Whittier, California's Joe Vinci came up with that quote after a lifetime of hot rod projects, capped off by this fantastic result. His '57 Chevy Nomad features all of the little details and ideas that combine to make it "Joe's Nomad" and not like the others at the car show. The same old thing is what Vinci and his friends were trying to avoid.
The project started three-and-a-half years ago, when Joe and longtime industry guru (and drag racer) Bob DeVour went shopping for a '56 Bel Air wagon. After discussing the exclusivity of a Nomad (check into it; not many were built), the wagon was out and this car was in. Joe purchased this car, a body, boxes, and pieces, for $7,000. But before getting into the buildup, Vinci decided to use the best of the best, "I've had so many guys in this business let me down that I only used the best sources to get this car built. It was worth it."
They started with the body. Joe doesn't like a lot of chrome and knobs; so much has been shaved off, frenched, or tailored on this Nomad. That includes frenching the '57 rockets on the hood, smoothing the fender vents, including a custom grille bar that floats through its center, filling in door handles, modifying the tailgate handle, and the like. What would he have done differently?
"I think we nailed it, but I actually would have taken out the back windows and made them into one piece. Other than that, the body came out the way I described it to the bodyman and renderer." Credit the metalwork to Willie Brown, out of Jerry Kugel's shop.
Mark Mahood has gained fame and a little fortune (he'll hate that line) by delivering some of the nation's best work and on time. That got Vinci in line for four coats of white, four coats of Chrome Yellow, three coats of Silver Pearl, and four coats of clear. Since Mahood and his boys shot it, the materials were from PPG.
Going back to the Kugel connection, Joe has been a friend of the street rod builder and supplier for many years, but even if they'd been strangers, Vinci admit he'd have searched out the Kugel independent rearend thanks to the way it looks and helps the car to handle. "I drove one of Jerry's '32s and loved the way that the car rode. I had to have one for my car." They aren't cheap, but the system is more than sharp!
The rest of the chassis was adaptation of what works with stock components. Vinci contacted Fresno's Bob McCloughsky for his Tri-Five kit that included 2-inch dropped spindles, disc brakes, and bearings. This saved him a little, as it utilizes the stock A-arms, unlike other systems. Those Center Line wheels are 16x7s up front with a 255/45-16 tire and 17x9s out back with 255/45-17 rubber. Yes, it's a custom fit, as DeVour (who used to be with Center Line) built them with as much backspace as he could--the wheel comes out of the center section as much as possible.
Re-enter DeVour. Bob had a few projects coming along slower than he'd like. "DeVour, you've got to sell me that LT1 combo that you're not using," said Joe, not wanting to look much further. Bob agreed, but it turns out that Vinci's convenience was actually DeVour's hidden blessing, as the motor (with only 12 miles on it) must have been dry-started, and it spun all the bearings on its first firing attempt by Vinci and the top-notch crew at Whittier's C&J Engineering. It wasn't DeVour's fault, he had no idea that the motor was going to have problems, but Joe was "forced" to have C&J blueprint the LT1 with the aftermarket's best parts, like a Isky valvetrain and such. It runs just fine now!
Another Whittier rodding staple is Eclipse Engineering's Steve Sbelgio, who's helped PHR in the past with LT1 wiring and mapping. Sbelgio set up this car, with the help of Rick's Auto Electric, to run flawlessly with a computer-controlled 4L60-E overdrive automatic. It runs cool, too, thanks to a U.S. Radiator system that was molded into the core support with metal magic by Willie Brown.
The interior is what gets most people hopped up about this Nomad. Bloomington, California's Ron Mangus gets credit for stitching up a complete job in leather, utilizing Toyota Supra front seats (cut down, with the headrests removed and the tracks slammed to the floor) and custom buckets in the back. Motoring Entertainment worked closely with Mangus to include 10 Kicker speakers and a bass enclosure, as well as a Nakamichi head unit and amps. Those Auto Meter gauges are all electronically triggered, now available right out of the catalog, too. We like the console that runs down the center the rear of the vehicle--that's trick.
"The car drives well, handles nicely, and goes fast enough. I had this car built for my wife and family to drive, too, so going crazy with the motor and such wouldn't have been right." At least not in this case, Joe.