If you know anything about hot rod builders and anything about BMX bikes then there's a good chance you know the names Tucci and Alley. Dave Tucci Jr., of Tucci Hot Rods, has turned out, and continues to turn out, some awesome hot rods. Jim Alley is no stranger to race cars and hot rods but is now a force to be reckoned with in the manufacturing world of BMX components with his company Profile Racing.
So how did these two individuals who are worlds apart get together to build and own one of the definitive examples of a Tri-Five Nomad? Answer: Out of necessity for Jim, and "it's what we do" for Tucci.
A Flaming River steering column...
A Flaming River steering column and wheel are used along with the modified Honda seating covered in black leather by McFarland Custom Upholstery. You can also see the use of Classic Instruments' Tri-Five gauge pack. Underdash pedal assembly comes from Kugel Komponents.
According to Tucci, "I was attending Fay Butler's sheetmetal class in Massachusetts, where Butler introduced me to a tool called a sweep; used for measuring curves on body panels. These sweeps were machined by Jim Alley,at Profile Racing in St. Petersburg, Florida."
From here Tucci contacted Jim with the idea of purchasing a set of sweeps. As is often the case, one conversation led to another, which included the purchase of said sweeps, but the conversation moved into what exactly is done at Tucci Hot Rods. In turn that sparked Jim to tell Tucci about his '55 Chevy Nomad. It wasn't long before Jim was shipping his prized possession off to Tucci's shop in Marcy, New York.
Another Floridian Brent Gill penned the renderings that Jim and Tucci would talk over and build from. The '55 represented Chevrolet's first significant body and engineering (i.e. the 265 V-8 and 12V electrics) changes to a car that substantively had been around since 1941. The '55 Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad two-door station wagon (base price $2,472) saw 8,386 vehicles off the assembly line, making it the lowest production number of any '55 Chevy passenger car (excluding Corvette). Chevy specs for the '55 included a 115-inch wheelbase and most of the body styles had an overall length of 195.6 inches, while the Nomad, Beauville, Townsman, and Handyman were several inches longer at 197.1 inches. The station wagons tipped the scales around 3,200-3,300 pounds (other models were approximately 3,100 pounds).
An Alpine stereo with a Kicker...
An Alpine stereo with a Kicker amplifier and speakers is neatly tucked away in the rear cargo area. Wiring from American Autowire and insulation by way of Dynamat, all placed by Tucci Hot Rods.
Tucci's first significant design change was the windshield, after he sized up a '64 Impala one he had in the shop. They found that the windshield wouldn't need to be cut at the top but would need to be pinched approximately 1 inch on either side to match the roof sides. By installing the Impala windshield there was about 8 inches of the front section of the roof skin that needed to be removed, this gave the windshield a leaned backed and more streamlined appearance. It didn't take long to realize "it would fit". From here it was "game on" and the gennie chassis would be parked (literally) as an Art Morrison GT Sport Tri-Five replacement chassis with air ride would be used.
After the body was mounted to a custom-made jig, Tucci Hot Rods went to a local salvage yard. From here they brought back the roof from a '64 Impala, which they cut in the middle of the roof about 10 inches from the windshield and also halfway through the firewall. The '55 then had its roof skin removed, along with the complete windshield surround on the Nomad, including the cowl area. Next up was the removal of approximately 2 inches from the height of the roof skin, which gives the appearance of a top chop without changing the side glass height. With the windshield change, they had to remove the vent windows from the doors and create a one-piece door glass. All moldings were retained on the '64 Impala windshield surround and the original moldings above the door glass from the '64 Impala were modified and fitted in the '55 Chevy door window opening. The stock molding on the side glass and the original slider window style on the '55 Chevy was not modified.
Budnik Shotgun wheels and...
Budnik Shotgun wheels and custom headlight and taillight bezel work can be found. The custom tips with stainless steel mess and billet bezel are all the handiwork of Tucci's Hot Rods.
Next up came the original taillights, push them forward and at the same time, tilting them forward to get a much smoother look on the backside of the body. Tucci also installed the Rocky Hinge hidden power gas filler in the driver side taillight. After the taillights were complete, the crew at Tucci Hot Rods started looking at the tailgate and rear window assembly. The stock tailgate (upper and lower pieces) was scrapped in favor of a fabricated one-piece aluminum decklid. The original back glass bezel and glass were retained. This decklid uses an OEM-style hinge from a modern-day hatchback along with the latch mechanism.
Next up was fitting the Art Morrison Enterprises (AME) chassis. The chassis was changed to accommodate the humongous wheel and tire combo. Tucci wanted the chassis to accommodate Budnik Shotgun wheels measuring 20x8.5 and 22x10s. The rear tire size is a 305/50R22; in back new tapered rocker panels were fabbed to give the appearance that the car still had a rake at the roofline but appeared to sit level when completely aired out. Next the original Nomad tire openings were discarded and new openings hammered that were akin to a '55 sedan-style wheel opening.
Jet Hot using Jet Hot 2000...
Jet Hot using Jet Hot 2000 coating, along with Cool It Thermo-Tec exhaust insulating wrap can be found throughout the exhaust system.
A major change in the chassis was about to occur as Jim called Tucci and had an idea for using a Mark Williams' modular rearend. The original 9-inch Ford that AME designed for the car was shipped to Profile Racing where they machined an all aluminum rearend housing, incorporating the airbag mounts and machining titanium four-link brackets. Tucci also designed new front and rear sway bars that Profile Racing machined. A set of Wilwood six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers mounted to four 14-inch rotors supply the "whoa".
As is often the case with large projects, especially those treading new ground, Tucci opted to bring in more help. Ryan Butler was brought in to assist with some of the exterior sheetmetal and Matthew Harris came in to help clean up some of the dash and fabricate upper door panel sheetmetal.
Shortly it was noted that the front fenders appeared to have an uphill look from the door to the headlight assembly. Tucci used Xciting Lighting HID headlights. To overcome this, a wedge section was taken out of the fender by removing 11/2 inches at the front of the fender to zero at the door. A new bodyline needed to be fabricated on the fender where the molding sits over. This also changed the fit from the fender to the door so the rear portion of the front fender needed to be completely fabricated.
The "heartbeat" comes by way...
The "heartbeat" comes by way of a 502-inch big-block Chevy that pumps out 1,000 hp to the rear wheels and 1,100-plus lb-ft of torque.
Next up was the hood. The original '55 Chevy hood had a raised area from the fender to the middle of the hood and that wasn't going to work. An old customizer trick: Pancake the hood to make it give a smooth transition from the fender into the hood. The original raised portion of the middle of the hood that housed the '55 Chevy hood ornament was also removed and smoothed.
All hot rods need power. And if you think it is too much then you are probably getting close. Initially Jim wanted a 502 Chevy motor but in time and after a few back and forth conversations Tucci's idea for a twin-turbo setup took hold. It was fabricated at Tucci's shop with the help of Chris Miniker, who also fabricated the stainless steel headers up to the turbo flanges. Next up was Bill Dehimer of Full Throttle Performance to machine a custom set of throttle bodies and upper intake sections. Dehimer suggested they start with a Ram Jet 502 lower intake and use his individual throttle bodies to transition into two separate 4-inch aluminum tubes that would be connected to a double throttle body located at the front of the motor.
What started life as a Ford...
What started life as a Ford 9-inch quickly became something much more. Profile Racing machined an all aluminum rearend housing, airbag mounts, machined titanium four-link brackets, and the sway bars. Wilwood six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers are mounted to four 14-inch rotors.
A Vintage Air Front Runner was used to assist in keeping all engine drive components tight to the block. A custom radiator and fan shroud was built by Tucci utilizing a Vintage Air 18-inch electric fan. Engine compartment space was at a premium primarily because of the turbos. The complete exhaust system was fabricated from Stainless Works 3-inch mandrel-bent builder kit and a custom set of Flowmaster mufflers. Tucci fabricated custom tips that run through the rear bumper with a stainless mesh and billet bezel finishing off the exhaust. The exhaust system was coated from Jet Hot using Jet Hot 2000 coating, not only did they coat the complete exhaust, they completely covered the exhaust system with Cool It Thermo-Tec exhaust insulating wrap. This was to try to keep the underhood temperature down along with under car temperatures from the extreme heat the turbos produce.
Tucci used Bigstuff 3 engine management system and Patrick Barnhill. The Nomad makes 1,100-plus rear-wheel horsepower and 1,500-plus lb-ft of torqueat 5,500 rpm on pump gas. All of this power is handled by Budnik Shotgun wheels with powdercoated centers and a brushed outer hoop.
The front suspension is based...
The front suspension is based on an Art Morrison IFS with Mustang II-style dropped spindles, Bilstein shocks, Wilwood calipers and rotors, and a Unisteer rack-and-pinion.
Body and paintwork was another area that needed special attention and Tucci brought in Andre Carey from Andre's Customs and Rods for this project. Also helping apply Lizard Skin was Walt's Custom Body. Carey wasn't able to finish the bodywork and paint, so Tucci brought in Rich Thayer. DuPont had a new charcoal and orange they suggested and both Jim and Tucci agreed. From here Thayer laid out the unique two-tone paint scheme. After the paint was complete Tucci applied Dynamat on all the interior floor and door panels.
After the build on the air boxes and intercooler was complete, Tucci wanted to create a grille that was unique but retained the '55 look. Tucci took stainless tubing, flattened them in a press brake, and had Jim machine uprights that the flattened tubes would lock into. While doing this, they retained the stock hole openings that allowed them use the stock bezels. Tucci then asked Joe Arcuri from Arcuri Design to design a bezel that slid over the top and bottom of the grille uprights to finish off the ends. These pieces were machined by Profile Racing out of stainless steel.
An AccuAir e-Level air management system is employed to control the air suspension. A custom set of clutch, brake, and throttle pedals were fabricated by Tucci and connected to the Kugel Komponents reverse-mount 90-degree underdash system. Vintage Air also supplied them with the underdash A/C and heat unit. Tucci modified the dash by using the passenger side speaker bezel and installing it in the driver side to use the same bezels and installed a '55 gauge cluster by Classic Instruments with a custom-made clock for the passenger side and a matching boost gauge for the driver side. They used a stainless steel tilt column from Flaming River along with their steering wheel and U-joints coupled to a Unisteer power rack-and-pinion. Tucci used an Alpine DVD fli-out screen stereo head unit and Kicker speakers and amplifier.
The front seats were covered in leather by Rich Perez from RP Interiors, while the rest of the interior was finished by Jamie McFarland from McFarland Custom Upholstery. Also helping McFarland was Tom Bidle. Tucci used American Autowire Highway 22 system to handle of the electronics.
He fabricated a custom aluminum gas tank that incorporated an under belly pan that runs from under wheelwells to the custom rear bumper. Two more belly pans were also fabricated in the middle of the chassis; they were louvered by Louver's Unlimited.
As we mentioned earlier the whole is greater than its parts and we are thankful that Tucci and Jim gave it a shot.