Fate? Luck? Coincidence? I don't know. But this morning, during my daily routine of visiting the HAMB, I stumbled upon not only one but two totally amazing builds from Italy. Both of the cars are quite different and both of them are being built by different gentlemen, but there are some similarities besides their italian background: the attention to detail, the craftmanship, the eye for style, and an undeniable persistence. While the 1953 Chevy Truck shown above – just check out that picturesque setting – is pretty close to being finished, the 1949 Cadillac of HAMBer Mirko 73 still needs a fair bit of attention. But the work that's been executed so far is breathtaking. Not to speak of the car's condition he had to start with.
(photos © Mirko_73, orula)
The reason why we love a certain type of car usually is a very personal story. Some of us discovered a car in a hot rod magazine when we were young. Others had a neighbor with a cool car. And chances are good, especially for a guy who grew up in California, someone older in your family had a bitchin’ ride when you were still riding your bicycle. Jim Kimbrough of San Clemente, California, for instance always knew he wanted a Chevy Nomad. »My dad was into cars and especially into Nomads. When I was young he had two 1955 Nomads and one 1957 Nomad,« Jim says. He still remembers how much he liked being around those cars and how much he enjoyed riding in them.
As Jim grew older, he owned several different cars and he even had a 1956 Chevrolet Wagon he was using as his daily driver. It was »only« a four-door but with a heavily lowered stance it had a very cool look to it. Anyhow, somewhere in his mind, Jim hadn’t stopped dreaming about a Nomad. For several years, Jim was living in the Big Bear region 100 kilometers northeast of Los Angeles. He was working as a firefighter and in his spare time he used to cruise up and down the small towns in the area, looking for old cars.
One of those days, while Jim was driving his old Chevy Wagon around town, a familiar sight stopped him in his tracks. It was a 1956 Nomad sitting under a carport next to a house. He managed to talk to the owner but since the guy had owned the car for 20 years he wouldn’t want to sell it. Jim didn’t give up yet and over the following months and years he kept returning to talk to the owner of the Nomad.
One morning, the poor old Nomad had experienced a rough night. Someone had sprayed a graffiti over the tailgate and had tried to break into the car. Frustrated about the damage of his old Chevy, the owner finally was willing to sell the car to Jim. »It was a dream come true for me. I’d never thought I’d actually be able to afford an original 1956 Nomad«.
As he got the car to his home, he started fixing it. The original 327 engine was running on six cylinders only so he replaced it with the trusty 350 from his old wagon. While he was at it, Jim also replaced the worn 4 speed trans with a TH350. In a matter of weeks, the Nomad was on the road again. The paint was mostly primer, but the body was straight. And with its lowered stance and a set of whitewalls on black steel wheels the Nomad was a great looking daily cruiser.
Only a few years later, Jim and his family moved to San Clemente, a nice little surf town in the south of Orange County. In his luggage he brought his Nomad. »I wanted it to become a nice family cruiser I could drive to the beach« – so much for his intitial idea. Jim was now working in Long Beach and he was offered to use a friend’s shop where he could start building the Nomad. He stripped the chassis to bare metal and covered it with rust preventive paint as well as adding an air ride system. Yes, you are seeing a pattern here, Jim really likes his cars to sit low.
The Nomad then was sent to Mike Doyle who’s been teaching body and paint at Fullerton Union high school for several decades. As the experienced instructor he is, Mike applied the custom mixed paint over the Nomad body which was so straight it hardly needed any repair. »Having the car painted by Mike was one of the best parts of the entire build« Jim remembers. Something that can’t be said about the restoration of the chrome parts as Jim had to go through three different chrome shops before he ended up with a satisfactory result. The first shop even lost some of the parts.
When it comes to the look of the car, Jim says his taste had developed over the years. »I kinda liked and still like the beat-up look combined with a slammed stance, but I always loved the style of the early 1960s Bellflower cruisers«. A set of Astro Supremes was a somewhat logical choice and they suit the 1956 Nomad to perfection.
There are many more little details, just »stuff no one will ever notice« as Jim calls it. »I spent a lot of time getting the wiring in the engine bay as clean as possible. And even more hours went into welding shut all those little holes in the firewall.« Jim ended up with a beautiful result. Too beautiful, as Jim states it: »The Nomad became too nice to use it.« He even thinks of selling it. So, our only hope is Jim might change his mind, maybe while he’s cruising down the coast of Southern California, the perfect natural habitat for a wagon like this.
We fell in love by the soda machine
So we took the car downtown
The kids were hanging out all around
Then we went down to Coney Island
On the coaster and around again
And no one's gonna ever tear us apart
Cause she's my sweetheart
All right, oh yeah
It's not just that I have a soft spot for 1980s hard rock album titles. But this car truly is an East Coast build, even though it now resides in Southern California and is owned by Matt Kimmel and his buddy Isaac Bowser. Both of them consider the 1933 and 1934 model years to be the best-looking Fords, so in order to make their dream come true, they decided to team up and join (financial) forces: »A few years back my buddy Isaac and I were wandering around the Grand National Roadster show looking at cars and dreaming up ideas«, says Matt. »That day we decided we had to have one and had to have it by the time that the Grand National Roadster Show came around the following year.«
Matt and Isaac started looking at bodies and cars but everything they came across was built of fiberglass or street rod material. Finally, they stumbled upon a '34 in Maryland that had been built by Jason Sheets. Matt had been following Jason's bikes and hot rods for some time, as he has a great eye for period correct parts and great vintage builds. Jason’s '34 Coupe was no exception. It was close to exactly what Matt and his buddy were looking for so they worked out a deal and shipped the '34 to California.
Jason Sheets had done an amazing job making the Coupe look like it was an old build. And indeed there’s a little bit of local hot rod history hiding in the car. Like so many three window coupes of the era, the ’34 Coupe originally was supposed to become a dirt track racer. But instead of making laps on a dirt oval track it was just rusting away in a field until 1960 when it was rescued. But still, nothing happened to the three-window coupe and it went from one hot rodder to another. Jason finally found it through an ad in the local newspaper.
The car was in rough shape – or let's rather say the fragments it consisted of? But Jason knew this was the only way to get his favorite year Ford. When he got the '34 body back from the blaster, Jason started reconstructing the missing sheet metal from the bottom up. There was no floor anymore so he decided to channel the body over the frame. The roof was left unchopped in true East Coast style. And Jason already had accumulated a stash of interesting period hot rod parts that found their way onto his project.
When Matt and Isaac got the 34 Coupe in 2012, they did what should be done with any running hot rod: They drove the hell out of it. But they also wanted to change a few things: »We had a great little white tuck and roll seat built with gold piping so we could fit in it better. And we pulled the rear end and changed the gears to make it faster off the line.« They got it all finished up just in time to take it to the 2013 Grand National Roadster Show where it was accepted into the suede place. And even better: They ended up winning a trophy from the Thee Inland Emperors Car Club.
Things are not always what they seem. Or would you have guessed that this 34 Coupe lives behind the sliding doors of this modernist dream house garage? So it won't come as a surprise either that it shares the space with a Y-block powered model A roadster on deuce rails. So much more refreshing than the usual Porsche 911 or Range Rover combo.