A Little History of the 1954 Corvette Nomad

One of the highlights of the 1954 GM Motorama Shows, the 1954 Chevrolet Nomad remains a mystery as tales of this uniquely-designed sport station wagon continue to vibrate through the collector car faithful. The Nomad was a showcase car, constructed under the direction of then Vice President of GMStyling, Harley J. Earl (1927-1958). He laid the foundation and established styling points for Chevrolet stylist, Carl Renner, Assistant Chief Designer and Mac Kichan, head of Chevrolet Design Studio (1953-1962) to build the car in early 1953.

Rumors are rampant about the whereabouts of the Nomad as other GM Motorama cars make appearances at auction events throughout the states. Unfortunately, the best educated guesses are that the Corvette Nomad was destroyed by orders of GM in the mid to late 50's. The 1954 Corvette Nomad was a static display rolling model, constructed primarily of fiberglass and built on the first Corvette chassis, serial number EX-52, which was lengthened and became the 1954 Corvette Nomad StationWagon Show Car #857.

In a statement from the Saturday Evening Post in late 1954, Earl defined the dream cars of the GM Motorama as "small opinion laboratories" and that "some experimental features have been promptly approved by Motorama visitors that they already been incorporated in production models..." was referring to the Nomad, which was thrust into production in the 1955 Chevrolet based on its tremendous reception at Motorama Shows nationwide.

Coming to the 1955 Chevrolet as the Nomad it brought the racy hardtop styling, low swept rear tailgate, rounding rear windows and open rear wheel openings. Other style features carried into the '55 Nomad were the nine ribs across the roof and the seven chrome bars on the tailgate. One of the many revolutionary features of the 1954 Motorama Nomad was the rear tailgate window that lowered into the tailgate.This feature appeared on production cars, the restyled 1959 Chevrolet and Pontiac Wagons.

All reports on the Corvette Nomad indicate that it had no motor or transmission, and no pictures show a motor or any type of lever to actuate the tranmission.

Recreating the 1954 Corvette Nomad

The construction of our 1954 Corvette Nomad was started in late 1999 after many years of collecting information about the first Nomad. A 1955 Pontiac Safari was selected as the donor body for the project and it was purchased in late 1999. The car was stripped both inside and out. A 1977 Camero front saddle was secured and partnered up with the rear Safari frame, which was boxed for strength. The Camero frame provided for additional safety with front disk brakes and the saddle for a 350 Chevrolet engine and 350 GM transmission combination.

The real construction started as the sectioning of the body, including the doors, was started. Sectioning, a custom car builder's term, is the removal of metal through the middle of the body horizontally to lower the body height. In the Nomad's case, 3 1/2 inches was the calculated amount required to most accurately emulate the shape and style of the original Nomad.

The cutting, of course, starts a tremendous opportunity to practice welding and reconstruction. A lot of planning, forethought and engineering preceded every reconstruction move.

Major construction considerations were the use of fiberglass primarily in the total front clip, rear fender-taillight area, and the dash, which is a 1954 Corvette. The tailgate, featuring the window lowering into the tailgate, was constructed of metal. The center of the design was a working mechanism from a mid-80's Suburban, with hinges designed and machined specifically for the tailgate.

In all this effort, the main goal was the construction of a Nomad that will as closely as possible emulate the original Corvette Nomad. Every time a construction or design decision was questioned, the last resounding thought was how close to the original will it bring us, or how did the original appear, or was it constructed.

Zane Zander 2007
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