel. The Custom Auto Sound radio plays some vintage rock ’n’ roll through 5-inch Kenwood speakers for some period-correct, road trip entertainment. The entire car was rewired with Matt being careful to leave enough room under the dash for an A/C unit in the event that the new owner wanted one.
Their trademark patina paint was the perfect finishing touch for their latest badass wagon. The car had a few blemishes and the team incorporated them, celebrating the history of the vintage Nomad. From the outset, they determined that the exterior was not something they planned to restore, showcasing the weathered patina finish and letting the next owner personalize it to his taste. Matt says “The car is almost complete and will be on eBay soon.” Special thanks to Charlie’s Customs, Nomad Tuning, Cruising Gold, and Olsen Industries.