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NewsTribune photo/Craig Sterrett Just one of many completely redesigned features and concepts on Peru resident Dave Stuart’s national award-winning 1955 Chevy Nomad that is winning national and Midwest awards is an engine breather that replicates an old Chevy hood and engraved “Triple Nickle” valve covers. The 555-cubic-inch engine was built by famous racing engine maker, Musi, of New Jersey. The car was on display and won Best Modified at the Illinois Valley Rodders car show at Centennial Park in Peru on Sunday.
NewsTribune photo/Craig Sterrett Two Ferraris, including this one in the foreground, were on display at the Illinois Valley Rodders show at Centennial Park in Peru. Behind the Ferrari is a 1982 Avanti. Originally built by Studebaker, the Avanti in the Studebaker years was once the United States’ fastest production car, able to go 160 mph, said Studebaker enthusiast Bob Dellinger of Oglesby, who had his car nearby. Dellinger said after Studebaker closed in 1964, the molds for the Fiberglas frame were sold, and Avanti Motors of South Bend, Ind., continued limited production of the unusual cars for two more decades.
A shiny, wildly and intricately customized 1955 Chevy Nomad owned, designed and, for the most part, assembled by a Peru man has been sweeping awards in the Midwest and nationwide since its completion this winter.
Starting with a deteriorated 60-year-old Chevrolet station wagon six years ago, Dave Stuart drew up plans, concepts and specifications to transform a junker into a show-shopper he calls the Triple Nickle. It’s the first time he has completely customized a car, having previously restored and worked with originals, including a 1955 Chevy he had nicknamed the Double Nickel.
Nomads are a favorite of hot rod enthusiasts and vintage-car drag racers because of their sleek, rounded lines and the engine compartment’s ability to house big engines. Playing off those curved lines, Stuart worked with body experts, CNC fabrication experts and car interior, dashboard and center console creators to eliminate almost every squared-off edge and to create curves and smooth transitions everywhere.
“Everything on this I designed,” Stuart said while his car was on display during Sunday’s Illinois Valley Rodders show in Centennial Park, Peru.
Curvy design modifications included flared, pleated and painted inner fender walls that cover all wires and hoses so car enthusiasts who look under the hood see no distractions from the chrome custom 555-cubic-inch engine.
In the interior, there’s a wave/ fish-tail shaped center console that flows back to the curved leather cargo area. Atop the engine, the breather cover was fabricated into a miniature version of the Chevy hood, complete with a miniature chrome hood ornament. And the hood itself is double-skin — meaning it’s finished in 2008 Dodge Viper blue paint on top and on the bottom.
Stuart continued to hire out customized features, and many of those necessitated additional changes. For instance, he wanted blue plastic bumper mounts, rounded of course, and to make them work he had to order small, made-to-order cover plates to go against and beneath the rear fenders.
“When you customize a car, when you change one thing, four more things need changing,” he said.
In keeping with the triple-nickel theme, his car’s shiny chrome front grille has three 1955 nickels in it. He has a five-speed transmission, NITTO 555 Extreme Performance tires and custom engraved TRIPLE NICKLE valve covers.
Further, when he decided to go all out on this customization, he had the chassis built by Art Morrison Chassis in Washington state. He wanted serial number 555, but the company was on No. 535 when he called. He made a down payment and simply waited two years until the company was ready to build No. 555.
The engine and drive train were built in New Jersey by racing engine maker Pat Musi. In addition to Washington and New Jersey, work also was done for the car or on the car in or by shops in locations including but not limited to Kansas City, Mendota, Granville, Oregon state, California and Muscatine, Iowa. And Dave Bennett of Bennett's Upholstery in LaMoille spent months perfecting the interior.
Stuart’s car started winning major prizes right off the bat.
The car was accepted for entry in the Detroit Autorama show in March, and in that first show, the car won its category. Soon after, at the Good Guys show in Des Moines, Iowa, the car won Maguire’s Magnificent Masterpiece. It was named Best Custom at the Classics in Chrome show in Rockford. It was named the best custom wagon at a show in Nashville, Tenn.
And it won six awards at the 25th Chevrolet Nomad Association Convention, which was in Itasca, Ill., this year. Judges said it had the best interior, best custom paint and body, and best custom engine and drive train. Spectators at the convention gave it first place in the custom combined 1955-57 Nomad, People’s Choice Award and kids 18-and-under favorite car.
What’s next? Stuart plans to drive it on nice days and take it to shows. The car likely will wind up in hot rod magazines, too.
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