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BOWTIE BONANZA: A Chevy for Every Taste

Posted on 22 March 2017

Written by independent automotive journalist Steve Magnante

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No matter what your favorite make of collector car might be, there’s no denying that Chevrolet usually managed to outsell every other domestic car maker during the golden age of the ’50s and ’60s. Sure, Ford nudged a small lead for a year or two here and there, but overall American car buyers – and their dollars ‒ were most attracted to the many interesting and desirable models offered by Chevrolet. And it continues today.

This distinctive 1955 Chevrolet Nomad Custom Wagon (Lot #685) is one of a cavalcade of Chevrolets ready for the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Auction.

This distinctive 1955 Chevrolet Nomad Custom Wagon (Lot #685) is one of a cavalcade of Chevrolets ready for the Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Auction.

In this roundup of very special bowtie offerings, we’ve got one Resto-Mod and three pure restorations to discuss. Take your pick, bowtie fan ‒ there’s something here for you. First up is the tastefully modernized 1955 Nomad (Lot #685). One of only 8,386 built that year, it takes the totally restyled for 1955 Bel Air body style a step further. While lesser 150, 210 and Bel Air station wagons had upright, boxy roof extension architecture, only Nomad brought the 1954 Corvette Nomad Motorama show car directly from never-never land to your driveway.

With its full rear wheel openings, forward-leaning vertical body pillars, fluted roof skin and sloped tailgate, the production Nomad borrowed the Corvette Nomad Motorama show car’s most unique details and put them into semi-mass production. At nearly $3,000, Nomad was Chevrolet’s most expensive 1955 passenger car offering, even surpassing Corvette.

Custom touches reign supreme on this 1955 Nomad (Lot #685).

Custom touches reign supreme on this 1955 Nomad (Lot #685).

While some Nomad fans only appreciate perfectly restored examples, remember – GM started the custom work … hot-rodders take it from there. On this Orange Pearl reimagining of the Nomad, the awkward bolt-on bumpers have been sleekly frenched into the lower aprons, and the eye-jarring roof-edge drip rails have been shaved for a sleeker effect. Also, the original front door vent windows have been eliminated in favor of one-piece door glass, and the body-side fuel fill door has been filled. Now gasoline is added via a hinged taillamp assembly, similar to that seen on the 1956 Bel Air.

While the original Nomad shared the same front coil/rear leaf spring suspension with lesser passenger cars, this custom rides on a reinforced boxed frame with Air Ride Technologies air springs at every corner and a 4-link rear suspension. The original rear axle has been replaced by a much stronger Ford 9-inch rear axle with massive four-corner Baer disc brakes in place of the stock drums.

A peek under the hood of the Nomad ready for Palm Beach.

A peek under the hood of the Nomad ready for Palm Beach.

Under the hood, 1955 marked the arrival of Chevrolet’s game-changing 265ci small-block V8, but for this custom, an all-aluminum, Gen III LS1 takes over to deliver nearly 400 horsepower and the hassle free quick-start performance of modern electronic fuel injection. Inside, 21st-century creature comforts include Vintage Air climate control, European tweed carpeting, Flaming River adjustable steering column, Billet Specialties padded steering wheel, supple leather seats and matching leather surfaces covering the center console, digital dashboard surround and shift boot.

Speaking of the shift boot, it’s coupled to a 6-speed manual transmission for the ultimate in driving excitement. And with its double overdrive top gears and 2.68:1 first gear, this customized Nomad is ready to provide fun on the road while drawing crowds at gas stops, cruise nights, car shows and special collections alike.

Lot #709 - a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro COPO - features a matching-numbers engine block.

Lot #709 – a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro COPO – features a matching-numbers engine block.

Moving into the supercar ’60s, the two 1969 Camaros offered here prove how versatile Chevrolet’s Mustang-fighter could be. With its high-winding 302 small block, the Z/28 focused on the corner-carving SCCA Trans Am road race circuit, while the COPO 9561 427 stood ready to dominate the quarter-mile drag strip. This Hugger Orange 427 (Lot #709) was delivered new to Roger Budd Chevrolet and has a matching-numbers engine block, while the rest of its Muncie 4-speed, 12-bolt posi-traction driveline is date-code correct, including the proper power brake vacuum booster unit.

The fascinating story of enterprising Chevy dealers exploited the Central Office Production Order system to trigger output of otherwise not available packages has been chronicled. But there is no doubt this Camaro, VIN number 124379N649529, was part of the ploy to get more than the factory-allotted 396-cube big block under the Camaro’s hood. For that alone, it stands as one of the greatest Camaros of all time and is sure to attract ever more attention and value with the passage of time.

This LeMans Blue 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 (Lot #699) is ready for the auction block.

This LeMans Blue 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 (Lot #699) is ready for the auction block.

Also 4-speed equipped (as all Z/28s were until the 1970 redesign), the LeMans Blue coupe (Lot #699) has been thoroughly inspected by Camaro authority Jerry MacNeish as being one of the 20,302 Z/28 Camaros built in 1969. No clone or tribute, the factory applied block serial number matches the body tags, but the suffix code on the passenger side block deck has been restamped. Not an effort to confuse; rather, all evidence indicates the machine process required to reestablish flat decks (for effective head gasket seal) removed the factory applied stampings during a rebuild in the past. In an effort to restore its true identity for the benefit of show judges, the original characters have been reapplied in their original location.

This Z/28 has a cross-ram induction system under the hood.

This Z/28 has a cross-ram induction system under the hood.

This pristine restoration serves as a reminder that it only takes a minute 0.005-inch surface cut by an unknowing machine shop to remove these important factory stamped engine block numbers. Here, they’ve been rightfully reapplied. And while the standard-issue Z/28 engine came with a single Holley 4-barrel carburetor, GM offered an available cross-ram induction system for race duty. It is present here and reminds us that Chrysler wasn’t the only muscle-era manufacturer to take advantage of the free supercharging effect of cross-ram manifold architecture. The transmission and rear axle in this Z/28 are also of correct date-coded vintage and are highly likely to have been with the car since it left GM’s Norwood, Ohio, assembly plant.

This 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu convertible (Lot #447) is one of only 8,061 small-block V8-powered drop-tops built that year.

This 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu convertible (Lot #447) is one of only 8,061 small-block V8-powered drop-tops built that year.

The final car in this bowtie bonanza reminds us that Chevelles don’t have to be big-block equipped – or even Super Sports ‒ to be fun and highly desirable among collectors. Fully restored in the original Deepwater Blue color with a light blue vinyl interior and white folding top, this 1967 Malibu convertible (Lot #447) is one of only 8,061 small-block V8-powered drop-tops built that year. And while many small-block buyers opted for the 283 2-barrel and Powerglide 2-speed automatic, this one has the 275hp L30 327 and a factory-installed cast-iron Saginaw M20 wide-ratio 4-speed transmission.

Unlike the heavier 396 big block installed in the SS396 Chevelle that year, the lighter 327 small block delivered more balanced handling while offering the staggered power delivery of 4-barrel carburetion. Better still, the 4-on-the-floor and bucket seats set this one apart from the masses. Power front brakes and power steering assure easy maneuverability and stopping power to suit modern traffic conditions. As Chevelle SS396 convertible prices escalate, smart collectors are taking another look at small-block-powered alternatives. Of that realm, factory 4-speed equipped examples like this one lead the way.

Be sure to take a close look at these interesting Chevrolets during the pre-sale inspection period. There’s a lot more to each one than pictures alone can tell.

For up-to-date information on these and other vehicles on the Palm Beach docket, click HERE.

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