The 1956 Chevrolet Nomad, sometimes called the “prettiest wagon ever built”, was seen as a car with immense appeal. The ’56 Chevy Nomad, a “classic Chevy”, took hardtop styling and applied it to a station wagon frame. This gave the vehicle a very striking and elegant look.
The design of the Chevy Nomad is often credited to Harley Earl of General Motors. The actual creators were Clare MacKichan, Chevrolet studio head, and stylist Carl Renner. Modeled partially on the Corvette, one of Chevrolet’s other popular models, Carl Renner sketched a Corvette with a station wagon roof. The idea peeked Harley Earl’s interest and result was the Corvette Nomad which was a non-running prototype comprised of fiberglass bodywork on a 1953 Chevrolet wagon chassis.vintage chevy truck parts has some nice tips on this.
The Corvette Nomad was such as hit that the roofline was quickly adapted to the styling of Chevy’s 1955 passenger and the Chevrolet Nomad was born. The 1956 Chevrolet Nomad retained much of the design from the Corvette Nomad including the hardtop front-door glass framing, wraparound rear side glass, the seven vertical accent strips on the tailgate, the rear wheel housing cutout, the wide B-pillar angled slash moldings, the forward-sloping rear quarters and fluted roof.
Some Specs of the 1956 Chevrolet Nomad
Engines: ohv I-6 235.5 cid, 140 bhp or ohv V-8 265 cid 170bhp
Weight: 3,285 to 3,465 pounds
Wheelbase: 115 inches
Transmission: 3-speed manual, overdrive, or a 2-speed Powerglide
Top speed: 90-120 mph
0-60mph: 8-11 seconds
A Tough Start
Initially, the ’55 Chevy Nomad had some shortcomings that made it one of Chevrolet’s least popular vehicles in 1955. For instance, it had only two doors which limited its appeal to wagon buyers. Also, the rear was slanted which made it susceptible to water leaks and the liftgate sucked in exhaust fumes when open.
In 1956, these issues were addressed and Motor Trend named the ’56 Chevrolet Nomad one of the year’s most beautiful cars and it was also noted that it had more cargo capacity than other similar vehicles in its class.
Another hurdle for the Chevy Nomad in 1955 was the price. It was nearly $300 more than similar equipped vehicles which turned some buyers away. In 1956, work was done to make the ’56 Chevy Nomad more economical with some cost cutting measures. This included using seat inserts that were standard Bel Air hardtop instead of the unique waffle material used in 1955. The majority of the exterior trim was also standard Bel Air hardtop. Chevy also reversed the short rear-quarter “slash” moldings from the Bel Air model which was a nice touch in detail because it cut costs while still matching the B-pillar angle. Even with the cost cuts, the price was still a bit high and the production declined in 1956 and later in 1958 with new designs, Chevy decided not to build a Nomad version. Even so, the 1956 Chevrolet Nomad is a rare collectible station wagon today due to its desirable “Corvette-like” styling.