1955, 1956, 1957 Chevrolet Nomad

The 1956 Chevrolet Nomad bore more of a likeness to its parent Bel Air than did the 1955 model.
The 1956 Chevrolet Nomad bore more of a likeness to its parent Bel Air than did the 1955 model.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1955, 1956, 1957 Chevrolet Nomad married hardtop flair to wagon utility, but it wasn't wedded bliss. Though it looked like other 1955s, the Nomad shared little with them aft of the cowl and was thus the most expensive Chevrolet ever: $2,571 with V-8 -- $265 more than a similarly equipped Bel Air convertible.

The lack of four doors limited its appeal among wagon buyers, its glassy interior could get uncomfortably warm, the liftgate sucked in exhaust fumes when open, and the slanted rear was prone to water leaks. With all this the nifty Nomad was Chevrolet's least popular 1955.

Nevertheless, it returned for 1956, this time bowing with the rest of the line (the 1955 had arrived in February). Motor Trend named it one of the year's most beautiful cars, but admitted that "its distinct personal-car feel forces certain limiting features..." One GM stylist disputed that, pointing out that the Nomad had more cargo capacity than some conventional contemporaries.

But price was still a problem and it prompted some economizing for the 1956. Seat inserts were now standard Bel Air hardtop (instead of the 1955's unique "waffle" material). So was all exterior trim save for the "bananas" and, exclusive to the 1956, a small chrome "V" below each tail lamp (other Chevrolets signified a V-8 with one large "V" on trunklid or tailgate).

A nice detail touch was reversing the Bel Air's short rear-quarter "slash" moldings to match the B-pillar angle. Chevrolet hoped that a full year's production would push Nomad sales past the 10,000 mark, but it still had to raise price more than $130 despite the cost-cutting measures, and production declined. With that, Chevy decided not to do a Nomad version of its all-new 1958 design.

Rear moldings on the 1956 Nomad were angled to match the B-pillar.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The valedictory 1957, like its predecessors, offered most of the same good qualities as other Chevrolet passenger models -- it wore that year's heavy face-lift particularly well -- but cost another $150 more and thus saw the lowest production for the three-year run. Trim was again stock Bel Air except for Nomad script and a small gold "V" on V-8 tailgates.

Though the name has since been used on conventional wagons and on vans, the first Nomad is the only one Chevrolet fans care to remember. And why not? To paraphrase a well-worn cliché, the first shall sometimes be best.

Check out 1955-1957 Chevrolet Nomad specifications on the next page.

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