In 1955, the Nomad Wagon was the most expensive Chevrolet by a healthy margin, and marked the beginning of Chevy’s expansion into the mid-priced market. By 1968, that storied name was recycled on the lowest-trim Chevelle wagons. It’s a familiar cycle, that never seemed to end, until the name was pushed all the way off the bottom rung of the ladder.
The usual gravitational descent of former top-line models was all-too common, but Chevrolet was endlessly mucking around with its wagon nomenclature. One year, they corresponded to the cars, the next year it was Kingswood, or Yeoman, or whatever.
The Nomad stayed on as the top-line full-size Chevrolet wagon through 1961, before Chevy reverted back to the sedan-equivalent names, for a few year’s hiatus. By 1968, the wagon names were back, but now Nomad not only suddenly dropped a size, but a lot of prestige. It now denoted the lowest trim Chevelle wagons. Got to keep the GM Naming Department busy!
Having spent too much time researching this at oldcarbrochures, I’m actually more confused than ever, because the 1969 Chevelle brochure describes the Nomad as the bottom-level stripper, without any chrome trim. Our car looks like it is more of a Greenbrier level trim. Oh well.
The Interior looks less than strip-worthy either. Why am I spending time trying to figure this out?
What’s really ironic about the Nomad wagon showing up on the Chevelle line in 1968 is that in 1964 and 1965, there was a Chevelle two-door wagon with a decidedly Nomad-esque touch to it; obviously quite deliberately. And why wasn’t that called a Nomad?
Never mind; trying to unravel the deep thinking that came out of the GM Naming Department is futile. And whether this is a genuine Nomad or not, I will leave to others to unravel. I’m confused enough.
I too have always been confused by Chevrolet’s wagon names. Maybe this is why Ford was the Wagonmaster in those years.
I have always thought that this (68-72) series of Chevelle was a uniquely unsuitable body to transition into a wagon. The swoopy lines of these cars do not translate well to station wagons at all. None of the GM mid sizers of this generation looked good as a wagon to me, not even the Vista Cruiser. Now that 64-65 Chevelle, that wagon looks GOOD. I had forgotten that this one even existed. How could I have missed it?
When I was a kid, I knew a family that had a 71 version of this car, absolute strippo with the baby moon-ish dog dish hubcaps, black tires and in that awful bright slime green. It was not an attractive car. Was the strippo still a Nomad in 1971?
Yes, through 1972, if the Encyclopedia is correct.
I’m the kid of a Chevy dealer from back then, and I could never keep the wagons names straight, either. Mom’s first wagon (and the first time I family went two cars) was a 1959 Brookwood (I think – it was the BelAir trim level) with crank up rear window. Never sure why dad didn’t go top of the line (it was the only exception during his tenure), but the 1960 was whatever they called the Impala level trim – with electric rear window.
The only thing worse than Chevrolet wagon names is trying to differentiate between “Trophy” and “Tiger” on Triumph motorcycles. Pick a year, one was the single carb street version, the other was the high pipe street scrambler. Then they following year, they switch.
This body style didn’t work as a sedan, either. These cars were designed as coupes, everything else was an afterthought. But that goes for all the intermediates in this era…does anybody even remember what a ’70 Torino sedan looked like without checking Google first?
Might be a Concours that was restored down to a Nomad. It looks like it has a back seat, Nomad didn’t.
The Bench seat wasn’t an option for Nomad either, It would have had 2 low back bucket seats. So I’d guess it was restored up from another wagon.
Never mind.. One brochure shows it as a 2 seat wagon with the second seat folding flat with the cargo floor and the 69 Chevelle spec sheet shows Nomad as a 6 passenger wagon.
I’m confused… I’m gonna go back to work to clear my head..
Maybe the car was in an accident and the front fenders were replaced by Nomad fenders? With a car this old anything could happen.
There could have been some sort of “bright appearance package”($72.00) added? I know a friend of mine parted out a 70 Nomad wagon that was bare bones, except it was a 307 V8 instead of a 6, it was a 3 on the tree wagon from NYC, it was hit on every body panel except the roof, and it had locks on everything, vent window locks, 2 locking nuts on every black steel wheel(hubcaps were probably missing since 1971) and hood lock, so it was a NY survivor from the bad old days.
That’s my guess. From what I can tell, even the Concours sedans and wagons didn’t come with the brightwork around the windows as standard equipment.
The interior’s the only question mark. The front bench has clearly been reupholstered, so no clues there. The door panels look a little better than bargain-basement, but not much. Maybe they’re original, maybe they were replaced with Greenbrier/Malibu panels when the seat was redone.
RPO B90, bright window and door frame moldings could be ordered on a Nomad wagon.
The inside looks very Holden Kingswood same basic trim/dash seats its got armrests the stripper Belmont didnt probably the parts would interchange with the Aussie wagons too they look relatively the same size. I like the 2door wagon like a panelvan with windows cool but the Nomad name doesnt belong on a stripper, GMs naming division didnt have a clue were they even corporately literate?
Bel Air, Impala, Caprice, lather, rinse, repeat.
The Caprice is a strange one, because it was the only full-size Chevy by the end, they were all Caprice Classics, from the police/taxi versions to a loaded up LTZ, the Impala SS was sort of a sub-series to the Caprice, but the Caprice did go out as the luxo liner full size Chevy(if properly equipped) in 1996.
And now Chevy is bringing back the Caprice name on a Zeta platform car ONLY for police use which means minimalist interior with maximum performance. And then what happens if those cars actually get sold to the public after the cops are done with them? Caprice is now going to be used for only the most bare bones models. As a fella once said, “Ain’t that a kick in the head?”
Though price wise, I think its still more expensive than an Impala. Since were brining back old names, the Impala should be the “Fleetmaster” since thats were many of its sales come from.
Yeah, I can just see them bringing that name back. You’ve got all sorts of auto bloggers just loving to slam a manufacturer for too many fleet cars. Now, go and absolutely admit that’s all your building the line for.
The (Holden built) cop Caprice is also the Chevy SS . . . .
I have always HATED the name “Caprice” with a passion. Why? Probably because I revered the “Impala” name so much from my dad’s cars ‘way back when! How DARE they usurp that beautiful name with such meaningless nomeclature!
I was six years old when the Caprice was introduced. One of my oddly specific childhood memories is of seeing one for the first time, trying to puzzle out the name, and finally reading it as “Carprice” which I thought was a strange name for a car.
Just got a better look at the interior – I now remember the ubiquitous missing rubber shift knob.
Hey JP, I received your e-mail and a shout-out from Paul. Did you receive my reply? (I haven’t had a lot of time to spend online today).
Not sure which is most ubiquitous—the missing shifter knob or a review mirror that came unglued from the center of the windshield….
I am still tempted to change my Dodge Intrepid into a Charger, I mean, WHY NOT?
Only if I buy a Cruze and change it to a “Nova” as god intended!
I agree. The current Chevrolet line up is already Corvette, Impala, Camaro, Malibu…
Chevrolet needs to make a stripper Malibu and call it a Chevelle. Or the Aveo can be the Nova and the Cruze can be the Chevelle.
“Or the Aveo can be the Nova”
Although, it wouldn’t be much worse than the “Nova” from the late ’80s.
But still, NOOOOOOO
You forgot to add this:
The Aveo should be the Chevette.
Cruz LT should be Chevy II, Cruz LTZ should be Nova…or Olds Omega, or Pontiac Ventura….or Buick Whatever….
Buick Apollo if memory serves correctly. Poor Pontiac.
The Buick Vereno (sp?) should be the Apollo/Skylark. My wife’s cousin bought one and I immediately thought “the new X-body Skylark.”
I always admired the ’68-’69 Nomad wagon. Back when I lived n Seattle there was a darker blue ’69 Nomad always parked in my neighborhood. It did have some chrome and didn’t look like a total stripper, though it had the factory dog dish caps. I’m guessing GM made these any way dealers and fleet customers wanted them.
That 2 door ’64 or’65 wagon is really sharp.
Years ago, I remember reading that there were more possible option combinations on ’65 Chevies than there were stars in the known universe. I don’t care if it’s not true, it still makes me happy for some reason.
The name replacement is one of those curious merchandising games that I’ve never entirely understood. I suppose it’s supposed to promote a sense of obsolescence and the need to get the new top-of-the-line model — if your three-year-old Bel Air now shares its badge with the latest cheapo stripper, you’re supposed to feel ashamed and go trade it in — but good names are hard to find.
GM also occasionally did this dance in reverse. The Riviera nameplate was originally Buick’s designation for pillarless hardtops (and, confusingly, the plus-size C-body pillared four-doors, but that’s another matter), while “Catalina” was used for all Pontiac’s hardtops and “Starfire” was an Olds Ninety-Eight sub-series.
I always figured it the other way: The name denotes, one year, the primo-trim model; and those who cannot afford, lust for it. The name is “moved down” while the indigent stews on his desire awhile. Then with a trip to the dealer or a car show, he’s instructed how for X dollars a month, he can have a NOMAD!! “And it’s got four doors – the wife will love it!!”
Of course, that sort of false association only lasts a few weeks. But in theory that’s long enough to cement a sale.
So, IMO, GM sullied their own name-icons for the expedience of a few quick sales to reluctant, marginal customers.
Chevy names are a mulligan stew. I have a 57 210 wagon. When people see it they always ask me if it’s a nomad if they are reasonably familiar with older cars. It’s not. It was called a handyman special but it has two doors.
Only paid 500 for it back in 72. Could have bought a Nomad just as easily but preferred this for reasons I no longer know.
Paul: What is that blue and white van under features on the side bar and where do I go to read about it?
I need to re-run that here sometime. Waiting for a day when I play hookie!
The portal to all those TTAC CCs has disappeared you link works but where are all the old articles?
Here it is; save it in your bookmarks:
They’re slowly all migrating over here anyway.
Thanx Paul Ive read em all but suddenly realised theyd gone and I like to go back and reread stuff.Best library card I ever scored
I wish Murilee would transplant his Impala Hell project over here but I don’t know the politics between you two. It would increase his ‘Netposure which is always good.
I’d heard Tri-Five Nomads were notorious leakers around the back window. And the last ’57 210 Handyman I can recall regularly driving the streets was back in 1978 during the four-years I lived in Westchester County, NY.
Rare, indeed…I’m one of the fortunate ones if you like that body style as I do, my ’57 210 Handyman sits dry and protected from the weather in a corner of the garage, awaiting the day…it’ll have to come after my ’68 C-10 pickup is done.
If I had to pick a 68-72 Chevy A-body wagon…that Nomad would be hard to beat.
Now that’s a coincidence: I’m spending a pleasant Sunday morning alternating between trademe and curbside classics, and just before I read your comment about your ’57 210 wagon, I was looking at the one below which has just been listed on trademe. An ex-California barn find, now on the other side of the world for NZ$25,000. Fits well with the 2-dr wagon article too.
Wait a minute…
I never saw anything like that photo of the bluish Nomad with the styled side glass before! Was that a custom job? Whatever it was, I think it’s beautiful!
On the other hand, the 300 sedan was the lowest on the rung for years, why didn’t they just call it the 300 wagon? Some naming schemes just never made sense to me. By rights, my 2004 Impala base model should rightly be called a Bel Air, the LS version, with a third tail light (do you hear me, Mr. Lutz?), an Impala.
It’s funny as I look back in the age of pillarless hardtops, how frumpy the 2- and 4-door sedans looked! Clearly, they were never designed as such, no matter how much they adhered to the shape of the greenhouse. Wagons, on the other hand, were O.K. I know, for I owned a 1961 Bel Air 2 door sedan. Although I did like the straight roofline and the almost 100% visibility, but that’s another story for a different CC!
The 2door? They were factory, they were only around for 2 years.
Well, at least the rear windows did roll down in those old ‘post coupes’!
Its all rather simple to explain. There was some very good LSD around in 1967-68, and GM executives were not immune to it.
I still remember seeing the first 1986 Caprice taxicab, was sad to see the proud name down to ‘Biscayne’ duty. Younger car fans get all confused with old Chevy car names. They assume all were called ‘Imapla’, and ask ‘What’s a Biscayne?’.
Ford, with LTD becoming the commoner in late 70’s. Then Crown Victoria seen as beat up ex-cop cars taking fares, also runs names from top to bottom. OTOH, the Taurus name actually moved UP in 2008!
I dust-off the topic, I scanned a illustrated “what if?” published in a magazine, done by Keith Kaucher who imagined a 2-door ’69 Nomad based on the El Camino then I posted on GMinsidenews
http://www.gminsidenews.com/forums/f19/1969-nomad-should-had-been-111907/ I post them here as well in case the picture (then I scanned in 2 parts) won’t show up. Here the 1st part.
And the 2nd part.
That “Nomad who should had been” inspired me to sketch a fanart of a 1970 Pontiac GTO Safari 2-door wagon on Deviantart ^_^; http://fav.me/d562gwy
“Dude, look at the Chevelle Wagon, must be some custom job”
“No way was there any of those, it would have ruined its muscle car image!”
Similar was said about seeing a ’72 LeMans wagon, with Endura grille. “A GTO wagon, no way!”
I saw a ’68 GTO Wagon here in Vancouver a month ago. Went by so fast I couldn’t snap a pic.
The rationale GM comes up with some of the car names makes no sense to me. Maybe someone liked Star Trek (or the writer like Chevy) and decided to bring it back. Since the word ‘nomad’ more or less means wandering without a home, it doesn’t actually refer to number of doors on a wagon. But most people think 2 door Chevy wagon automatically when they hear ‘Nomad’. I must be in the minority, but I think it’s actually a good looking wagon, 4 doors and all. In HS a kid had a 68 Chevelle wagon in a nice copper color with chrome Cragars and some wider tires, and it looked really good.
There is also confusion with Malibu vs. Chevelle within the 64-72 era. SS trim incuded what was offered with Malbu. But then, in ’72, one could get SS package on the base Chevelle, which was not called ‘300’ anymore.
For ’73, Chevy tried making Laguna the new top Chevelle trim, but the plastic front turned average buyers off. Then Malibu Classic came along with chrome bumpers and hood ornament, which was gobbled up by middle class. Losing the Chevelle name in 1978 made sense, with vestiges of the swinging 60’s long gone.
For years, it was possible to get an SS on many Chevrolets that might not have had the top performing engine installed at the factory. Maybe there was a spon of years when all SS Chevelles got a 396, but it’s certainly true that, by 1972, you could definitely get a Chevelle SS with a low-power V8.
In that regard, the SS package that first become available on the base 300 in 1969 was actually something of an anomaly because that SS 300 sedan came with a 396. It was Chevrolet’s feeble effort to jump on the cheap musclecar bandwagon which began with the unexpected success of the Plymouth Roadrunner the year before. It was a one-hit wonder as the Chevelle 2-door post would be gone the next year when all two-door Chevelles would be hardtops.
The Tri-5 Nomads didn’t get ‘cult’ status until the mid 60’s, when Boomer teems bought them for ‘Beach Buggies’ or hot rods. So, at the time, Chevy bosses were just using what’s “on the shelf” and were not trying to evoke the first Nomads.
I’ve always gotten the impression the two-door Nomad became collectible quite quickly (perhaps more than the other tri-fives) — people liked the look, but the original Nomad was just too expensive and not practical enough to be a volume seller.
And then there’s the opposite of name debasement, where the manufacturer keeps the name on the same line long enough that the usual price/size/weight gains at each new design cycle add up to what had been a fun, tossable, cheap little car for first-time buyers a couple decades before is now a big, cushy land yacht and they need to add a new, smaller model in the line below it…
And then for 1977 the “Nomad” name went over to their van line, apparently:
Yes! I was practically raised in a ’78 Nomad van, travelling the east coast on buying trips and deliveries with my antique-dealer mom. That thing gave us over 300k miles of service, and was still going strong when totalled by a semi driver on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It probably saved her life, too.
We replaced it with a ’93 G20 that was completely indistinguishable, save for the digital-tuner radio and lack of chrome trim.
Great brochure scan, too… I love that there is a 1977 Chevy Caravan, and their tagline at the time was “Built to stay tough.” Ford started with “Built Ford Tough” the following year and held on to it.
As someone else said, the A-bodies of that era just didn’t translate well to wagons or 4-door sedans. I was never a fan of the styling, though I like the coupes. As for GM’s name confusion, I agree. Why not give the new Caprice a different name? Save Caprice for a top-trim Impala, and call the police version something more akin to its occupation. Maybe Nemesis or something like that.
Back in the day, a buddy of mine had a 70 Nomad wagon. He always seemed kinda proud that it was the bottom of the line. It had a 307 V8, automatic, AM radio, power steering, full wheel covers, and room for 6. His dad bought this thing new, working grave yard shift at the Wonder Bread bakery/factory. I used to drive this car when my buddy had a bit too much to drink, and I thought it was a good runner.