“That looks like some home built job! A Chev Nomad is a station wagon built from ’55 to ’72, not this..” Well, here in South Africa this was our very own Nomad, built by Chevrolet from ’76 to ’80.
Early this year I was back in Port Elizabeth on holiday, scratching around in the wrong part of town looking for dilapidated cars and buildings to photograph. Driving down Kempston Road in New Brighton I came across a once familiar face.
GM left South Africa in 2017, having built vehicles here since the 1920’s. Their oldest manufacturing plant had been located in this very road since the 1930’s, so this Nomad was just about back where it had started life.
The Nomads seen here are the sum total I’ve seen for a decade at least. Fortunately the CC effect kicked in and I’ve seen all of these in the space of a year. There is little reason to restore one, as they aren’t sporty or very practical, and being rear wheel drive, they aren’t that great off road, more on that later. Essentially built as a convertible, they came from the factory with a soft top or a glass fibre canopy like this one has.
The engine is the rather leisurely 2.5 litre four cylinder found in our Chev 2500 sedan, which was a mild rework of the Opel Rekord (Chevy II four in the US).
I have good memories of the Nomad. Around ’76 our family was living outside Port Elizabeth on a farm. A local farmer offered 16 year old me a holiday job to help supervise get his two Mercedes trucks loaded with vegetables in time for them to drive through the night to Cape Town vegetable market. I spent many hours that holiday bouncing around the muddy farm tracks of the Gamtoos floodplain in the Nomad. Back in those days the idea of needing a four wheel drive for muddy roads was sniffed at, it meant you weren’t a skilled driver or were a townie.
A very short distance inland from the Gamtoos flood plain life slows down considerably in the small farming communities of Hankey, Loerie and Patensie. I took the above image on the main road in Hankey. Farm stock walking in the roads in the Eastern Cape isn’t unusual, in the urban areas too.
As soon as I was old enough I went to Loerie to take my motorcycle license exam. I rode my Dad’s Vespa around the town and a traffic cop followed me in a car. I failed, the reason given was I leaned the wrong way when going round corners.. Oh well!
Citrus scent hangs heavy in the air in Patensie. This is a tractor drawn citrus trailer, with the wild Baviaanskloof mountains behind where leopard sightings are possible.
The yellow Nomad in the top image was also snapped in Port Elizabeth. I was driving on the freeway, saw this parked in a strip mall, zoomed over and took a shot as the guy drove off.
Maybe some of you are thinking ” but I haven’t see a Chev bowtie at all, he’s having us on” so I’ll hand you over to our excellent local publication, Car magazine, no relation to the UK Car magazine. They have been running a series on locally sold classics.
You will notice that none of these Nomads have much visible rust. GM vehicles, local Fords as well, were much tougher built than Toyotas and Datsuns of the period, most of which have rusted away, even in our mild climate.
I snapped the above Nomad in Cape Town being used to take the dogs to the local park, the windscreen was designed from scratch to fold down.
I don’t have space for a second car now, but one day if the stars align and a Nomad becomes available I’d happily make a space for an old friend.
I’ll leave you with some local music from Afro-fusion band Freshlyground.
Wow, this is the last thing I would have expected Chevrolet of the 1970s to build, no matter what part of the world.
What I find interesting is the lack of identifiable “legacy” parts from older Chevrolet/GM vehicles. I guess this is how to tell that GM was building this and not some smaller company, which would have used a bunch of recognizable obsolete pieces from other markets.
This Nomad makes the American King Midget look refined. 🙂
There was also the South American GM BTV “Compadre”:
This car has been part of my life for so long I never considered whether it looked like other GM products, it was always just ‘there’, so thanks for pointing that out JP! It doesn’t look refined, but with its loping suspension and big sleepy four pot motor it’s a fine companion. Just dont look for safety equipment, even in the 70’s on the farm I felt exposed and a bit vulnerable.
This is fascinating — I never would have identified this as a GM product. I assume that the body was entirely designed in South Africa? If I’m not mistaken, GM South Africa made locally-designed heavy trucks for several decades prior to when these Nomads were built, so I’m assuming that was the case here, particularly if local content was 82% (as noted in the CAR article).
I’m glad your journey to the wrong part of town yielded some good results!
Thanks Eric! I never thought about who designed this and where, I must look it up! GM was doing a lot of design reworking of German and Australian vehicles for the local market at the time so would have had the capacity to do this.
Pikesta, by the way, thanks for the music here as well. I remember in one of your earlier posts you had included a link to Mango Groove… and both them and Freshlyground were completely new to me, and I’ve enjoyed them both.
Fascinating, with a very basic, fabricated-style of ‘styling.’ I like it. Hope you post more from South Africa, too.
As an owner of the US-market captive import 2017 Chev SS (née Holden Commodore SS-V Redline), I’m familiar with the original ’71-73 Chev SS (née Holden Monaro), imported at Port Elizabeth in CKD form.
Thanks Ed, I must overcome my writers block and post more, I certainly have an overflow of pictures.. The pictured SS and the Monaro were sold in South Africa at the same time, but the Holden brand didn’t survive much longer in SA. They were both awesome cars, spades of presence with glorious rumbling V8’s, and stood out at the time in a sea of sensible Coronas and Cortinas.
It looks as though the standard in South Africa was (is?) bilingual English/Afrikaans brochures while the same companies on the Canadian market printed separate English and French brochures.
South Africa got our Fords as well, in the guise of the XW and XY Fairmont. Unlike the Chevs, there was no exterior modification from our local examples. The interesting thing is that they were marketed in SA as luxury-types, and even the GT was a Fairmont which I don’t believe was an option for the Aus Fairmont.
Great find that I had no idea existed. I’d certainly cruise around in one. I am surprised that people aren’t importing them to the US under the 25 year old rule.
x2! Very cool rig!
It has an Amphicar look to it. Maybe no 4wd, but I bet it could float across a river pretty well. Definitely not a “deadly sin”!
Both Chevrolet and Ford both had a program to build vehicles for Africa. They were very simple. They didn’t even use sheet metal with complex curves in order to make manufacturing and repair simple. Perhaps a decendant of these programs.
The GM programme was the Basic Transportation Vehicle based on the Bedford/Vauxhall HA mechanics, so not really related to this Nomad.
Africans (actually all people in the third World), do not want cheap local made cars, let alone locally constructed cars. They want Mercedes or something else to show off with. This is why all brilliant concepts of inexpensive third World cars failed so far, Tata Nano only beeing the latest. It is a cultural thing that the West never really understood. VW build a number of local hatchbacks somewhere, I think Kenia, and failed against imported luxury cars from Europe. Fiat had a factory in Egypt, which poured out some very nice cars, but failed also.
This also happened in eastern Europe when the wall came down in 1989. From several dozen factories only two really survived. Dacia-Renault (by unlimited credit fom government), and of course Skoda (as Audis weapon of choice to chase away the japanese from european soil).
OMG a rival to the Trekka, Also a 2wd utility type vehicle locally built but on a Skoda Octavia backbone frame so it had four wheel independant suspension albeit the swing axle variety, styling was similar too just several boxes blended together to form a body, If I ever see a survivor I’ll write it up. Cool find
Wow, that’s a great find. I love these rudimentary types of vehicles; Australia had their own Country Buggy built here by VW. Thanks for showing me something new Pikesta.
Thanks Don! Ive certainly never heard of your Country Buggy, reminds me of a Mini Moke. Fairtmont GT in your earlier comment different to Aus original, mmm, never knew that, I’ll find out more!
Only different so far as a spec level. These GTs have accelerated in value over here, and as a result some enterprising individuals have been importing SA market versions. Some I believe have come with a vinyl roof.
Very interesting and completely new to me.
Not too pretty, though. Looks either like a Méhari on steroids or an Eastern Bloc attempt at a Jeep.
Slow clap for GM and the ugliest Chevy ever!
I remember the Nomad was code-named “Pug” during its development. I’m wondering if the use of “pugnacious” in the CAR headline was a coy reference.
I have a new nomad project. Does anyone have an owner manual or info to help me? Regards Pieter