Mike Dodson’s 1956 Chevy Nomad Wagon – Mad Dog’s Magnificent Nomad


Mike “Mad Dog” Dodson of Keller, Texas, makes his living working as a conductor for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. However, in his leisure hours, he and his wife Vicki (who Mike courted while driving a ’57 Chevy) are into building classic Bow Tie street machines, and this ’56 Nomad is their latest.

“In 1984 I got into the hobby and have built an average of one car a year since. My first car was a ’66 Corvette, and my first win was at the Super Chevy Sunday Show held at Bill Heilscher’s old Green Valley Race City.”

The car you see here signifies the Dodson’s return to their first love, the classic Tri-five Nomad (after some 19 Camaros, a ’57 Corvette and a street rod. The couple debuted this classic black and white restomod at the Fort Worth Rod & Custom Car Show in 2008 to rave revues.

“We built the Nomad from hopeless looking metal hulk and a pile of parts we had purchased through a friend at the 2007 Fort Worth Rod & Custom Car Show. We had our number one man on the project, Donny Bright, complete the car in just one year with help from our friends Larry Jenkins and Tommy Simmons.”

For openers, the Nomad’s body and frame were chemically stripped and dipped at Metal Rehab in Arlington, Texas, prior to performing any paint and bodywork, which would ultimately be done by Bright in PPG 9700 base black and white followed with multiple coats of DCK 2202 clear.

Donny painted and assembled the ’56 frame using a combination of reproduction and new suspension parts purchased from Longview, Texas’ Classic Chevy Connection.

The ’56’s rear suspension now employs a 3.42:1 geared Moser Engineering 9-inch, while the front suspension uses a pair of Classic Chevy Connection two-inch-drop spindles, with a quartet of Classic Chevy Connection brakes employed all round. Wheels are Coy’s C5 design and measure 18×8 with P235/40xZR18 front Nexan tires, and P255/45xZR18 rear Nexen radials.

Jenkins Performance in Keller prepared and installed the GM Performance Parts ZZ4 crate engine. Although the 355-horse ZZ4 does come from the factory with its own medium-rise four barrel aluminum intake, Dodson and Jenkins elected to swap it out for a polished Edelbrock 2×4 intake and dual 500 cfm Edelbrock Performer carburetors capped by a Billet Specialties oval air cleaner.

Other upgrades include Doug’s Headers, Billet Specialties valve covers and Tru-Trac serpentine accessory drive system. Engine cooling is handled by a Be Cool show polished cooling module. Backing up this combination is a Jenkins-prepared 700R4.

According to Mike, the most monumental task of the entire build up was re-aligning the Nomads roof. The original had been replaced after someone had dropped a beam on it, but failed to do the job properly.

After all the paint and bodywork had been done, Bright realized that the driver’s side door wasn’t right. It too had been damaged by the dropped beam so the entire thing had to be re-aligned, re-skinned and re-painted.

As exasperating as that may have been, it only got worse. With less than 24 hours left before the Nomad’s grand debut, Mike went to close the hood, and found that the wrong hood springs had been sent-which promptly bent the hood. But we’re happy to report that an all-night session at Donny Bright’s saved the day.

In the process of re-assembly, the Nomad was treated to a new Classic Chevy Connection wiring harness. The car was also upgraded to an ididit six-way-tilt steering column and NOS black ’56 Chevrolet steering wheel which Mike’s brother-in-law Bobby kept under his bed for 10 years.

Also on board was the addition of a set of Classic Instruments black and white face gauges, along with Classic Auto Air climate control.

When everything was ship-shape, Fuller’s Auto Upholstery in Keller installed a fresh reproduction black and white CARS, Inc. ’56 Nomad interior.


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