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1955 Chevrolet Nomad - Barn-Built Bow Tie

This slick ’55 Nomad was built at a very cool shop.

By Tommy Lee Byrd, Photography by Tommy Lee Byrd

For car guys, a garage is absolutely mandatory, and in most cases, bigger is better. At some point, just about everyone has walked through an enormous warehouse or an abandoned factory and thought about the amazing potential for a cool shop. For North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, resident Scott Miller, those thoughts became a reality, as he worked hard to convert an old factory into the ultimate garage. The huge brick building was the perfect spot for a hot rod shop. Scott calls his shop Miller Brothers Hot Rod Barn, and the crew is always working on several cool projects. One in particular is this ’55 Nomad, owned by Scott’s brother, Gary.

Gary and Scott share similar tastes when it comes to building vintage iron. They also have a thing for ’55 Chevys, and Gary’s Nomad is a prime example of their expertise. Gary bought the car in the mid-’90s but didn’t get in a hurry to restore it. The Nomad wore a coat of house paint, so it didn’t rank highly in the looks department, but a thorough inspection revealed a solid body. The project was pushed to the side for a while, but he held on to it, knowing the value of a rust-free Nomad. Fast-forward a few years, and Scott is starting his hot rod shop, while Gary’s Nomad is still sitting, ready for some much-needed attention. From there, it was an off-the-clock job, and everyone at the Barn pitched in to put the Nomad on the highway, where it belongs.

The first year after its completion, Gary traveled the show circuit, showing off the newly finished sport wagon, but the urge to slide behind the wheel was simply too much to bear. Quickly becoming a driver, the ’55 didn’t lose any of its elegance and still retains the look of a freshly built show car. The build started with the frame, which is a stock GM unit, powdercoated black by Diversified Finishers in Statesville, North Carolina. Mounted to the original frame rails is a set of original control arms, which are fit with polygraphite bushings and bolted to a pair of Heidts 2-inch-drop spindles. The new spindles, combined with 2-inch-drop springs gave the Nomad a wicked stance, and the rear suspension is lowered a total of 4 inches to match. The rolling stock consists of 16x8- and 18x9.5-inch Billet Specialties Legacy wheels, wrapped in BFGoodrich G-Force radials. Sized at 245/50R16 up front and 275/40R18 out back, the tires are just the right size to fill the wheelwells.

Braking consists of GM discs on all four corners, while the steering system features a CCI rack-and-pinion to keep the ’55 stable on the highway and easy to negotiate in low-speed situations as well. Another step to keeping this car on the road is a dependable small-block, a ’96 LT1 350 more specifically. It’s all stock, but the fact is these engines came from the factory with 300 hp when installed in the F-body. The engine has a 10.4:1 compression ratio, thanks to a set of hypereutectic pistons, and still wears the original aluminum cylinder heads.

The fuel injection system is original GM equipment, so the Nomad is fuel efficient and very reliable compared to the cold-natured small-blocks of the past. It’s dressed in all sorts of Street & Performance attire, and a custom accessory drive system finishes off the clean engine bay. Spent exhaust gases flow through a stainless steel exhaust system, while a Griffin aluminum radiator keeps coolant temperatures from climbing too high. Behind the LT1 is a stock 4L60E automatic transmission, which provides low-rpm highway cruising in combination with a 3.50 gearset inside the ’79 Trans Am rear end.

When Gary bought the Nomad, it didn’t have much going for it, but after stripping several layers of paint from the original steel, he was very pleased. The car hadn’t suffered any major damage over the years, and there was very little rust to combat. Every piece of steel underneath the slick coating of PPG straight mixing black paint is original, but the Millers had to repair a few places in the floorpan, so it wasn’t the completely perfect body everyone dreams about. The Miller brothers handled most of the bodywork and called upon help from Donald Perry when it came time to apply the paint. The crew then color-sanded and buffed every square inch of the Nomad until it was a perfectly slick and ultra-reflective finish. Reassembly is always a time-consuming process with Tri-Five Chevys, but the guys picked away at it in their spare time and sent it off to the upholstery shop for the ultimate complement to a black paintjob—a bright red interior, of course.

The right team for the job was father and son upholsterers James and Todd Kirk from Corryton, Tennessee. Known as Kirk’s Kustom Upholstery, the shop did a number on Gary’s Nomad. Using bright red vinyl, the Kirks wrapped everything in sight, including a pair of Toyota Avalon bucket seats, custom door panels, and a custom back seat. The dash is stock but features a custom, all-in-one gauge cluster and billet aluminum panels from end to end. Creature comforts are easy to access, as the original heater controls manage the Vintage Air system, while the Sony CD player rides in the console, which was also fabricated and covered at Kirk’s Kustom Upholstery. You’ll also find custom vents for the A/C, a Lokar shifter, and two cupholders in the console.

When the car came home to North Carolina, it was time to button up the loose ends and put it on the show circuit. Countless awards and compliments gave the Miller brothers a nice pat on the back for their hard work, but the real payoff started when the Nomad became Gary’s regular driver. Thanks to everyone at the Miller Brothers Hot Rod Barn and Kirk’s Kustom Upholstery, Gary and his wife, Phyllis, can hop in the Nomad and take off anywhere. A cool car, built in a cool shop by a cool bunch of guys—it doesn’t get any better than that.

By Tommy Lee Byrd
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