(first posted 8/28/2015) Even though Jefferson City is one of only a handful of state capitals in the United States not serviced by an interstate, there are still a whole passel of roads leading to (or out of?) here. If one is looking for a good route to find interesting cars, the one where I found this Chevrolet is generally one of them. That certainly helps offset some areas of natural scenery; let’s just say parts of US 54 through northern Audrain County are somewhat like driving on a treadmill – flat, straight, and little else but tilled fields as far as the eye can see.
This Nomad certainly helped break up the monotony early in my trip. As I’m tootling along at hyper-legal speeds, she suddenly appeared as I passed a row of trees, sitting there twinkling seductively in the late July sunlight, facing east and looking ready to provide the journey of a lifetime. While this was a pretty good find, there was something about this Nomad that seemed awfully familiar. After talking with the driver of the pickup that had pulled into the driveway while I was snapping these pictures, all the pieces fell into place.
The driver was the owner of the Nomad and was in a hurry. After quickly loading a stack of tires into the bed, he came over. I couldn’t quite read his demeanor, but the car was for sale and it rather begged curious people to stop and look.
“You know, in some parts of the state, you could catch a lot of flak doing what you’re doing.”
Such mixed messages – my car is for sale but I don’t want you to look. Without really thinking, I responded with “This never struck me as being one of those places.”
“It’s not, but down around (a town well south of there) I’ve gone looking for cars and could almost feel the stares and who knows what else pointed at my head. There will be three Chevrolet Monza’s and a sedan delivery parked in the driveway and nobody will even talk to you. It’s not fun.”
The gentleman was a dealer and said he had acquired the car a while back in a tiny, nearby town. That’s when the light went off and my inquisitiveness kicked in.
“Is this the same wagon that was stored in that barn in Farber? The barn that was falling down around it?”
He confirmed it was indeed the same wagon. What a small world; I had seen this car numerous times around four years ago and was highly curious. Now here it was, basking in all its crimson splendor.
According to the owner, about thirty-five years ago the now former owner of this Nomad committed a large enough faux pas to get himself thrown in prison for a very long time. His loyal wife stayed behind and put his cars into storage near where they lived. This Chevrolet kept good company, as I distinctly remember what this man confirmed as being a 1960 Cadillac also hibernating in the decrepit barn. It seems there were a few others, also.
As the years went by, the wife was repeatedly approached about selling the cars. Each time, her response was a variation of the same “go away, leave me alone” theme. Apparently she softened sometime since September 2011 – when I ceased visiting Farber for work purposes – and now. The cars have all been removed and sold.
The years of storage in a decaying barn are evident on the exterior, but it hasn’t heavily translated itself to the interior. The license plate on the floor alludes to this Nomad having been off the road since at least October 1977, but she still saw seventeen years of service prior to that. In an area that gets a respectable amount of snow, during a time when calcium chloride was the snow removal agent of choice, this car is truly a survivor.
Well, most of the car is a survivor. While Chevrolet endowed this Nomad with some version of the top dog 348 cubic inch V8, it is awaiting some serious attention due to storage induced atrophy. In its place, the owner nestled a 348 sourced from a truck, which should provide a nice amount of grunt. This heart transplant has her running and driving great.
Chevrolet advertised these Nomad wagons as being the automotive version of a canine. Based upon the Impala, the Nomad was the top trim level of Chevrolet wagon. Engine choices were identical to those of passenger cars, ranging from the veteran Stovebolt six-cylinder to the various iterations of the 348 cubic inch (5.7 liter) V8.
For those more concerned about economics than style, Chevrolet offered a variety of lower trim wagons. Never standardizing their names quite as well as Ford, for 1960 the wagons from Chevrolet got a bit confusing.
The Brookwood was based upon the low-trim Biscayne and it was even available as a two-door as seen in the lower left of this advertisement. The nine-passenger Kingswood and six-passenger Parkwood were based upon the Bel-Air, while the Nomad was Impala based. Only Chevrolet could offer four distinctly named wagons based on three series of cars.
Production was healthy with 198,000 four-door wagons being produced with another 14,660 two-door wagons finding a home. Sadly, Chevrolet did not break down production volumes to show how many were produced in each series.
The Nomad was the heaviest and most expensive Chevrolet one could purchase in 1960; with a base price of $2,996 it was $42 more than a convertible. The price of this car quickly surpassed that as the cost of the 348 cubic inch engine was in the $300 range with the automatic transmission being around another $200. This was starting to get pricey for a 1960 Chevrolet.
One of the beautiful things about writing for CC is you never know what will cross your path or when. After my recent piece on a 1960 Oldsmobile (here), where I extolled the virtues of its preoccupation with rockets, this Nomad shows that Olds wasn’t the only GM division enamored with flight. A Nomad with a jet leaving chrome contrails certainly shows a general mood at GM, a mood that reflects a distinct time in history, a time that is rich with automotive offerings.
I took these pictures on a Friday and it was gone when I passed through on my return trip the next day. Let’s hope this Nomad has found a happy new home and an owner that won’t squirrel away this terrific wagon in a rickety barn for nearly four decades. It appears this wagon is really enjoying its newfound taste of freedom.