Bill and Diane Preston
Part Of The Family
Bill Preston has recently finished restoring this mildly customized 1956 Chevy Nomad station wagon. The car became part of the family in 1976 when their 14-year-old son, Mitchell, purchased the rusted-out, but complete car for $800. Bill, Mitch and younger son, Curtis, began a two-year restoration of the car, repairing exterior rust and replacing rusted-out floors without the benefit of remanufactured floor pans. It had a worn out 283 c.i. engine and Bill wisely decided that was all the power a 16-year-old would need! They went to great lengths to put in a 3-speed transmission and had it reupholstered and carpeted for $400. It was originally turquoise and white and they painted it Corvette Red in their garage, where Bill had painted many cars.
Mitch preferred to walk the few blocks to high school rather than expose the Nomad to the school parking lot. After high school, they built the small block 400 c.i. engine for it. Shortly thereafter, Mitch had an accident with the car and ran it into a bridge abutment and it sat crumpled and stored in various barns and yards until Bill began the current restoration in 1992. Mitch signed the car over to Bill and told him to do whatever he wanted to it, to keep track of the cost and he’d buy it back some day... Several years into the restoration Mitch worriedly asked how much money Bill was getting into the car...
Bill has done his own paint and body work since 1970. He bought, restored or repaired, and sold many 1956-67 Corvettes throughout the 1970’s and was active in the Oklahoma City Corvette Club. During the 80’s he moved up to redoing 1968-1975 Corvette convertibles. His first Corvette was a 1957, bought in 1969 for $1,000.
The paint on the 1956 Nomad is PPG '95 Lincoln Mark VIII Pearlescent Ivory. Bill was meticulous with the preparation and painting of doorsills, fire wall, bumpers and selected trim pieces, prior to painting the exterior body panels. In addition to the primers and sealer it has two coats of color, three coats of pearl and two coats of clear--all seven coats applied on the same day. All were applied with the slowest drying thinner possible to achieve the deep gloss. It was color sanded with 2000 grit paper and rubbed three times with increasingly finer grit compounds, ending with 3000 grit. The navy, lavender and magenta pin striping and decorative stippling were done by artist Bill Firquain of Oklahoma City in 2004.
Exterior features are a third brake light, halogen headlights, flip-down license tag, customized bumpers and '68 Corvette wheels. Bill built the unique grill by combining two 1956 Chevy grills. He modified the vertical standards to accept an additional grill bar between each stock bar. This kept the clean stock line of the grill, but added “something” that catches your eye.
The Nomad has a pristine engine compartment with a 400 c.i. Chevrolet small block engine, stainless braided engine hoses and ‘53 Cadillac air cleaner. It has many small details that streamline its look. The exhaust manifolds are high-performance coated by HPC of Oklahoma City, the Raingear windshield wiper kit is mounted under the dash, and the battery has been relocated under the back seat. Bill is running 350 turbo transmission, 3.08 rear end, rack and pinion steering off a ‘82-’90 Celebrity and power front disk brakes off of a ‘68-’72 Camaro.
The navy blue Ultra Leather custom interior was done by Kevin Smith of Oklahoma City. Kevin artistically incorporated the distinctive shape of the Nomad A-pillar in the door panels and the curves of the dash pods in the seat design. He rebuilt the front bench seat with modern high-density foam rather than the stock springs so that the car would ride more comfortably, even though it appears to be a stock configuration. The carpet is Jaguar automotive carpet to allow molding to the curves without seams. There are disappearing front and rear cup holders mounted under the front bench seat that Bill adapted from a ‘96 Nissan Sentra.
Bill engineered the front and rear air conditioning using one compressor, two evaporators, an oversized radiator, braided hoses, and a Suburban T-unit to run the back evaporator. The second air conditioner, which is hidden in the side panel behind the passenger door, immensely improves the cooling.
Power windows are from a kit purchased from Classic Chevy International. Bill fabricated the power door locks from electric actuators and remote entry devices. All power is conducted to the doors through door contacts purchased from Parr Automotive in Oklahoma City, thus eliminating unsightly wires from the body to the doors. (This also means you can’t roll down the windows with the doors open.) Custom rod gauges were purchased from Danchuk. Bill advises that anyone considering this gauge package should buy the white face version for better visibility and call him for lessons, when you start trying to hook up the speedometer.
Bill engineered the tilt steering column from an ‘82 GMC van with 1.75” cut out of the shift tube, the shaft and the outside column. The reason for using this application was to keep the ignition in the original dash position. Most other applications would have required the key lock on the steering column.
The entire car was built for comfort. Bill and Diane have put over 8,000 miles on the car in the first year it has been on the road. Its maiden voyage was to the National Nomad Convention in Park City, Utah in July 2003. They also attended the 2004 Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, 2003 Fall Foliage Tour in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and many other events in Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma. The Nomad is never trailered.
Paint: '95 Lincoln Mark VIII Pearlescent Ivory
Custom Interior By: Kevin Smith
Front & Rear Air Conditioning
400 Small Block
350 Turbo Transmission
3.08 Rear End
Rack & Pinion Steering
Power Front Disk Brakes
Power Door Locks
Custom Dash Gauges
Third Brake Light
Halogen Head Lights
Stainless Braided Engine Hoses
Cadillac Air Cleaner
Flip Down License Tag
Disappearing Front & Rear Cup Holders
'68 Corvette Wheels