The two-door Nomad differed from other station wagons of the era by having unique styling more reminiscent of a hardtop sedan than that of a standard station wagon. Chevrolet shared this body with its sister Pontiac, which marketed their version as the Pontiac Safari.
The Nomad's unique design had its roots in a General Motors Motorama show car of the same name that was based on the Corvette. The Concept was introduced at the GM Motorama in 1954 as one of Head Stylist Harley Earl's "dream cars".
GM approved production of the vehicle if the design could be transferred to its standard model, because top GM brass felt that they could sell more models if it were attached to the popular Bel Air model.
- 1955 Chevrolets received all-new styling. Advertised as "The Hot One," the boxy new Chevy was crisp, clean, and thoroughly modern-looking. Nomads, like Bel Airs, came loaded with interior carpet, chrome spears on front fenders, chrome window moldings, and full wheel covers. For 1955 Chevrolets gained a V8 engine option. The new 265 cubic inches (4,343 cc) cubic-inch V8 featured a modern, overhead valve high compression, short stroke design that was so good that it remained in production in various forms, for many decades. The base V8 had a two-barrel carburetor and was rated at 162 horsepower (121 kW), and the "Power Pack" option featured a four-barrel carburetor and other upgrades yielding 180 brake horsepower (130 kW). Later in the year, a "Super Power Pack" option added high-compression and a further 15 brake horsepower (11 kW). It had room for six passengers.
- 1956 Chevrolets received a face-lift. This gave Chevys a more conventional full-width grille, pleasing those customers who didn't like the Ferrari-inspired '55 front end. Nomads now carried the same interior and rear-wheel sheetmetal as other Bel Airs, lacking the original's unique trim. Shoulder harnesses, and a padded dashboard were now available. For 1956 Chevys hid the gas cap behind a left side, flip-down tail light.
- 1957 V-8 engine displacement grew to 283 cubic inches (4,638 cc) from 265 in 1957, with the "Super Turbo Fire V8" option producing 283 horsepower (211 kW) with the help of continuous fuel injection. These so-called "fuelie" cars are quite rare, since most Bel Airs were fitted with carburetion. While considered to be a milestone vehicle design, General Motors discontinued the original Nomad Sport Wagon at the end of the 1957 model year due to low sales and the introduction of a new body for 1958.
- 1958 For the 1958 model year, Chevrolet moved the Nomad name to its top-line four-door Bel Air based station wagon, right above the new mid-priced Biscayne based Brookwood. This was the only four-door Bel Air based Nomad station wagon. The new Nomad featured body-on-frame construction, using the "X" frame used on other 1958 to 1964 Chevys, as well as Cadillac.
- 1959 In 1959, the Nomad was transferred from the Bel Air to the expanded Impala model range, which had been the top-line Chevrolet Bel Air two-door the previous year and had now became a separate model that included four doors. Nomad, still at the top was a six-passenger car. The other 1959 Chevrolet station wagons were the new Kingswood four-door nine passenger, the new Parkwood four-door six passenger, the new Brookwood two-door six passenger, and Brookwood four-door six Passenger. With the Delray gone, the Biscayne based Brookwood, was now priced lowest. The Brookwood two-door marked the short lived return of the two-door wagon and was the basis for the new-for-1959 El Camino. Unlike the Brookwood, the El Camino could be ordered in trim levels corresponding to the entire full-sized car line including the Impala.
- 1960 For 1960, the Impala based Nomad four-door was revised with more conventional styling. The Kingswood and the two-door Brookwood were dropped at the end of the year along with the El Camino.
- 1961 In 1961, all full size Chevrolets were restyled on the existing GM B platform. The new body styling was more trim and boxy than the 1958-60 models. Chevrolet continued to use the Nomad name until the end of the 1961 model year, when all Chevrolet station wagons adopted the names of the regular sedan models for 1962. The Nomad had body-on-frame construction, using the "X" frame to the end.
Between 1968 and 1972 the names Nomad and Nomad Custom were applied to the lowest-priced Chevelle four-door station wagon model, below the Chevelle Greenbrier, Chevelle Concourse, Chevelle Concourse Estate.
- 1968 For 1968, Chevelle got a new body style (though still under the 817 and 817 internal designations) emphasized the "Coke bottle" look even more. New Federal safety-mandated equipment included side marker lights on each fender, as well as shoulder belts for outboard front-seat occupants on cars built after December 1, 1967. This explains why some '68s had shoulder belts, and some early-production cars did not. However, all '68s had anchors for the belts. Manual transmission cars got GM's "Air Injection Reactor (A.I.R)" smog pump, which added complexity under the hood.
- 1969 By 1969, each Chevrolet station wagon regained its own unique model name. All '69 Chevelles also got a new locking steering column, one year ahead of the Federal requirement. Headrests, required for all cars sold in the U.S. after January 1, 1969, were installed on all '69 GM cars.
- 1970 The 1970 Chevelle Nomad had even more restyling. Each head lamp was put in its own chrome housing and was no longer integrating into the grille. The body lines were less swept and a new integrated rear bumper was used.
- 1971 For 1971, all Chevelles got two big headlights in place of the quads, and GM mandated all divisions design their engines to run on lower-octane regular, low-lead or unleaded gasoline due to tightening emission requirements and in anticipation of the catalytic converter that would be used on 1975 and later models, necessitating the use of unleaded fuel. To permit usage of the lower-octane fuels, all engines featured low compression ratios (9:1 and lower; well below the 10.25-11.25:1 range on high-performance engines of 1970 and earlier).
- 1972 The last Nomad station wagon ended with the end of the first-generation Chevelle at the end of the 1972 model year.
1976 Chevy Vega wagon Nomad package
In 1976, special Vega Nomad wagons were assembled with unique side window trim and filler panels (to make the 'b' pillars appear forward-slanted), tailgate rub strips, vinyl Nomad script identification.
Chevy Van Nomad
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the name returned again on a trim package for the full size Chevrolet Van. It featured five-passenger seating with swiveling captain seats up front, a bench in the middle, and a spacious cargo area in the rear with no quarter windows. It could be had with plaid upholstery and two-tone paint. It was offered along with SportVan, CaraVan, Commercial Van, and Cube Van.
1964-1965 Chevelle 300 two-door station wagon
The 1964 and 1965 model years brought a revival of sorts for original 1955-1957 Nomad, when Chevrolet produced a two-door mid-sized Chevelle 300 station wagon cast in a similar vein, but the Nomad name was not used for these wagons.
There have been several Nomad concept cars. The first was of course Harley Earl's Corvette-based 1954 concept introduced at the GM Motorama that predated the classic "tri-year" production models.
One from 1999 was based on the F-body (Camaro) and was V8 powered.
Another concept presented in 2004 was based on the GM Kappa platform, and highly resembled the original 1954 Corvette-based Nomad showcar. It had a 107 inch wheelbase and was 155.5 inches long.
In 2009, Superior Glass Works, a producer of fiberglass bodied reproduction cars introduced their own '54 Sports Wagon' rolling body, based on the original concept and built on a modified Corvette C5 chassis.
The Nomad was the vehicle driven by Jill Taylor (Patricia Richardson) on the sitcom Home Improvement. In one episode Tim Allen destroys a 4-dr Wagon painted to look like the Nomad in the series. The Nomad was never damaged.
The Chevrolet Nomad was driven by MacGyver in the episode "Harry's Will" in the sixth season.
3 separate Nomads were used in the 1989 movie, "Dead Poets Society;" One 1955 and two 1956 Nomads.
In the 2010 movie, "Flipped," the primary family car was a 1957 Nomad.