Courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers
The first Chevrolet Nomad was conceived by Harley Earl and based on a Corvette platform. It debuted at the 1954 GM Motorama show. After a warm public reception, the Nomad was placed into production for 1955 and joined the top-echelon Chevrolet Bel Air passenger car line to become the first GM 2-door station wagon. The original Nomad continued as a low-production (by Chevrolet standards) image leader for the 1956 and 1957 model years. Proudly offered here from the Monical Collection is a splendid example of the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad. Delightfully finished in India Ivory over Matador Red with complementing red and black two-tone upholstery, this Nomad is very nicely presented with very good paint, abundant chrome brightwork, and very well-presented interior and cargo compartments. While a number of America’s car manufacturers produced 2-door station wagons prior to the arrival of the Nomad in 1955, none are as visually striking and memorable as Chevrolet’s Nomad. A very attractive and ready-to-enjoy example from the Monical Collection, this 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad is a truly rare and exciting design icon.

SCM Analysis

Detailing

Vehicle:1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad
Years Produced:1957
Number Produced:6,534
Original List Price:$2,857
SCM Valuation:$45,400
Tune Up Cost:$250
Chassis Number Location:Plate on right door hinge
Engine Number Location:Crankcase on right side of engine
Club Info:Chevrolet Nomad Association
Website:http://www.chevynomadclub.com
Alternatives:1957 Pontiac Safari, 1957 Ford Del Rio, 1957 Nash Rambler Cross Country
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 21, sold for $44,000, including buyer’s premium, at Worldwide’s Texas Classic Monical Collection Auction on April 21, 2017, in Arlington, TX.

The General Motors Motorama provided a platform for Harley Earl to present his progressive dream cars. If the car got a great reaction, it was likely headed to the dealers as fast as possible.

The sporty fiberglass Chevrolet Corvette was showcased at the January 1953 Motorama and went into production just five months later.

The Corvette theme was central to the 1954 Motorama, which featured a Nomad station wagon, hard top and a fastback Corvair that combined the Corvette and Bel Air names.

Harley Earl had some rather elaborate design ideas for the Corvette Nomad roof. He envisioned a stainless-steel rear section that telescoped like a collapsible cup. Management quickly nixed that idea, but the nine horizontal grooves on the exterior of the roof and corresponding chrome bows on the headliner are remnants of the design.

The reception at the 1954 Motorama was so positive that Earl ordered the roof design, with the slanted B-pillar and curved rear quarter glass, incorporated into the 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad.

The rear-wheel cutouts, seven vertical accent strips on the tailgate and hard-top-inspired front door glass were also utilized. It was finished in time for the 1955 Motorama, and it was a production car that the public could actually purchase.

A sales flop in its day

The contemporary design was well received. Motor Trend stated it was “the longed-for styling wedding between the production sports car and the family workhorse.”

Sales, however, were disappointing. Only 8,530 1955 Nomads left dealer showrooms. The following year’s sales were actually worse, with only 8,130 sold — even with a full year of sales activity.

The 1957 Chevrolet Nomad was introduced as “The Beauty Queen of all Station Wagons,” but only 6,534 were produced, and the unique design met its demise.

It was expensive — priced at a $200 premium over the 4-door wagon — and two doors were simply not enough. Station wagons were for hauling people and their stuff.

Regardless of how stylish the Nomad was during its three-year run, it accounted for less than 5% of Chevrolet’s total wagon production, so its continued production could not be justified.

The low production numbers came to be an asset years later, when the Nomad became a collectible car. These days, the Nomad is considered the most collectible of the “Tri-Five” Chevrolet cars.

Our subject Nomad

This 1957 Nomad was not at its first rodeo.

In fact, it was a circuit veteran, having failed to sell when bid to $45,000 at Classic Motorcar Auctions’ September 2011 Glenmore sale, and it met the same fate a year earlier at the Branson sale when bid to $50,000.

In August 2013, it again failed to sell when bid to $47,000 at the Mecum Dallas sale.

It did sell to the Monical Collection at Worldwide’s April 2016 Houston Classic sale for $44,000.

Mecum sold a 1957 Nomad for $137,500 at their January 2017 Kissimmee, FL, sale. Our subject car certainly did not measure up to this sale price, but it comes very close to the current median value of $45,400 in the SCM Pocket Price Guide. A median is smack-dab in the middle of a series of values from lowest to highest. So our subject car is not the worst Nomad, but it is far from the best.

The Worldwide description portrayed the Nomad in glowing terms, with very good paint and a well-presented cargo compartment.

An SCM Auction Analyst reviewed the car when it did not sell at the 2011 Glenmore auction. The analyst rated the car at 3 minus, as it had paint chips and blisters, dried-out rubber seals and surface rust in the rear floorboards.

I have to assume the condition was the culprit that held down the value of our subject car for several years.

With fees and commissions factored in, this Nomad was sold at a loss considering it was acquired for the same amount just a year earlier.

It just might be considered, however, a wise purchase if the new owner can correct the car’s deficiencies for under $20k or so.

That’s a big if. We all know that expensive restoration gremlins tend to raise their ugly heads.

There is no upside on this Nomad as it sits, so the new owner can drive it as-is — or take a chance on a restoration. If the car were mine, I’d meet it halfway. I would drive and enjoy it while picking away at its problems along the way. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers.)

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