Street car aficionado Art Boze of Swansea, Illinois, had a biblical sized itch he just had to scratch. You see, as a boy, Art’s neighbor had a sweet ’55 Nomad that he religiously toured around the streets of his suburban hometown. That particular Tri-Five Chevy seized young Art’s attention from the moment he laid eyes on it, and just wouldn’t let the boy out of its grip. It was at that instant in time that the youngster decided someday one of those bodacious Bow Tie station wagons would take up residence in his own personal garage space.
Unfortunately, that day would not come too soon. Hot rods, muscle cars, and daily drivers came and went, but nary a Nomad made its way into Art’s possession. But strangely enough, 60 odd years later, Art had a vision of sorts; a remembrance of that beautiful wagon that had groped his brainwaves back when he was a practicing grade schooler. He decided that the time was right to bring a Chevy wagon into his life. But it wouldn’t be just any stock ride that’s for dang sure. No way, no how … he knew that this one had to be special.
Deep down, Art knew that a wagon like the one he was jonesing for would be no easy task to build, even for a seasoned veteran of car manipulation like himself. So he enlisted the help of Classic Car Studio (CCS), a mega-talented shop situated right across the river from his abode in beautiful St Louis, Missouri. The two had worked harmoniously before on several high-profile projects and Art knew that CCS were the ones to call on when dealing with a forward-looking visionary design such as the one he was contemplating. Together, they would work to achieve his dream of building the most insane specimen of a Chevy Nomad the world has ever seen. It would be a ride that would put Art on the cusp of his own level of Chevy “Ute” Utopia.
So Classic Car Studio president Noah Alexander and the team at CCS got started on creating Art’s dream wagon. First off, a game plan was drafted to give them a running timeline on how things would progress from this day forward. Once in order, the goal was now to find a suitable donor ride for the project. A dry and crusty ’55 was located in Arizona and investigated by Noah. It was a long-dormant family project that luckily still had all its trim pieces accounted for. These parts can be difficult to find on this particular breed of wagon, so that was a plus in Noah’s eyes. With the team’s final approval, the wagon was purchased and shipped back to CCS where it came into the shop for immediate teardown.
The crew soon found that along with all the trim the Nomad also had a hitchhiker … an Arizona-bred rattlesnake! Once extracted by the bravest of the crew, the wagon was sent out to be mediablasted to see what lay under its burnt skin. What they found was a lot of typical, poor bodywork from past run-ins with immovable objects and the typical 60 years worth of wear and tear. But overall, the car was still a good starting point for the team’s journey forward.
The body went into the fabrication shop for its major overhaul. Along with plenty of body damage, the Nomad’s floors, which once looked solid, were perforated with small rust holes. New floors were installed for the ’55, while the rest of the crew smoothed out the wagon’s war wounds on its flanks. Since Art had decided on a Bowler 4L80E transmission to do the shifting, a new tunnel was fabbed into the fresh floors to fit the unit.
The crew also had other issues to tackle. CCS had to re-create a Nomad doorjamb from scratch when they discovered a non-matching door and jamb from a Chevy 210 was used to fix some previous damage. Once that task was completed, CCS then made mini-tubs out back to fit the big meats that this Nomad was going to run. A custom trunk panel was built especially for this build, as well. Last but not least, CCS created a one-off bellypan, which helps make this Nomad look like a top-tier custom from the ground up.
While the body shop was buzzing, CCS jumped in on the chassis that would be the backbone of this wagon. They started with a Roadster Shop Revo chassis, which comes with 10-gauge fully boxed 4x4-inch framerails for rigidity. A Flaming River power rack-and-pinion was added up front to keep this ’55 headed in the right direction. A four-link triangulated rear suspension and Afco coilovers came next. Wilwood Pro spindles, master cylinder, and 13-inch brakes (six-piston front, four-piston rear) handle the stopping duties.
When it came to the powerplant, CCS did not skimp one bit to say the least. They decided to have an engine built that would complement the crazy, over the top look that the Nomad was destined to achieve. So they called on Shafiroff Racing Engines (SSRE) out of Bohemia, New York, to create one badass big-block for this Bow Tie. The laundry list of parts is a thing to behold, as only the best speed add-ons were used in creating the horsepower that Art wanted in his signature ride.
Starting with a World/BMP 509 aluminum block with steel billet caps, a Scat 4340 4.250-inch steel crank was added to the bottom end. A Comp “round lobe” billet hydraulic roller cam, along with Comp 1.7 Ultra Pro Magnum roller rockers were installed to get the valves jumping in sync. Custom 10.75:1 aluminum forged pistons with coated skirts, connected to Scat 4340 6.385-inch H-beam steel rods fill the cylinders on this big-block.
A Cloyes Billet True Roller timing set with a Torrington bearing was added up front for its strength and adjustability. The engine was topped with a set of Edelbrock 409 aluminum heads, which were enhanced with SSRE proprietary CNC porting. These are set up with Manley custom stainless 2.25/1.75 valves and Isky “Enduro Design” Premium roller springs. An Edelbrock large-port intake was also given the SSRE treatment and tops this beautiful powerplant. A pair of Edelbrock Vintage Finish 600-cfm carbs with electric choke feed this 509ci beast and are connected by an Edelbrock progressive throttle linkage.
A Moroso race prepped oil pump with a TIG-welded HD pickup helps keep this powerplant wet and lubed. A high-performance degreed harmonic balancer was added to the build. Cometic MLS (multi-layer steel) head gaskets were an extra layer of protection where it counts most. Finally, to add some more good looks to this build, a polished aluminum front cover with billet timing pointer was added, along with a set of GM cast aluminum valve covers at the flanks. An MSD Ready to Run billet distributor with custom machining gets the spark out, and looks great doing it. The front drive was initially made for a 409, but with custom brackets, some aluminum welding, and some competent massaging, it all came together to fit this behemoth of an engine.
This potent 509ci powerplant is conservatively rated at 625 hp and 638 lb-ft of tire twisting torque. It’s backed by a sturdy Bowler 4L80E transmission, running a Bowler Compushift computer, and coupled to a Billet 9x11-inch triple-disc lockup stall converter. This setup feeds a bulletproof Ford 9-inch rear out back sporting a Pro Iron Case with Truetrac posi. The wagon rides the pavement by way of Billet Specialties SLG 15 wheels: 18x8 up front and 20x12 out back. They are shod in Pirelli P Zero tires; 255/40/18 and 335/35/20 respectively.
Once you build a modern-machined, mid-’50’s based rocket ship like this, you need a “well-endowed’ command center in which to control a ride of this caliber. Using mood boards filled with pictures of old Italian speedboats and cigar lounges for inspiration, the pieces started to come together for the crew. The cockpit starts off with custom-fabricated sheetmetal door panels and console. They were kept in metal as it was a shame to cover them in leather after all the intricate work. Relicate leather was used on the custom Scat racing seats. An American Retro steering wheel and ididit column keep this bad boy on the straight and narrow. A Kenwood head unit keeps the good tunes flowing. Last but not least, a woodgrain headliner and interior trim set give off a finished look that complements the color scheme.
And what a color scheme it is. Devising this beautiful harmony of hues didn’t come easy for sure for the team. It took over a year for Art to finally come on board with the overall final rendering of the exterior of the wagon. “The car evolved in three phases. First it was going to be a Gypsy Red car with an Indian Ivory top and all the chrome. Next, it changed to a green car with a tan top and the chrome. And finally, after it was all said and done, it was going to be a green car with the gold top and all gold everything,” states Noah. “We have all the renderings lined up still, and the final car is definitely the best. It’s green and gold! You’ve got to be pretty confident in a shop to let them lead you in that direction,” he continued. So in the end Krazy Kiwi in BASF Glasurit was the color of choice, accented with Truffle Butter Gold on all the trim. The result is nothing short of insanely spectacular.
Extra features abound on this wagon. CCS wanted a clean, uncluttered engine bay so the engine could breathe and be the center of attention. The brake master cylinder and booster, wiper motor, and Vintage Air air-conditioning unit were all hidden out of sight in the dash. It’s a nice touch that helps set this build apart. That healthy rumble is amplified and tweaked by a set of custom 1 7/8 stainless headers, feeding a 3-inch stainless exhaust system. Black Widow mufflers give this ride the right tonal note. All this goodness leads to 3-inch exhaust ports to help rid this ride of its spent gasses, and to do it in style.
CCS pushed hard, working the body department seven days, and over 80 hours, a week to get the Nomad ready for the NSRA show. Needless to say, the wagon was a huge hit with the masses, garnering an immense amount of attention from just about everyone in attendance.
With over 1.5 years into the build (4 months on sheetmetal work alone), it didn’t come easy, cheap, or quick to say the least. Perfection takes preparation and patience, and from where we are standing it looks like the crew’s hard work and dedication paid off in spades. And for Art, all this insanity has been worth it, as Gone-Mad is one “wacky wagon” to be dealt with. If this Nomad were any crazier it would be permanently committed.