Back in 1999, then fresh out of WyoTech, a young Chad Glasshagel was looking to embark upon a career as a rod builder. In his small hometown of Elgin, Illinois, there was really only one option for a proper place to begin that new chapter in his life-The Roadster Shop. That didn't mean he was a shoe-in, though, as owner Bill O'Rourke had a reputation to uphold, only hiring the best. With enough pestering, Chad was able to convince him that he would not be let down if given the chance to work there, and while Bill unfortunately succumbed to cancer this past summer, we know for a fact that he was very proud to have him as a cherished member of The Roadster Shop staff. Proof of his assuredness can be found within the '56 Nomad pictured here-completely built by Chad from the ground up, of course, with the exception of the interior-which was stitched by his mom. But we're getting way ahead of ourselves
After a year or so working at The Roadster Shop, Chad decided to sell his first car, a '55 Chevy, because, as he so eloquently put it, "I couldn't say that I built it myself." As you might now guess, he wanted something he could truly call his own-something created from his very hands alone with little to no help from outside parties. As it turned out, his uncle offered him a '56 Nomad he'd had for 25 years (but didn't have time to do anything with), knowing that he would do right with it. And do right he did indeed. Of course, while Chad wanted his own personal stamping on every facet of the buildup, he didn't go into it completely alone. His new boss, Mr. O'Rourke, had plenty of input, including with the chassis, offering, "Why don't you make it sit and ride low all of the time?" The answer to that was the use of The Roadster Shop's first Tri-Five Chevy chassis, which allowed the body to be set as low as possible yet retain stock-like travel characteristics with the (non-adjustable) suspension. Having O'Rourke constantly peering over his shoulders was indeed an inspiration and definite motivation for the project, but he always stuck to his guns in making sure he did everything himself.
On top of the chassis-which includes a modified TCI triangulated four-link and Heidt's IFS, supporting 18- and 20-inch American Torq-Thrusts, respectively, with Wilwood discs and Aldan coilovers-Chad went big with the drivetrain, too. Instead of a measly small-block, he opted for one of GM's healthier offerings in the form of a 427 big-block, for which he traded a customer with the original wheels and tires off the wagon. And because he's still young and full of vigor, an automatic transmission wouldn't do-try a '97 T-56 six-speed tranny good for around-town gear-bangin' and highway cruising (especially with the 3.89-geared Currie 9-inch).
Building the chassis was no walk in the park (considering it was a new venture for the company, as well), and neither was the bodywork. Rather than drop a primered or even resto-style shell over the beautiful foundation, Chad went full-bore with the exterior, too. Nothing really major like some other well-known Nomads, but things such as the handles and various trim have been shaved, all inner fender panels and firewall smoothed, rear tubbed an inch on each side for the added rubber, hood de-birded, etc. Chad extended his resume even further by attempting and successfully completing his first full paint job; he used DuPont two-stage metallic sage green and black for a perfect two-tone and, as he put it, to emphasize "a sinister-looking low car". The polished five-spokes and stationary dropped stance all work nicely to achieve his desired look, as well.
Finally, albeit the one minor area where he would need some help, Chad wrapped up his 3 1/2-year project by enlisting the help of his mother to complete the Nomad's interior. Of course, he takes the credit for the smoothed dash, elongated glovebox, and custom-built center console, but good ol' mom was called in to help stitch the inner threads up (a mixture of gray vinyl and black '56 Bel Air cloth material). Auto Meter gauges, Billet Specialties steering wheel, and a Kenwood/Eclipse sound system complete the package.
As mentioned earlier, Chad's mentor and employer, Bill O'Rourke, passed away before the Nomad was taken out for its first showing (Goodguys Indy). He knows as well as the rest of us that Bill's looking down on him with a proud smile for a job well done.