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1956 Chevy Nomad - Smoothing The Bumps

Taking A Road Less Traveled

Kevin Lee Oct 1, 2002

It's easy to assume, after reading most automotive magazines and attending some of the larger cars shows, that professional shops build the majority of cars. There's no doubt that this hobby/industry is growing, and many of these shops have a lot to do with it. A lot of people who enjoy hot rods either don't have the skills necessary to build one themselves or don't have the time. Contracting a pro to build one is many enthusiasts' only way to get a ticket to play.

Imagine our surprise when we ran across this '56 Nomad and found out that it was, for the most part, built solely by Doug Robertson (he did farm out the paint and upholstery). What's even more surprising is that Doug is the president of Krupp Bilstein of America (makers of performance shocks), and with the growth of their business it's a wonder that he finds time to even drive the Nomad, let alone build it!

Doug had always had a fondness for Nomad wagons, so when a friend decided to consolidate a few projects and sell the Nomad, Doug was there to pick up where his friend had left off. Somehow Doug found time between work and business travel to wrench on the Nomad as kind of a relaxing therapy.

If the buildup was going to be a success, Doug knew it was going to have to have a good foundation. His plan was to stick to the basics and just tweak what General Motors had designed. The front suspension was rebuilt and dropped a couple of inches with some Danchuk spindles with the added safety of disc brakes. Doug wanted to run some bigger tires in the rear, so he relocated the leaf springs from outside the framerail to directly under it by welding in a pocket for the front of the leaves to set up in and by using some custom hangers in the rear. The rear wheelwells were widened 2 1/2 inches to accommodate the larger tires. Of course, Bilstein shocks found their way on all four corners to smooth out the ride.

When it came time for the interior, Doug was determined to find a later-model, power-adjustable bench seat that would fit in the Nomad's cabin. He spent several afternoons climbing in and through junked cars measuring seats until he located one in a Cadillac that fit his needs. Doug wanted the Nomad to have many of the same creature comforts he's grown accustom to in his newer commuter cars, so he installed power windows from Specialty Power Windows, an ididit tilt column topped with the stock wheel, and a Vintage Air A/C and heat system. Doug knew the limits of what he was going to be able to do himself, so he went ahead and sent the Nomad to Pacific Upholstery in San Diego to have the interior covered in beige leather and cloth.

The exterior was straightened and sent over to Jesse Mendez at Mendez Auto Body in El Cajon for a new coat of Matador Red and Dune Beige. Once the paint was dry, Doug took on the task of reassembly. His time was well spent, as the final product rivals many cars that have had a professional's touch but has given him the enjoyment of the build, and even more enjoyment from behind the wheel.



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