The Unconventional 1956 Chevrolet El Camino – A Mysterious Butchered Bel Air Nomad that Challenges History


The 1920s saw the introduction of automobile-based pickups, or utes as they are known in Australia. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that Ford and Chevrolet joined the coupe utility trend that this body type became popular.

1956 Chevrolet El Camino That Shouldn't Exist Is a Butchered Bel Air Nomad - autoevolution

When Ford removed the roof of a Ranch Wagon to create the Ranchero in 1957, it was the first to do so. Two years later, Chevrolet joined in with the 1959 El Camino, which similarly had a full-size automobile as its base: the second-generation Biscayne.

Both nameplates soldiered on for decades and became the most iconic coupe utility vehicles built in the United States, overshadowing similar offers from the competition. The El Camino actually lasted a bit longer.

Even though it was discontinued in 1961, the Chevy ute returned in 1964 and remained in showrooms until 1987. That’s 26 years. The Ranchero, on the other hand, was sent into the history books in 1979, after 23 years on the market.

But what if the El Camino had arrived first at the coupe utility party in 1956, before the Ranchero? What would it have looked like back then, when the Biscayne wasn’t a thing?

Well, it would have been based on the full-size vehicle Chevrolet offered at the time, namely the Tri-Five series. The latter was available in every body style save for a pickup and came in three different trim levels: 150, 210, and Bel Air.

And a ute would have been totally doable back then since the Tri-Five lineup also included a two-door station wagon. The latter was available in all three trims, so the El Camino could have gotten them as well, with a Bel Air as a range-topper. But that didn’t happen, so it’s almost pointless to discuss that now, right?

Well, not quite, because someone actually built a 1956 El Camino.

Discovered by “Corner Classic Car Hunter” in what appears to be a salvage yard, this pickup is essentially a butchered Nomad. How can we be sure? Mostly because it still carries “Bel Air” badges on the rear fender and the marks left by the chrome trim suggest that as well.

The build isn’t all that awful if we look beyond its terrible condition as a car. Whoever made this conversion added a wall and a rear window to separate the cabin from the bed and retained the lower tailgate, which gives the truck a rather unique look.

Unfortunately, though, the pickup is in poor condition. According to the sticker on the windshield, this vehicle was last titled in the early 1980s, which means it spent more than 40 years off the road. But was it built before that and used for a few years?

Was the conversion completed after the Nomad was taken off the road? That’s a piece of information I don’t have, but it’s definitely worth saving as a project car.

But here’s the interesting thing: I’ve seen this pickup before. I first spotted it for sale back in April 2022. It was parked in a junkyard and advertised for $10,000.

About five months later, the chopped Nomad resurfaced again, with a lower sticker. I haven’t traced it since, but the vehicle appears to be in a different yard now, according to the video below.

This could mean that whoever bought it is trying it flip it, but it could also mean that it’s waiting its turn to be revived.

And I’m hoping it’s the latter because I’d really love to see this strange yet cool hauler back on the road. The only dilemma here is whether we should call it a Belamino or a Nomadino. What do you think?

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