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Article posted: 7/15/2013 1:00 AM

Charm of Chevy Nomad evident at convention

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Chevrolet dazzled the public when it launched its sporty Nomad station wagon in 1955. The two-door forwent value as its steep price rang up higher than any other Chevy model, including a Corvette, but there was no denying the wagon's uniqueness or charm.

The one-of-a-kind model ran for just three short years but it still stirs enthusiasts' hearts the world over. One ultra-large group dedicated to the preservation and restoration of these iconic haulers is the Chevrolet Nomad Association. Last week marked the club's 25th annual convention, held in Itasca. Below are three owners who love getting behind the wheel to see the USA in their Chevrolet.

1955 Chevrolet Nomad; Kathy and Luke Miller, Wisconsin

This pristine 1955 Nomad appears museum-sourced but Luke found it in 1968, dilapidated and rusting away in a Wisconsin junkyard. "Dad couldn't believe I would want this 'piece of scrap iron.' To this day we lovingly call it that," said Luke.

The family incredulity didn't deter the young enthusiast. He chained the non-running wagon to his father's '53 Chevrolet and dragged the heap 13 miles home.

"We spent our dating years rebuilding the car and getting it road worthy," said Kathy.

Multiple engines found their way underhood, patches were heavily applied to the worn sheet metal and the original bench seat was tossed in favor of sportier GTO seats. The project rose to a whole new level in 2011 when the Nomad headed to Ken's Klassics, in Muscada, Wis., for a massive 1,300-manhour, 10-month body-off-frame overhaul.

"Five days after getting the final car back we had it loaded up for a drive to California," said Luke. The couple has driven to the past 43 club conventions and numerous other shows and events, racking up miles heading to Oregon, Georgia and Canada. Luke said: "We love having an unusual car that people easily recognize and get a thrill seeing."

1956 Chevrolet Nomad; JD and Dana Stevens, Southern California

"I've wanted to build a Nomad hot rod since I was 17," said JD. "I was at a high-school football game with some buddies and saw one parked. They laughed so hard and couldn't believe I would want to make one cool."

It was decades later in 1997 when he set out to do just that. He found a suitable '56 candidate languishing in a Southern California field.

"The damage was severe but the car was still salvageable," he said. The frame-off project commenced in 2002 and was finished in 2006, just in time for the car's 50th anniversary. From the start, the Chevy-loving couple built the wagon to drive. A reliable 383ci V8 provides the power, heavy-duty LineX spray covers the underside and even the smile-producing Zinc Yellow paint is conducive to road time. "The light color hides rashes and scratches accumulated on the road and the single-stage paint is easy to repair. It's also cool to the touch, even after hours baking in the sun."

The pair has traveled coast to coast and border to border, not just once, but several times. Dana said: "We love taking off to see the many different and diverse things each region of the country offers."

1957 Chevrolet Nomad; Vance and Skeeter Long, Queen Creek, Ariz.

The Longs stumbled across their custom Nomad in 1995 at a show in Minnesota.

"It had just been restored and really grabbed us," said Vance. "We told ourselves if the car came up for sale, we'd buy it." That day came in 2005 at the convention in Charlotte, N.C. "I flew back down days later to drive it home. It just so happened to be on the same day Hurricane Katrina hit," said Vance. Despite the treacherous weather, the enthusiast carefully made the voyage back home.

Underhood is a 350ci V8 with a roller-lifter camshaft and stainless steel Corvette exhaust headers. Inside the ultra-sleek cabin, which features genuine leather upholstery, occupants are wrapped in 1968 Thunderbird seats.

"The most stunning feature is the House of Kolor Candy Brandywine paint. Combined with the ghost flames, the vehicle just pops," said Vance. The couple added Weld Wheels, an updated AC system and installed gleaming chromed engine accessories. All told, the final finned machine has no shortage of ability to turn heads. Vance said: "While driving along an Illinois country road we paced a freight train. Even the engineer slowed, looked out at us and honked his horn in admiration."

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