Nomad's Land: Johnny Martin's LS6 Powered 1957 Chevrolet Nomad

Article by Anthony Alaniz (Anthony_Alaniz). Photography by Corey Davis (iMPREZiONS). 

The two-door Chevrolet Nomad is sort of an automotive unicorn. Only built for three years, General Motors killed the design with the introduction of the 1958 model due to sluggish sales. In 1957, the station wagon sported a 283-cubic-inch V-8 engine with the optional "Super Turbo Fire V8” offering producing 283 horsepower thanks to continuous fuel injection. 

While these two-door station wagons seem to defy the stereotype of what these people movers are intended to be, the Nomad is something special. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, who would ever buy a two-door station wagon in the late 1950s, and that is a valid and very fair question—no one bought them. Think of them as the equivalent of today’s crossovers—seemingly practical but without actually being so. 

Their deficiency in practicality has not stopped the likes of Johnny Martin from recently unveiling his 1957 Nomad Bel-Air. It was a fitting unveiling to be held at the newly-opened Johnny Martin's Car Central in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

They say great men have simple beginnings, and Martin is no different. Martin taught himself upholstery in his living room at night while working as a brick mason during the day. Eventually, Martin decided to pursue upholstery full time and began his business in 1989. After years of hard, top-quality work, he became nationally recognized for his custom interiors. 

In 2011, Martin received a Ridler Award at the Detroit Autorama for restoring a 1962 Corvette. He is also a Great 8 winner. He is working on another Ridler Award car, but what it is remains a mystery.

Until then though, we're excited to feature his 1957 Chevrolet Nomad Bel-Air, which his son Ryan took lead on—the first project he has led. 

The level of detail poured into Martin’s station wagon is breathtaking. Under the hood sits an all-aluminum, 405-horsepower, 5.7-liter LS6 V-8 engine mounted to a Tremec five-speed manual transmission. The engine cover is a one-off building with billet aluminum moldings. 

The Nomad sits on a Paul Newman C4 Corvette polished aluminum chassis and independent suspension, which connects to 18-inch Billet Specialties wheels. While all the mechanicals are simply beautiful, contrasting with the Rocket Red paint, inside is where the true beauty lies—just like in any beast.

The interior is a one-off custom job, crafted from Johnny’s Auto Trim and Rod Shop, and not only hand-designed, but hand-built as well. The artisanship draws the enthusiast’s eye to the meticulous work poured into the interior. 

Features include power steering, windows and door openers. A Kenwood audio system resides in the center console, which has Sirius XM Radio, iPod, USB and Bluetooth capabilities. A Classic Instruments gauge and polished tilt steering column and wheel complete the package. It’s a modern interpretation of a classic interior. 

While the Nomad may have been yesteryear’s first foray at a crossover, Martin’s beautiful beast is far sexier then any of today’s interpretations. We wish Martin and his team the best of luck.

If you had a Nomad, how would you modify it?


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