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Lot 409: Chevrolet Bel Air Nomad Sport Wagon

Exceptional Motorcars - Session III, Bonhams & Butterfields (19 August 2011)

To many collectors, Chevrolet's 1957 lineup is the apogee of the decade's American car design. Aesthetically you can pick the '57 Chevys apart in detail, but as a whole, it must be admitted that they are pure magic. And the engineers cranked up the power with a huge range of options, from a 140 horsepower, 235 cubic-inch 6-cylinder to a 283-horsepower 283-cubic inch fuel-injected V8  one horsepower per cubic inch, in a tidy, lightweight motor.

This year also saw the last of the elegant Nomad two-door hardtop sport wagons and many collectors think it's the best looking, as the new body lines were blended neatly into the existing passenger compartment. It's the rarest Nomad anyway, with only 6,103 sold, perhaps because it remained Chevrolet's most expensive model after the Corvette. The sport wagon style did not return in 1958, though the name persisted on a commonplace Bel Air wagon with only the vertical trim-pieces on the tailgate as a reminder of its past.

This wagon joined the Lewis collection in 2007 from Purdy's Classic Memories in Milwaukie, Oregon. Before that it was in Heppner, in Eastern Oregon's high desert, an almost perfect climate for preservation. It's a frame-off restoration, finished in Matador Red and India Ivory, with the interior in Matador Red and black cloth. The paint is excellent and the panel fit accurate, with very nice trim and chrome. The interior, with its revised instrument panel is excellent and correct and the car has power steering, a radio and a clock. All the glass is good, as are the windshield and door seals.

Under the hood, the car is powered by the 225-horsepower, 283 cubic-inch V8 engine with a 4-barrel carburetor, driving through a Powerglide automatic transmission and dual exhaust. The engine compartment is clean and correct, though the black paint around the radiator cowl is not typical, and rather shiny. The car has a 3-piece front bumper and the taillights have been highlighted with blue dots.

A rare and practical car, it combines all of the style, comfort and performance of a '57 Bel Air Coupe with the tractability of a wagon tailgate. And the rear seats fold down to create a flat loading floor--should you wish to have the most stylish ride in the Home Depot parking lot.

Lot Details
Auction Exceptional Motorcars - Session III
Bonhams & Butterfields, Quail Lodge, Carmel, California
TypeCar
Lot Number409
Estimate$55000-$65000
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$46000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$53820
Year1957
Condition rating0
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis numberVC570101661
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2