“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.