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