Story and photos by Angelo Van Bogart, Old Cars Weekly
Superior Glass Works displayed its entirely new Superior 54
Sport Wagon, based on the 1954 show car Nomad using General
Motors’ blueprints. Like the original, it’s all fiberglass.
It wasn’t the GM Motorama, and it wasn’t 1954 again, but the 1954 Chevrolet Nomad again appeared before ogling crowds. This time, the location was the Minnesota Street Rod Association’s 36th annual Back to the 50’s event in St. Paul, and the dates were June 19-21, 2009.
The Nomad’s “second coming” was not the result of General Motors, but of Superior Glass Works of Molalla, Ore. The company builds 14 different fiberglass street rod bodies, and selected the Back to the 50’s event to debut its new Superior 54 Sport Wagon, a very accurate tribute to the 1954 General Motors Motorama Corvette Nomad.
“It’s sleek — it really is a sports car,” said Brad Peterson, owner of Superior Glass Works. Peterson admits that, when he and his wife purchased the company three years ago, the project was about half-way through. But seeing the uncompleted Nomad recreation inspired them to continue.
“It’s a neat car with a neat history,” Peterson said.
The original Nomad first appeared as part of the General Motors Motorama in 1954 alongside a fastback Corvair, another show car that appeared as a possible Corvette model. However, the Nomad actually used a full-size 1954 Chevrolet station wagon chassis, rather than that from a Corvette, but otherwise featured body work in the Corvette style by GM designers. Since the basis of the original Nomad was a station wagon, the Corvette’s features, such as the low, round front end and rear tailfins, had to be scaled up to the larger chassis. As a result, no body parts were interchangeable between the low-production Corvettes on driveways and the show car.
Following the appearance of the show car, Chevrolet added a Nomad two-door station wagon to its lineup for 1955, though it was based on the larger Bel Air model.
Meanwhile, the original 1954 Nomad has never re-appeared, either in Warhoop’s Michigan salvage yard (a business famous for hiding several GM dream cars the corporation wished to destroy) or a forgotten garage.
In recent years, several patient hobbyists have worked to replicate the Corvette-based Nomad, often starting with a roof from a dilapidated Bel Air Nomad, which shares the design with the show car Nomad. However, the two do not share size, and as a result, making the Bel Air Nomad roof fit a ca.-1954 Corvette nose proves a giant hurdle to hobbyists.
“There are a lot of neat [hobbyist-built] Nomads out there, but usually the windshield is wrong,” said Peterson.
A car’s design begins at the cowl, and the cowl between a Corvette and a Bel Air Nomad are very different, but Superior Glass Works started from scratch and with a little help from history.
“We got a copy of the original blueprints, so its dimensions match those of the original show car,” Peterson said. “Our car uses a fresh design using the original windshield dimensions.”
All Superior 54 Sport Wagons include a custom-made windshield and side glass, as well as all of the special trim (approximately 50 pieces) required to build an accurate example of the 1954 Nomad. The cars are available with a custom-made Art Morrison chassis set up for C5 Corvette running gear with an automatic or six-speed transmission. Buyers need to add their own engine, wiring, paint and interior, whether stock or modified.
Currently, the Superior 54 Sport Wagons are in production and the company is taking orders at www.superiorglassworks.com or 800-731-9373.
More cars at Back to the 50s
While the 54 Sport Wagon was a star of the show, it had to share the stage with more than 11,000 other pre-1965 cars and trucks at the fairgrounds. Perhaps as a result of questionable weekend weather, attendance was down, but only 1 percent.
Here is just a sample of the great cars on view at this year’s show.
Top left: This 1940 Willys coupe received more than its share of attention.
The car was recently purchased from a long-time owner who bought the car
just after getting his license. The brush-painted red-and-white covering thecar
is lifting, revealing the original green paint. Top right: A sharp emerald green
1957 Oldsmobile Super 88 Holiday Coupe stood tall, even as it appeared in
thoroughly original condition. Middle left: A black suede 1934 Chevrolet
three-window coupe packed small-block power decked out in 1950s and
early-’60s accessories. The white firewall is a nice touch. Middle right: A Muntz
Jet demonstrated a restoration company’s quality. Bottom left: There’s lots of
factory metal at Back to the 50’s, including beauties such as Scott Kise’s 1951
Buick two-door hardtop with later Buick wire wheels. Bottom right: Cars of
all conditions are welcome at Back to the 50’s. In fact, the more patina, the
better, as this 1957 Plymouth Savoy proves.
To take part in the cruising, food and camaraderie that brings people from all over North America to MSRA’s Back to the 50’s in 2010, go to www.msra.com.
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