the view through the windshield
1954 Chevrolet Nomad Concept Car - Dream Wagon

The 1954 General Motors' Motorama exhibit opened in New York City in January and later did a four-city tour (Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago). In addition to GM's production models, ten concept cars were on exhibition. These 'dream cars' included two-seater sporty concepts such as the Cadillac La Espada, Oldsmobile F-88, Buick Wildcat II, Pontiac Bonneville Special and the Chevrolet Corvair (a fastback Corvette hardtop). Also debuting at the 1954 Motorama was the Chevrolet Nomad, General Motors' first station wagon-bodied concept car. It was basically a Corvette station wagon built on a stretched Corvette chassis.

The silver-blue and white Nomad was fitted with a Corvette 150-horsepower, 235 cu.in., 6-cylinder engine with a 2-speed Powerglide transmission. From the windshield posts forward, the Nomad was strictly stock Corvette. Styling was done under the direction of GM Styling head Harley Earl.

General Motors may have produced several of the Corvette-based 1954 Chevy Nomads for the auto show circuit (various sources claim two, three or five were built); it has not been confirmed that any of them survived. (Not to worry - there are fiberglass replica kits of the Corvette Nomad available, so that anyone can have their own Nomad show car.)

In 1955, the big brother of the prototype was offered to buyers in a production version based on the Chevrolet Bel Air model. Pontiac offered a similar model called the Safari.

In 2004, Chevrolet attempted to recreate the magic of the 1954 Nomad by unveiling a new interpretation of the Nomad at the Detroit Auto Show. It was based on the same platform as the 2006 Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky. This new Nomad was styled in Great Britain by GM Advanced Design UK and built by Pininfarina, the Italian coachbuilder. This Nomad was powered by a turbocharged Ecotec 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine making 250 horsepower. Transmission was a five-speed automatic. Unfortunately, GM never put the car into production.

In 1988, Great American Dream Machines, a now-defunct maker of handbuilt white metal models, produced a very nice 1:43 scale replica of the 1954 Chevrolet Nomad concept car, finished in the correct color combination of white over silver-blue. The model was manufactured in England by Scale Model Technical Services Ltd. (9/30/14)
Remember When: 1954
auto blogIn 1954, a polio vaccine was developed; children in Pittsburgh were received the first shots. A U.S. atomic test on Bikini Atoll in the Pacific went awry, producing a far stronger blast than expected. Prevailing winds spread radiation afar exposing many. One Japanese fisherman died. Further west, the French surrendered Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam.

The Army-McCarthy hearings began and were carried live on TV by ABC and DuMont. In September, Hurricane Hazel, the most severe storm in North American history, killed an estimated 600 to 1,200 people including 95 in the U.S. The B-52 flew for the first time. The first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, was launched.

In auto news, Nash-Kelvinator Corp. and Hudson Motor Car Co. merged to form American Motors. Studebaker and Packard also merged. Ford debuted its Y-block engine, its first overhead-valve V-8 for passenger automobiles. First offered on a few specialty, limited-production vehicles, in 1954 General Motors offered panoramic wraparound windshields on many of its models, including all Cadillacs, Buicks and Oldsmobiles:

Plymouths could now be had a with an optional two-speed Powerflite automatic transmission. Ford offered a Skyliner model with a green-tinted transparent Plexiglas roof panel; a corresponding Mercury Sun Valley also debuted as a '54 model. Regular gas was priced at less than 30¢ per gallon in 1954.

New products included M&M Peanuts, Con-Tact Paper, Sports Illustrated magazine, chlorpromazine (the first antipsychotic drug) and Muzak.

Little Matchbox cars arrived in America; they had been introduced in England the previous year. Priced at 25¢ and packaged in distinctive boxes, the upstart faced tough competition from traditional 10¢ diecasts from Tootsietoy, Midgetoy and Goodee.

But the detailing on the little Matchboxes won America over and the brand became a '50s and '60s mainstay in the toy field.

Polypropylene plastic was invented in 1954. The same year, Bell Telephone Labs developed a solar battery. Swanson TV dinners debuted - frozen, assembly-line-prepared, mostly tasteless dinners in compartmentalized aluminum trays.

Heat and eat. Quickly. The first Shakey's Pizza Parlor opened in Sacramento, CA.

Comic strip 'Hi & Lois' debuted in '54; so did 'Marmaduke'. New words included desegregation, do-it-yourself, dragster, fallout and sci-fi.

New songs for 1954: 'Shake, Rattle & Roll' (Bill Haley and His Comets), Rosemary Clooney's 'Hey There', 'Stranger In Paradise' (Tony Bennett), 'Mr. Sandman' (The Chordettes), Perry Como's 'Wanted' and 'Oh Mein Papa' (Eddie Fisher). The first Newport Jazz Festival was held that year and, in July, a young singer with the unlikely name of Elvis Presley cut his first commercial record at Sun Studios in Memphis.

Top '54 movies: 'The Caine Mutiny', 'The Glenn Miller Story', 'On the Waterfront', Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window', horror classic 'Them!', '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' and 'Dial 'M' For Murder'. Movie star Marilyn Monroe married baseball legend Joe DiMaggio in January. In 1954, a movie ticket cost 55¢.

New television shows included 'The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin', 'Lassie' and 'Father Knows Best'. 'The 'Miss America Pageant' was televised for the first time in '54. Ronald Reagan began hosting 'General Electric Theater', now in its second television season. In 1954, a classic, well-remembered live commercial blooper caught everyone's attention when spokesmodel June Graham was unable to open the door of a Westinghouse refrigerator to show its interior features.

Deaths included quintuplet Emilie Dionne, Jacques Brandenberger (he invented cellophane in 1908), Samuel Crumbine (inventor of the flyswatter), actor Lionel Barrymore and football legend Glenn 'Pops' Warner.

The New York Giants win the World Series defeating the Cleveland Indians 4-0. Bill Vukovich won the Indianapolis 500 for the second year in a row, driving a Kurtis Kraft-Offenhauser. Vukovich died the following year attempting to win his third consecutive Indy 500.


More AutoSketch car drawings can be found here.
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Disclaimer

The facts presented in this blog are based on my best guesses and my substantially faulty geezer memory. The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and are protected by the U.S. Constitution. Probably.

Spelling, punctuation and syntax errors are cheerfully repaired when I find them; grudgingly fixed when you do.

If I have slandered any brands of automobiles, either expressly or inadvertently, they're most likely crap cars and deserve it. Automobile manufacturers should be aware that they always have the option of trying to change my mind by providing me with vehicles to test drive.

If I have slandered any people or corporations in this blog, either expressly or inadvertently, they should buy me strong drinks (and an expensive meal) and try to prove to me that they're not the jerks I've portrayed them to be. If you're buying, I'm willing to listen.

Don't be shy - try a bribe. It might help.


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