ROCK up to just about any US car show and you’ll find almost as many lead sleds and customs as you will hot rods, muscle cars and street machines. While Australia has had its fair share of stylish customs, we’re nowhere near as prolific as they are over there. Looking at Richard Bell’s uber-cool EH ‘Nomad’, one has to wonder why. No matter where it goes, this long-roof ’64 turns every head in sight.
First published in the June 2021 issue of Street Machine
Even at Summernats – where you suffer sensory overload from being swamped with jaw-dropping machinery – this EH stopped everyone in their tracks when it rocked up in 1998. The judges loved it, punters loved it, and heck, Chic Henry even gave it his Promoter’s Choice award. Same story when it graced the pages of the April/May 1998 issue of Street Machine. It was a smash hit and went on to become a SMOTY finalist. Talk about instant classic!
“It started out as a bit of a roughie; the floors were rusted and so were lots of other places,” says Richard. “I built it in my spare time over about six months. I used another EH wagon and ute – it took three cars to make one!”
To fashion his Aussie Nomad, Richard lengthened the doors 190mm by using the lower part of the donor ute’s B-pillar and the upper part of the other wagon’s rear C-pillar. To fill in the gaps, he acquired two complete new quarter panels as well as two new door skins. The roof is stock. A Gemini donated its window mechanisms to get the front glass rolling up and down. By using the wagon C-pillar and moving it forward to the B-pillar, the two angles match, giving the EH a very factory appearance. Looks great, doesn’t it?
This car was more about style than going fast. That said, what looked like a factory 149ci red motor was, in fact, a 186 bored and stroked to 208 and equipped with a Cain intake and four-barrel Rochester carby. Backing the worked six was a Celica five-speed.
“The engine is from Roadrunner Performance and has been rebuilt about six times,” says Richard. “I’ve had it since 1984; it actually predates the Nomad! It got stolen along the way and went missing for around two years before I got it back.”
Initially, the Nomad was going to be painted EH factory green. However, as well as being a parts chaser, it also had to promote Richard’s then-business, B&L Classic Auto Restoration in Orange. Hyundai Red was a far more attention-grabbing option, yet still looks period-correct.
As a package, it was the full monty – a car still talked about today, 23 years later.
Despite calling himself a hot rodder (he’s currently building a 1937 Chev sedan delivery), the Nomad was not Richard’s only EH. “I was born in ’64; I love my EHs,” he says. “I’ve had a few sedans and a really nice blue panel van.”
Initially, the Nomad’s front end was a bit of a mismatch, which had to be sorted to make it nice to drive. After that, it ended up buried in the corner of the shed for 18 years, with Richard dragging it back out around six years ago.
“I got it out for my son; he’s got his own EJ project underway, but he’d never ridden in the Nomad.”
Recent updates include a short LJ Torana diff and deep-dish satin Center Lines. Richard has also bought a hot motor for it.
“It’s a state title winner,” he says, “a 235ci XU-1 stroker built by Bill Mann from Gympie. It used to have McGee injection on it, but I’ve got triple 45mm Webers for it.”
If it ends up in the Nomad, it’ll have style and speed in equal measure. All of which just reinforces how timeless a custom can be. Again, why aren’t more Aussies building them?
PILLAR OF CREATIVITY
“I BOUGHT the car off an old lady as a daily and potential parts chaser,” Richard recalls. “I had it parked in the backyard trying to figure out what I was going to do with it. As a kid, I had a model of a metallic gold ’55 Chevy Nomad – I’ve always loved the look of them. As I sat there contemplating, it dawned on me that if I lengthened the door and slanted the B-pillar forward, I could turn the four-door wagon into an Aussie two-door Nomad. Being a hot rodder, I was used to chopping roofs and messing around with pillars and making doors. Doing that kind of stuff was pretty easy for me! I think even now it still stands on its own – a timeless machine.”
CUSTOM EH HOLDEN WAGON
|Type:||186ci Holden six stroked to 208ci|
|Exhaust:||X2 headers, 2¼in exhaust|
|Springs & shocks:||Lowered springs, Monroe shocks (f & r)|
|Body:||New rear quarters, new front door skins and inner panels, doors extended 190mm|