For two years, Bill Baker looked high and low for a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad — a vehicle that from its outward appearance seems ordinary: a two-door station wagon that possessed neither the notoriety of other Chevys that year, nor the interior room of other family cars.
“At that time, they were either several hundred thousand dollar restored cars or a total rustbucket,” the Parker, Colo., man said of the Nomads he found for sale.
Baker threw in the towel on his search in 2006, instead pursuing a ’34 Ford two-door. However, the weekend prior to Baker traveling to Kansas to look at the Ford, he came across a long-sought-after Nomad for sale online.
“It was kind of in between everything,” he said. “It wasn’t a rust bucket, and it wasn’t a finished car. … It was a good basis to start the work that I wanted to do and that I could achieve.”
Baker and his wife flew to Illinois to look at the car, which they ultimately bought. The couple has attended the Gunnison Car Show for years, but last year, Baker’s prized Nomad won Best of Show.
Yet, it was no easy road to that point. Following the purchase, Baker embarked on a twoyear restoration process. He designed the restoration himself and picked the people he wanted to handle widespread changes to the vehicle — from interior and mechanics to body.
“The original vision got changed about 360 degrees from the time I started,” he said of a switch that resulted from the project’s initial, spectacular body work. “It was not going to be a daily driver, but a fun car for my wife and I to take our dogs on rides in. The dogs never saw the car after that.”
Baker dropped a 6.0-liter, 400-horsepower 2006 Corvette LS2 engine under the hood with an accompanying sixspeed automatic transmission — a move that provided more muscle than the stock 350 small block, but which offered much more reliability.
“Performance was kind of secondary,” Baker explained.
According to the GM Heritage Center, the Nomad was a “special and sporty” two-door sports station wagon, and 1957 was the last year of the two-door version’s three-year run. After 1957, the name Nomad continued but as a four-door model, which sold far better than the two-door.
Just 6,103 Nomads were built in 1957, and for that reason the model year has long stood out for being unique.
“The Nomad was basically a precursor of the SUV today,” Baker said. “Because the back seat lays down and you can haul groceries in it. It was made for a family car, but it wasn’t very popular because the two-door made it difficult to get the kids in the back seat.”
Classic Chevys are nothing new to Baker. He also owns a 1955 Bel Air that he purchased after acquiring the Nomad. The Bel Air, in fact, is a vehicle he’s brought to the Gunnison Car Show twice.
“I’m a total Chevy guy. I’ve always had Chevrolets,” Baker said. “My first car was actually a ’50 Ford with a flathead, and I just turned against Fords at that point.”
Baker — now a retired CFO of a large mechanical contractor in Denver — grew up in a Standard Oil Service Station owned by his father near Hutchinson, Kan.
“I got the car bug back then,” he said. “I used to drag race and fix up cars.”
After putting four kids through college, however, it was dad’s turn for fun. That’s when Baker’s love for hot rods was rekindled.
Last year was the pinnacle for Baker’s Nomad. In early 2017, he attended the Tri-Five Nationals in Bowling Green, Ky. Among 2,717 Chevys, Baker’s Nomad was named to the top
25. Also, in addition to Best of Show in Gunnison last year, Baker received the same honor at a show in Cañon City, as well as being named the top Chevy in two other shows.
“Obviously, the ’50s era cars, every year more and more there’s nostalgia,” said Gunnison Car Club President Toby Rippetoe. “When you pop the hood on that thing, rivets are chrome. Hood bolts are chrome. That kind of detail put into it, plus the paint job on it. He took that to someone that took the time that it requires to get a car that comes out nicer than it ever was when Chevrolet put it out in 1957.”
Best of Show is no light honor. It’s an accolade based on style, cleanliness and presentation. And it was extra special to receive the award at a show like Gunnison’s, to which Baker will return this coming weekend.
“That’s the kind of car show I try to target,” he said. “I like to go to the small-town car shows where the people enjoy the cars. They don’t get to see those type of cars everyday, and they treat you like part of the community.”
(Will Shoemaker can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .)