by Dave Weber, images Doug Breithaupt

The year was 1954 and was the first time a Chevrolet Nomad was introduced to the public. It was one of the experimental cars in the General Motors Motorama styling show that toured the country. This showcar was actually a modified Corvette body that had been introduced the previous year . The front portion had been joined to the rear end of a very stylish and sporty 2 door station wagon body. the public gave a most favorable reaction. This was an encouragement to GM management since the production Nomad was already slated for production the next year. Johnny Lightning produced a model of this concept vehicle in their Classic Customs Corvette set in 1996.

The production car, introduced in the 1955 model year was a top of the line specialty 2-door wagon in the Bel Air series. There were major styling differences between the Nomad and other available Chevrolet station wagons in the 1955 line. The tailgate contained 7 vertical chrome strips. The car was only available as a 2 door model and the side doorposts slanted forward on almost a 45 degree angle. The rear wheels were fully exposed to give the car a sporty appearance.

Pontiac also introduced a sporty station wagon model about the same time. This was the Safari and it too possessed the basic design characteristics of the Nomad. Unfortunately this car has not been reproduced in 1/64 scale to date. Hopefully one will appear in the future as model and toy companies search for new cars to produce.

The Nomad and Safari wagons were only produced during the 3 year period of 1955-1957. Each car had design changes representative of the styling innovations for those production years. Although the 1958 top of the line Chevrolet wagon was still identified as a Nomad, the design had been modified, allowing this vehicle to be presented as a 4 door 6 passenger automobile. The Nomad model nomenclature remained in the Impala line through 1961. However, the above styling characteristics that differentiated this car from the remainder of the Chevrolet line disappeared. Later Nomads were only Impala, top-of-the-line wagons, and not the sport-specialty cars introduced in the mid-50's.

The most recent 1/64 models of the original Nomad were introduced almost simultaneously by Playing Mantis and Hot Wheels. Since the beginning of 2001, Johnny Lightning has issued a model for each of the 3 years of production in their Tri-Chevy series. Hot Wheels also recently issued a dual set of 57 Nomads in their more expensive Collectibles line. These 5 models contribute to almost 50% of all Nomad models ever issued. For clarity, I will review each model in chronological order, 1955-1957 and then alphabetically by the toy/ model manufacturer.

1955 Models

Ertl introduced a 1955 Nomad in solid dark blue with opening side doors in 1982 as model # 1914. Also # 1632 apparently had been previously assigned to this casting as well. This casting is no longer available from the manufacturer.

Hot Wheels first produced their Classic Nomad in 1970 as model # 6404. It had a sunroof, opening hood and incorrect appearance of what seems to be vertical dual headlamps. Although the lower lenses may possibly be oversized parking lenses. This model was part of the 'Red Line' series. Later issues of this casting were modified to permanently enclose the engine compartment and were given new designations. These included the Alive 55 # 6968 in 1973, and another Classic Nomad # 5743 in 1993.

It was not until Hot Wheels reissued the Nomad in 1994 as part of their 25th Anniversary and subsequent Vintage series that the engine compartments were again made visible by providing a separate hinged cover. In 1991 Hot Wheels also modified the front grill portion to correctly portray the correct single headlights on model # 2098. This model has the headlights as part of the body casting, whereas the earlier models had the headlights in chrome and were part of the silver base. This model also shows the correct checkerboard grill design, whereas the earlier castings had this area blacked out.

The Johnny Lightning Tri-Chevy model in series 1 is a 2 tone white over light blue. It has the open engine hood feature.

1956 Models

Johnny Lightning in their Tri- Chevy series 1 issued a silver/ gray model.

Racing Champions issued model # 129 in their Mint Edition set in 1997. It is 2 tone white over red and also has the hood opening feature. Although it is slightly larger then the other models in this review, the detail for such a small model is remarkable. Also issued by Racing Champions in their less expensive Street Wheels Dynamite series is a slightly smaller casting of a hot rod Nomad. Correct detail is missing. The side chrome strip is incorrect. A large blower box protrudes out of the closed engine compartment. This casting is about 3/4 inch less in length then #129. The most correctly detailed item on this latter piece is the 1956 grill. A curious variation on this casting also appeared with an air scoop on the hood and the words 'Fire Chief' on the sides.

1957 Models

Johnny Lightning in their Tri- Chevy series 1 issued a black model.

Benbros Qualtoy of England produced a somewhat crude representation about 30 years ago. The side posts are not angled correctly which could suggest this model might represent a standard wagon in the 57 Chevrolet line. However, the characteristic 7 vertical chrome strips are on the tailgate and the rear wheels are exposed. This model is painted a deep red. This company operated by the Benson Brothers, has been defunct for many years

As noted above, Hot Wheels recently issued a set of 57 nomads in the Collectible sets series. This set includes a stock model in realistic detail . It is painted 2 tone white over bluish green. It is by far the most realistic and accurate model of all the 1957 productions. The hood opens and reveals a detailed chrome power plant. The companion piece in this set is a customized wagon painted a bright maroon . It has been modified into a dragster. The engine has been placed in the rear compartment of the car and the model flips open from the rear to portray the entire interior of the car. The characteristic side posts have been moved slightly towards the rear portion of the car and both the hood and tailgate have been shaved with all chrome removed, which was characteristic of customizing in that decade.

Matchbox issued a crudely designed model in their short-lived Connectable series in 1989. These models were in two pieces; a front and rear, in which the parts could be separated and joined to another piece from an entirely different model. Or another section from another model could be added to the middle to create a stretched effect. The toys were made of plastic. The Nomad was identified as Chevy Wagon #10 and was gray with a garish yellow and pinkish red tampo design.

Zeetoy issued a model in orange with adhesive paper side trim in the mid 90's This model was still available from Red Box in their 50 piece set, who assumed ownership soon after this model was issued.

I have a stylized model made in China (no other info available) that possibly could be a Summer Toys product, but I am not sure. The engine area from the front bumper to the front wheel well is exaggerated. The characteristic 1955-1957, wrap- around windshield is absent and the angled side posts are distorted. However, this unknown manufacturer did include the 7 vertical chrome strips on the tailgate!

One additional Nomad variation has been produced in 1:64 scale. Racing Champions offered the Camaromad in their hot rod series, #167. It has the nose of a 1967 Camaro and the tail of a 1955 Nomad, although features from both cars are stylized. As with most cars in this series, it is likely that the Camaromad is modeled after an actual custom car. The color is sea-foam green and the hood opens to reveal a Chevy V8.

Chevy has not forgotten the Nomad. In 2000, a new Nomad show car appeared on the auto show circuit. The response from the public was very positive and many saw this car as a response to the success of Chrysler's PT Cruiser. While it has not yet appeared in miniature, we may yet see this car too.

This concludes my review of available Nomads in 1/64. I am pretty sure this is a complete listing. However, I welcome any additions or corrections .

Major Sources

Diecast in Miniature, Wieland & Force (1982)
Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975; Gunnell/ Krause Publications, 2nd Edition
Tomart's Price guide to Hot Wheels, Strauss ( 1997)

'54 Corvette Nomad #P171, Johnny Lightning

'55 Nomad #5743, Hot Wheels (25th Anniversary Edition)

'55 Nomad #5743, Hot Wheels (25th Anniversary Edition)

'55 Nomad #2098, Hot Wheels

'55 Nomad #242, Johnny Lightning

'56 Nomad #242, Johnny Lightning

'56 Nomad #239, Racing Champions

'56 Nomad hot rod, Street Wheels

'56 Nomad hot rod, Street Wheels

'57 Nomad #244, Johnny Lightning

'57 Nomad #D103, Zylmex/Red Box

Camaromad Custom #167, Racing Champions