After spending many years away from hot rodding, just one trip to the Massachusetts-based Ty-Rods Old Timers Reunion was all it took to fan the hot rod flames and get Fred Morrison totally involved again—and for that he can thank Eddie Nason. It was the early ’90s and he promptly went home and built a very nice ’55 Bel Air that he still owns today. But he was just beginning; now he was dreaming of a Nomad.
Surrounded by custom-formed...
Surrounded by custom-formed inner splash panels the fuel-injected 409 engine is now a study in smooth. A full serpentine belt system is concealed beneath the front shroud.
When he met Dan Wickett at the Goodguys show in Columbus, Ohio, Fred knew he had found the right man for the job. After purchasing a ’55 Nomad from a friend, Fred had a vision for the car and he was sure of at least three things: The car would be powered by a 409, it must be charcoal and yellow, and it must be driven.
The car was shipped from Fred’s home in Massachusetts to Wickett’s Hot Rod Construction in Piedmont, South Carolina. The Nomad was promptly stripped down, media blasted, and separated from the stock chassis. Since the plan was to use late-model Corvette suspension and transaxle, the original frame was rolled outside and Wickett set about building a custom chassis from 4x4 0.125-wall box tubing. The chassis incorporates mounts for an ’05 Corvette rear transaxle that was narrowed 8 inches. The modified factory torque tube mates to the 409 block and a complete C-4 Corvette front suspension was adapted up front. Wilwood brakes are found on all four corners and a Kugel underdash master cylinder completes the brake system. The RideTech air suspension levels the car and provides the perfect stance. The body is welded to the frame, making this ’55 a unibody construction.
After reducing the diameter...
After reducing the diameter of the wheel, and smoothing it completely, Dan Wickett wrapped the steering wheel in matching leather.
Underhood you’ll find what may be the best-dressed 409 ever seen. Beneath the incredible engine shrouding is a W-motor built by Dan Wickett. The ’64 engine now displaces a whopping 496 ci and is filled with an Eagle crankshaft and rods with Ross pistons. COMP Cams ground the camshaft, moving the valves in the Edelbrock heads. The Offenhauser dual-quad intake now employs a pair of throttle bodies to handle the air intake, while port injection has been machined into the Offy intake manifold.
With the chassis complete Dan Wickett turned his considerable talents loose on the body. Fred was certain he wanted a two-tone paint scheme, but splitting a Nomad for two colors is nearly impossible in stock form. To facilitate the Boyd Coddington charcoal over Millennium Yellow paint scheme, custom side trim would have to be designed.
The entire interior was hand-fabricated...
The entire interior was hand-fabricated from the re-contoured dashboard to the custom console. The leather seats, matte finish dashboard, and stainless steel trim provide a contrast in textures.
Murray Fath was brought in to help with the design and in the end the trim was a collaboration between Fath, Wickett, and Morrison. Wickett and Todd Leslie fabricated the stainless trim that stretches from the brow of the headlight to the taillight. Jaguar sedan door handles blend perfectly with the trim.
For the uninitiated, beyond the custom trim and color split you might think little else has been changed. Sure, most people notice the lack of vent windows and the one-piece wrap-around glass in the cargo area, but few realize the front post has been moved forward 5/8 inch or that the driprails are replaced with custom-formed stainless steel. The roof skin was lowered 1/2 inch and the taillights were moved forward 1-1/2 inches. The hood has been pancaked and the front is laid back an inch while the rear of the hood has been extended 4 inches, eliminating the cowl panel in the process. Of course all of this work, including the paint was done at Hot Rod Construction.
Two more Cadillac bucket seats...
Two more Cadillac bucket seats are found in the back of the car, and the cargo area cover is formed to meet the seat backs. The fit and design of all these panels is nothing short of amazing.
At Hot Rod Construction everything is handled in-house, and when Wickett removed his welding helmet he slid behind the sewing machine. But before any stitchwork could begin there was fabrication to be completed. Dan reshaped the stock dashboard and moved the ’55 Chevy truck-inspired gauge cluster to the center of the dash. This leads down to a custom-formed console dividing four modified Cadillac bucket seats. Custom armrests were fabricated along with dividing trim on the inner doors, and then the stitchwork began.