1957 CHEVROLET BEL AIR NOMAD WAGON
Chassis No. VC 570 109 277
Dusk Pearl metallic, white roof, silver and black interior.
Engine: in-line V8, pushrod overhead valves, four-throat Rochester carburettor, 4637cc, 223bhp at 4800rpm; Gearbox: 3-speed automatic; Suspension: front independent wishbone and coil springs, rear half elliptic leaf springs to live axle, telescopic dampers all round; Brakes: power assisted, front discs, rear drum. Left-hand drive.
The son of a Swiss watchmaker, Louis Chevrolet was born in Switzerland in 1878 at La Chaux de Fonds. With William Durant he formed the Chevrolet Motor Car Co. in 1911. In 1917, after Chevrolet's departure, the company was absorbed into General Motors, where it quickly became firmly established as their popular, low-priced division. In 1927 Chevrolet overtook Ford as America's best-selling make, a position it was largely to maintain in the years ahead. By the early 1950's Chevrolet designs were the forceful expression of the preferences of Harley Earl, GM's demanding styling chief. Powered by hefty V8 engines, longer, lower, wider than ever before, swathed in chrome, they reflected the state of mind of America, wealthy, influential, at ease with itself.
The American station wagon evolved steadily. In the industry's early days it was tall and squared-off, built of timber behind the front-end sheet metal of a suitably robust passenger car chassis. All-steel wagons eventually appeared in the early 1950's when their makers went to enormous lengths to simulate wood grains on metal panels and pressings. At the 1954 Autorama, an annual show where GM's 'dream' projects were paraded to test public reaction, a new type of estate wagon was displayed. It was a two-door with sloping side pillars and tailgate and low enough to see over the roof. Harley Earl, who did not care to see any large panel undecorated, had a series of grooves worked in it, and these became one of the Nomad's unique styling points. The following year the sleek wagon went into production, as the Bel Air Nomad. Possibly because it had but two doors, perhaps it was because the sloping rear door was thought to reduce the car's utility - it was never a very strong seller. It was given the aggressive tailfins of the rest of the 1957 Chevrolet line, but by the end of that year it was out of production, roof grooves, 'banana' tailgate slats, forward-sloping side pillars and all, after only a few thousand had been built.
Time has been kind to the Nomad. It may not have been a success for Chevrolet, but the concept was a good one and the two-door Nomad achieved a kind of posthumous fame, quickly becoming one of the most ardently sought of all Chevrolets of the period. Today it is a very collectable automobile.
Purchased by the vendor in the USA in 1990, this Nomad is fitted with air-conditioning and the correct period radio. There is tinted glass to the windows. The car is said to be in excellent condition; there is a schedule detailing its activities in the USA after a restoration in 1980, which is evenly punctuated by a note that the oil and oil filter have been changed. In 1996 the car was invited to participate in the prestigious Bagatelle Concours in Paris - it was driven from Switzerland to Paris and back without any incident.