1956 Chevrolet Nomad Is an Unrestored Survivor with a 350 Swap, Needs a Lifeline


Based on a Motorama concept car derived from the Chevrolet Corvette, the Nomad debuted in 1955 as a premium-appointed wagon. It was powered by one of Chevrolet’s most powerful V8 engines at the time and was the second-most expensive car from the brand, after the Corvette.

Although the nameplate remained in use until 1961 and was revived between 1968 and 1972, the Tri-Five-based Nomad is by far the most iconic iteration of the wagon. Come 2021, and these grocery-getters fetch more than $60,000 on average, while Concours-ready examples can cross the block for over $100,000. This rusty survivor isn’t one of them, but it’s a cool (and affordable) addition to any garage.

The Nomad is one of those nameplates that retains its cool factor even in rust-bucket form. This 1956 example shows only small traces of its once glorious, attention-grabbing Matador Red paint, but it’s still a gorgeous sight.

The fact that it comes with all the chrome work in one piece helps, but it also showcases the right amount of patina. And it’s all in the right places.

An unrestored survivor, this 1956 may look all beat up on the outside, but it’s a fully functional classic. Don’t let the rusty body and frame fool you; this thing runs, drives, and comes with a decent-looking interior. Not bad for a car that hasn’t seen any touch-ups in 65 years.

But it does come with a surprise under the hood. Originally fitted with a 265-cubic-inch (4.3-liter) V8, the wagon now draws juice from a bigger small-block, in the form of a 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) mill. Its origins are a mystery, but it was a somewhat popular transplant back in the day, and a visual inspection suggests it’s an early 350.

Chevrolet introduced this engine on the Camaro in 1967 but also offered various iterations of the small-block unit in the Corvette and the Nova before power ratings went belly up in the 1970s. We don’t know how powerful this 350 is, but it’s definitely an upgrade over the original 265. On the flipside, the lack of an original V8 will keep the value of this unrestored Nomad below average.

Speaking of which, the owner of this wagon is looking to get rid of it, so you can make it yours via eBay. Auctioned off by user “chrisbenson2015,” the Nomad attracted 14 bids and $8,877 as of this writing, with eight days to go. The “reserve not met” status suggests that the seller isn’t willing to let it go for cheap, though.

What do you think? Should this Nomad get a restoration, or should it become a rat rod with a modern V8 under the hood? Let me know in the comments below.