Photos by Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press
Gord Rempel stands by his gorgeous 1958 Chevrolet Nomad station wagon. After a five-year search, he had most of the parts and pieces at hand that he needed to proceed with a rebuild.
The 1958 Chevrolet took a huge step in styling compared with the 1957 model. Longer, lower, wider and with four-headlamps and more curves than a mountain highway, it was a real looker. Thanks to bold new features, colour and trim, it looked more like a spaceship than a car.
New options included a larger, more powerful 348-cubic-inch Turbo-Thrust V-8 engine, four-wheel coil-springs and all-new Level-Air suspension on a new Safety-Girder chassis. Along with other manufacturers, air suspension systems were all the rage. Chevrolet’s Level-Air offered a stable and balanced ride, utilizing air bags on each corner of the car. With an on-board compressor, the ride could be tailored to be either soft or firm, no matter what the load. By mid-year the Level-Air option proved to be troublesome and prone to failure and most cars were converted to regular coil springs by local dealers.
Another new model was the four-door Nomad station wagon. Based on an early 1950s GM Motorama Show car, the ’55 to ’57 Nomad was a two-door hardtop with elongated roof. Stylish and expensive, buyers wanted something as chic, but less costly and with four-doors for functionality. Chevrolet answered the call. The 1958 Nomad had the style, function and price to meet buyers’ needs.
Gord Rempel of Oak Bluff is a lifelong fan of 1958 Chevrolets. “I was born in ’56, but I’ve always loved the ’58,” Rempel says. He and his wife, Sheila, own a ’58 Impala Sport Coupe — it was on a trip to South Dakota for a National Impala Association meet back in 1994 when they heard about a Nomad in the area.
Motion Unlimited in Rapid City, S.D., has been a museum and antique car lot since 1972. It carries everything from museum-quality cars to for-sale vehicles and projects. “It was an original paint car in really pretty good shape, with some rust in the rear wheel wells and one rocker panel,” Rempel says.
One widespread problem with old cars is the carpeted floor pan, which accumulates moisture and rust from sitting. At Motion Unlimited, the problem is cut off before it starts, with removal of the old carpets from their cars — so the metal can stay dry.
“My first thought was to fix up the Nomad and use it as a tow car for our Impala,” Rempel says. With the car home, he removed the 348-cubic-inch engine and automatic transmission and put the project on hold while he searched for parts. The one-year only body style of the 1958 Chevrolet makes it difficult to get parts for — especially when it’s a Nomad station wagon.
After a five-year search, he had most of the parts and pieces at hand and continued with the build. The decision was to do a full resto-mod build for the Nomad, blending the great styling with updated mechanicals.
The Turbo-Fire V-8 was rebuilt by Joe’s Machine Shop and Rempel added an Edelbrock aluminum intake manifold with Quadra-Jet four-barrel carburetor and GM H.E.I. ignition system. Keeping it cool is an aluminum radiator and shroud. Exhaust duties are the work of ceramic-coated Doug’s headers, leading to a three-inch diameter custom dual exhaust system with stainless mufflers and Sebring exhaust tips. Great Rate Transmission supplied a rebuilt 700 R4 overdrive automatic transmission in place of the original two-speed Powerglide automatic — to give the Nomad some true cruising ability. The car still retains its original rebuilt 3.36:1 ratio posi-traction rear axle.
Replacing the original Level-Air system is a modern Air Ride kit, featuring dual air tanks. The factory power-steering system was rebuilt; an upgraded steering box from Classic Performance Products and an Ididit tilt steering column with leather wrapped wheel were installed. For added stopping power, the original power drum brakes were replaced with full four-wheel disc units. Rempel performed all the mechanical work in his shop with the help of his son, Jeff. “He’s my right-hand man,” Rempel says.
For the body, Rempel turned it over to Lake Marion Collision in Lakeville, Minn. The team there laid down a flawless two-tone Copper Penny and Honey Beige paint job, with sculptured flames running from the front fenders into the doors.
All the chrome is replated or new old stock and the stainless trim has been polished, with most of it being Nomad specific. There also is a custom-made set of rocker mouldings and a billet grille. The tinted glass is all-new except for the rear window. It rolls on a set of 17-inch U.S. polished aluminum, 10-spoke wheels, with Cooper Zeon radials.
Inside, it has a custom-crafted interior that’s as plush as anything on the showroom floor today. Kerry Gluck at SewFine Interiors hand-crafted both the one-piece headliner with LED lighting and centre console. A Mocha carpet offers contrast with the beige leather upholstery, featuring six-way power bucket seats, Lokar shifter, four-speaker AM/FM Bluetooth stereo, power antenna, Dakota Digital HMX gauges, clock and power windows.
There were 170,473 four-door Chevrolet station wagons produced in 1958, with no breakdown of individual models available. It’s estimated that less than five per cent were the Nomad model and very few survive today.
Since completing the Nomad in late 2015, it’s been a multiple show winner at numerous venues including the World of Wheels in both Calgary and Winnipeg. At regular ride height or slammed to the ground, the “LO MAD” license plate says it all. It’s a rare custom, tastefully done with all the right elements for car shows and the open road.
The Turbo-Fire V-8 was rebuilt by Joe’s Machine Shop.
Inside, it has a custom-crafted interior that’s as plush as anything on the showroom floor today.