Model year 1959 saw the birth of the El Camino. Combining the comfort of the passenger car with the utility of a truck birthed a 28-year run of a special vehicle for those who in all reality...couldn't make up their mind. What if General Motors decided to start the run one year earlier, launching the El Camino in 1958? If that had happened, you can assume it would have looked something like Joe Cherry's 1958 El Nomado.
While he was searching for a 1958 Chevy, a buddy caught wind and sold him his 1958 Nomad wagon that had been sitting in a field filled with countless beehives. Joe originally hesitated to purchase the mud-sunk heap, but from a safe distance, was able to peer into the engine bay, and see a rusted, worn, destroyed W-motor sitting quietly. "I told the owner I would think about it. I went home, scanned a picture of a 1958 Nomad into my computer and started chopping and moving things around. After a few hours on Photoshop, I knew what I wanted to do," Joe said.
The next day, he bought the car for $950-bees included-and immediately started fumigating when he got back to the shop. The car was rough, almost too rough. He phoned some friends, broke out the wrenches, and stripped it down to pure guts. Luckily, he had a 1958 Biscayne 2-door collecting rust out in the backyard and began grafting the two together. Trouble started immediately, as with any project of such degree.
"Grafting the two cars together and trying to maintain proportion was very difficult. The sedan part of the car extends from the doors to the center of the rear wheelwells. The Nomad's roof was cut, quartered, and chopped two inches," said Joe. To say this '58 has custom touches is an understatement. Most pieces had to be fabricated and modified to fit in places they were never meant to. The lift gate torsion bar assembly and I-beams had to be moved and altered, including a new latching system. All the floors had to be repaired, and during the process he included some nice features, especially a hidden compartment in the bed to conceal the Air Ride Technologies Air Pod.
The 348 cubic-inch W-motor was retained and freshened by Larry's Machine Shop in Modesto, California, with a tri-power set-up sitting up top complete with the original Super Turbo-Thrust intake manifold and a threesome of Rochester 2-barrel carburetors. The motor is bolted up to an aluminum Powerglide transmission, custom telescopic driveshaft, and GM 10-bolt rear end with 3.08 gears.
The one-off puzzle pieces continue on the suspension. The stock control arms were modified, and Air Ride airbags were installed on all four corners. Also, 11-inch disc brakes, a front sway bar, and a fully boxed frame were installed. All metal underneath was powdercoated after media-blasting and prep. The wheels are 18-inch Boyd Coddington Crown Jewels with a 5-inch backspacing, and the tires are Cooper Zeons, size P245/45R18.
In the shell, Joe installed a Pioneer Premium stereo system complete with MP3 player, DVD, and satellite radio. He dolled the interior up in crme leather for the custom seats, dash and door panels and finished it off with a tan Burberry carpet. "It's custom everything from the molded headliner, Air Ride controls, A/C controls, shifter, gauge mounts, power windows, and power seats. Even the glass in the car is all custom cut," he told us. On the outside, PPG supplied the paint for a three-stage mix of Sunset Red over Brickyard Red over Cranberry Tin Table primer, all of which was was applied by Ed Irving from Pine Bush, New York.
This '58 is truly one-of-a-kind. It's not a rare Bow Tie or custom Camaro. In the street rod world, it's what's known as a "phantom"-a car with a body that never actually existed. Should General Motors have begun the El Camino run in 1958? I think so.
Editor's Note: Check out www.superchevy.com for exclusive video of El Nomado being created.