If anyone ever tells you that hot rodding is not a family affair, please make sure to explain how incorrect they truly are. The auto hobby is filled with friends and families that can never get enough of hot rods. Whether it’s your wife, husband, or children enjoying the hobby with you, I am sure the family’s support of your passion is not lacking. Dave Bohler of Rochelle, Virginia is a firm believer in that premise.
“I found this car in 2019, it was sitting in a shed,” Dave relays. “It had been parked there since 1976. There was no engine or transmission in the car, and it had quite a bit of rust. The car was mostly disassembled and was filled with boxes full of parts. But, since my wife has always wanted a wagon, the deal was made.” She sounds like a keeper, Dave.
Once the Nomad was back at the Bohler two-car garage, the transformation began in earnest. The first task on the list was to fix the rust. “I had to install a complete floor, inner and outer rocker panels, door skins, and the inner sections of the doors,” Dave explains. “I also modified the firewall to make for the engine I wanted to use — a big block.” Once the bodywork was ready to be hidden under several layers of shiny stuff, Dave had to make a final decision about a color combination. The color of choice is definitely not one we see very often, but it works extremely well on this wagon — light green. Dave didn’t elaborate much about the color, only that he credits his friend, Jay Morris, with the flawless application.
Just like when building a house, a car needs a solid foundation to be reliable and last a long time. “I chose an Art Morrison GT Sport chassis,” affirms Dave. “It’s been powder-coated black and has a 9-inch rear with 3.70 gears, coilovers, and a four-link. Upfront is a power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering system.” The Wilwood brakes are surrounded by Billet Specialties wheels measuring 18×8 and 20×10. The Nitto 245/40R18 and 275/35R20 are the rubber that meets the road.
To fill the area forward of the firewall modification made to create more room under the hood, Dave chose to use a venerable ZZ427 crate engine from Chevrolet Performance. This all-new crate engine is a modern take on the classic L88 tire fryer. The mill features the latest-generation block casting with four-bolt main caps, an all-forged rotating assembly, and a hydraulic-roller camshaft instead of the original L88’s flat-tappet cam. Using a roller offers greater drivability and a broader performance range. The engine also features aluminum oval-port cylinder heads with 2.19/1.88-inch valves and a pump-gas-friendly 10.0:1 compression ratio.
With an engine like that, one might expect to find a four-speed or a Turbo 400 handling the gear changes — one would be incorrect. While Dave does plan to eventually hit the quarter-mile on occasion, this car is mainly build to be a cruising hot rod. For that reason, he chose to have TCI Auto build a 700R4 that will reliably harness the big block’s power for years to come. Matched with the 3.70 gears, we’re certain the combination does extremely well on those long drives.
Since Dave and his wife do plan to hit the highway as often as possible, the interior needs to be comfortable. Let’s face it, it’s already spacious, Dave just needed to make it look good. To accomplish that, Jack Huber Upholstery got the nod for covering the Glide Engineering seats mounted up front and stock rears with a lot of leather, apparently sourced from green cows and ’59 Chevy cloth inserts. Monitoring the engine vitals and mileage accrued is a set of Classic Instruments gauges.
A project of this magnitude is not easy, and Dave credits his wife by giving the support needed to undertake this project. When the car was first completed, he and the “missus” even loaded the necessary supplies and their grandson in the car and made the trek to the 2019 Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals. “The Nomad was finished on the Sunday before the show,” quips Dave. “I test drove it on Monday with my grandson, and then we loaded up on Tuesday morning for the 600-mile trip.”
See the USA in your Chevrolet was a great slogan back in 1953, and with Dave’s wife beside him, we’re certain there are many more miles of American highway about to meet this cruiser.