If you are a fan of building your own car, you know that hanging around some old-time car guys can be really enlightening. One of the best pieces of advice that you’ll probably hear is to “start with the best vehicle you can, and take it from there.” First-time builders often shop for the lowest price and wind up spending considerable time, money, and effort just to bring the project to a point where they can begin the customizing process. For a little extra up front, they could have started there and saved the aggravation. That’s exactly what the team from StreetHeat did in Melbourne, Florida. Matt Verzi and Gavin Broome were talented mechanics, working for others for many years before they decided to team up and create StreetHeat.
Both Matt and Gavin have a soft spot for Chevrolet Nomads, such as this 1960 version. General Motors stopped making the highly recognizable, two-door versions in 1957 but continued with four-door Nomad wagons from 1958 to 1961. This one was purchased from the South 40 Collection, owned by Robert Schear, a collector who is repositioning a few of his cars. Over the years, Matt and Gavin have purchased almost a dozen vehicles from him and they’ve had their eye on this Nomad for quite a while. Because of its high quality, it has always been priced just out of reach, but finally they made the decision to follow that old-time car enthusiast advice and spring for the good one.
The goal was to take an already beautifully restored car and make it into a mild custom that enhanced the beauty of the factory design with just a few key upgrades to make it comfortable in the new millennium. One of the first things they did was to eliminate the tint from the windows. These cars were originally called “Glass Houses” and you have to see inside to appreciate them. Now, the distinctive Roman Red factory interior is visible from every angle and it changed the look dramatically.
The real personalizing process however, began underneath. While much of the Nomad chassis is still original, everything was inspected, worn parts were replaced, and all new bushings added. To give the wagon the proper StreetHeat stance, the first major mod was a full AirMaxxx air suspension kit with 2,600-pound RideTech bags on all four corners. To keep everything out of sight, the mechanicals for the air system were grouped into the spare tire well. Energizing the system is a Viair 480 compressor, 5-gallon reserve tank, and Air Lift actuators that feed through 1/4-inch lines. A Viair gauge on the dash monitors everything and rocker switches control the altitude. Stopping power was next, and the installation of Corvette C6 power brakes with 13-inch rotors up front, coupled with upgraded drums in the rear, gave the vintage wagon modern braking capability. Getting the car rolling in style are Billet Specialties Daggers 20x10 in the rear and 18x8 up front. Nankang rubber connects the ride to the asphalt with 275/30ZR20s in the rear and 255/40ZR18s up front.
Power was a priority and the original 283ci V-8 was retained and upgraded. The StreetHeat team removed it, disassembled it, inspected the internals, put it back together, and then detailed it. Reassembly included an aluminum intake with an Edelbrock 550-cfm four-barrel carb. The nostalgic-looking two-barrel air cleaner was retained but modified to accommodate the new, bigger carb. Benefitting from the increased fuel/air mix, Power Pack heads replaced the originals for increased breathing, and spark flies from the modern MSD electronic ignition and billet distributor. Again, for nostalgic reasons, they retained the factory exhaust manifolds but added ceramic coating for an updated touch. The new 2.5-inch mandrel bent exhaust makes its way through the factory X-frame, over the rear axle, and exits at the rear. Alan Grove brackets were used to swap the original generator for an alternator and adapt the new Vintage Air compressor. A/C hoses were carefully hidden to keep the engine compartment clean. As a final upgrade, they eliminated the original two-speed Powerglide transmission and replaced it with a modern 700-R4 automatic.
Because of that “buy the best you can afford” philosophy mentioned earlier, the interior needed very little work with many of the original parts still looking beautiful. The dash features a rare, padded cover that looks brand-new; a good indication of how well this car was cared for. The beautiful Roman Red interior is a perfect example of those style-setting trends of the 1960s. Modern creature comforts include Vintage Air and stereo, making the car a great highway cruiser. The factory Sateen Silver paint on the exterior showcases the distinctive lines of the Nomad and only needed a careful cut and buff to make it show car ready. Although the car has been in the StreetHeat shop for about 8 months, they estimate they only have about a month of work involved in the transformation, one more good reason to follow the old-timer’s advice. Thanks to social media and the huge number of followers who track every StreetHeat build, the Nomad is already sold and the new owner, Dave Garfield, will be cruising the streets of Chicago with his thoroughly modern, half-century-old wagon.