Friday, May 31, 2024
FEATURES

NEWTON’S LAW – ALAN AND CHRIS NEWTON 1955 CHEVY NOMAD

Eyeballing the Chevy sportswagon, it dawned on Alan that this car ticked all the right boxes as a family car with loads of style. 

“I said to Chris, if we were smart this would have been the perfect car for us.”

It may have been the wisdom of hindsight and years of experience, but for these auto-motivated Grandparents there is no time like the present. With small children once again under their wings it didn’t take Alan long to track down a suitable example of the wonderful wagon back in Australia, but before we continue we need to go back to when the Newton family diverted from recreational normality (for most) to fun in the fast lane. 

“I had a mid life crisis around the early age of 35, not long after the kids came on the scene,” Alan explains. “I thought wouldn’t it be fun to have a hobby car to go on Sunday drives. I looked around for a  four seater sports car, but they didn’t really exist. I’d had hotted up cars and a tough panel van in my youth, but they were long gone. By chance we and ended up at the ASRF Nationals in Canberra in 1987 with friends where I spotted a neat ’31 Ford tourer for sale. It re-engaged the whole hot rod thing and we went home with it.”

The car that Alan purchased was built and owned by Wally Deskins (check issue #160 back page) so his eye for detail and quality was of high standard. A perfect choice for a buy-it-now hot rod that he still owns. 

“Back then it was so raked the kids used to complain about the wind in their hair. They did get blown apart as their heads were above the windscreen, but they got over it. We had a lot of fun in that car,” he says with fond memories.

In 1990 Alan packed up the family, and the hot rod, and moved to the United States for tenure of four years where they continued to enjoy their fun machine… when weather permitted. “I think back then we had the only open tourer street rod in Ohio, as it rained so much,” he chuffs. 

Alan joined the Mid Ohio Bunch (MOB), which has been a host club for the Goodguys Nationals for 16 years, and drove his rare rod to many of the Goodguys events. “I am still a member of the club and met a lot of good people over there that way,” he adds. 

It was this involvement with the club and ownership of his Aussie built Tourer that led him to secure what many rodders consider the holly grail of early Fords. 

“I was sitting at the fairground front gate in Columbus during the US Nationals and watched this Model A A400 come in. I knew they existed as I had seen them in photos but never in the flesh. With over around 12,500 cars at the event I jumped in the tourer and went for a drive and found the owner. I remember he had an outrageous price on it (for the time). I thought there was no way he could possibly sell it for that! At the end of the day I got his number. I called him after the show and over the next month we negotiated a deal.” 

Back in Australia along with the tourer and the A400, Alan acquired a big block ’69 Camaro for decent money, which he enjoyed until he was offered more decent money. At that time it was the only toy with four seats and a hard top, which Chris promptly brought to his attention. With her blessing Alan was on the Internet in nanoseconds yielding the current Camaro in the stable. He calls it his wet weather car and man is it tough!

Now with grandkids on a regular basis and not wanting to surrender to the cookie cutter plastic imports of today’s motoring, Alan got busy in tracking down a Nomad. The sweet ’55 model shown here was originally built by custom car builder Juice in Queensland for his wife, and mostly as you see it in the accompanying pictures. Most changes that Alan and Chris have accomplished on the wagon go undetected until pointed out. As an active member of the Let’s Go Cruisin club Alan wanted the wagon to tow the obligatory trailer but it needed more suspension travel, so he had the springs reset to cope with the load. In all he says they brought the car up an inch and a half, but with every action there is usually a reaction and this necessitated re-routing the rear of the exhaust system. With the help of Dave Hall everything went to plan without a hitch… er… you know what I mean. 

Over the years and through previous cars, Alan has become very fond of extra horses under the hood. Wanting a bit more poke from the internally stock rat mill, he entertained the idea of adding a pair of lightweight performance heads, until he investigated the pros and cons of the deal. “I worked out that it would cost me more money to rebuild the tired 454 just to take advantage of the new heads than to buy a brand new crate motor,” he explains, “with a two year warranty!” 

With no more justification required Alan ordered a ZZ454 crate motor from GM with 500 foot pounds of torque mated it to a T700 auto, which he says is just perfect for a heavy little hauler like the Nomad. As for the third member of the drive train Alan is happy with the original ’55 slippery rear end assembly but picked up a spare centre just in case. 

Along with the power plant upgrade, cabin comfort was also an area that the Newton’s addressed. Cruising the beautiful Mornington Peninsula or swift jaunts into the city on those 40 plus degree days with grandkids in tow is now a more pleasent experience with interior conditions supervised by Vintage Air. The small ball style air ducts all but disappear amongst the stock layout of the left hand drive dash. 

The original 1955 telemetry was antiquated for the new running gear and rather than add a contingent of store bought gauges Alan sourced a spectacular replacement unit from Classic Instruments. Dubbed BelEra II, the new old style digital cluster is a bolt in successor to the original and features everything Alan and the Nomad could need, including dimmable LED illumination and turn signal indicators. On placing his order with the company Alan was presently surprised by a reply email inquiring that because he was purchasing from Australia would he prefer to have his unit in KPH. For an extra $50 it was a no brainer for this speed conscious Victorian. 

All trim and exterior paintwork is as the car was purchased, with the roof featuring metallic highlights before it was clear-coated. Alan is quick to comment that the saucy little lady embellished on the unique tailgate attracts the most camera attention. 

To avoid any unforeseen problems in the future and to combating any nasty automotive gremlins that often sneak in and attack many custom built cars, Alan took it upon himself to have the Nomad rewired from scratch by Chris Fay. “I had a dash fire in my tourer once and that was enough,” Alan concedes. 

For the go getting Granny’s it’s the perfect cruiser for a weekend getaway or a trip across the country with bags of power and all the creature comforts of your modern day tin lizzie with supreme style. Alan and Chris feel very fortunate for the workmanship performed by Juice who resurrected one of Chevy’s all time classics and thank Bill Duyvestyn for all the improvements since. 

Now lets go cruisin!

BY DALE HABERFIELD, PHOTOS MILLBROOK STUDIO, FULL FEATURE CRUZIN #164.

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