1957 Chevrolet Nomad vs 1957 Pontiac Safari


Clash of the Classics

Those folks that have been tuning in to our “Horsepower for an Hour” radio broadcast regularly, know that each week we go head to head between two classic model cars on our “Clash of the Classics” segment. We look at what was new and innovative for the time and take a stroll down memory lane, gently massaging that part of us that loves to “Remember When”. Most of us, especially those that are older, will readily confess, we love to relax with a cup of tea by a warm fire and fondly recall the days of our youth, remembering those days when somehow, life seemed just a bit simpler.

1957 Chevrolet Nomad vs.1957 Pontiac Safari

Chevy Nomad 1957Today on Clash of the Classics the battle stage is set,  the 1957 Chevy Nomad vs 1957 Pontiac Safari. We’ll start with the Chevy, the Nomad had a run from 1955 to 1972 but it’s definitely best remembered in it’s 1955 -1957 form. Chevrolet advertised it back then as “The Hot One” and it was an appropriate slogan. 1957 was the first year for the 283 C.I.D.small block and it was destined to become an icon in the industry. Many will argue that America was built on the back of the 283 small block engine and many of us here at Horsepower Broadcasting are inclined to agree, the 327 C.I.D. and the ultimate heavy hitter 350 C.I.D. were all given birth by by the early 283 design.

Chevy Nomad Powertrain

Nomad Engine

The cast iron Powerglide automatic transmission was becoming more and more popular over the three (3) speed manual transmission and more ladies were becoming buyers of the new automatic transmission technology. Chevy had a little known transmission back then called a Turboglide that many folks have never heard of, it was a complete disaster and GM discontinued it in 1960 or 1961. Trust us folks, we hope we never see that transmission again.

Hollywood loved the early Nomads and they were regularly used in several well known movies such as:

* American Graffiti
* Lethal Weapon 3
* Home Improvement
* Peggy Sue Got Married
* American Hotrod

Chevy sold just over 20,000 Nomads from 1955 to 1957 and the original MSRP was somewhere near $2,857.00. Today the asking price is just a bit higher, in fact, models that are in good condition will easily be sold for well over $100,000.00, not a bad return on your investment.

1957 Pontiac Safari

Pontiac Safari 1957 title picThe early Pontiac Safari on the other hand was never quite the success that the Nomad was and although basic size, shape and structure were remarkably similar, somehow the Pontiac never seemed to catch on with the American public and the line was discontinued in 1957. The only engine option that was available for the 1957 Pontiac Safari was the 347 C.I.D. Handling the ratio changes was the continually problematic Strato-Flight automatic transmission. (Cadillac used a similar version of this transmission called a “Jetaway” with some degree of success but ultimately the transmission was discontinued in the early 1960’s.)

1957 Motor Trend Magazine Reports:

Pontiac Safari engine 1957Many believe that the end of production was brought about because of a poor review Motor Trend Magazine published in the late 50’s stating the 1957 Pontiac Safari was “disappointing”. Motor Trend went on to report that car idled rough, ran poorly, the transmission was a nuisance, and overall, the car was “no fun in day to day driving”. That statement may just have helped seal the fate of the Safari because the next year, the car was gone.

The 1957 Pontiac Safari was originally sold for about $3,481.00, today a model in good condition will easily command $130,000.00 or more. Part of the reason they are so valuable today is because ultimately Pontiac only produced about 9,000 units back in those early days.

Whether you’re a fan of the Chevy or a fan of the Pontiac, either way, you’ll come out a winner! Find a station in your area that carries the show on our convenient station finder or simply download the podcast and listen in at your leisure. Clash of the Classics is a very popular segment that happens every week, see you next time.

Horsepower for an Hour is a nationally syndicated automotive talk radio show heard all across America and in more than 172 Countries world wide

Horsepower for an Hour is a nationally syndicated automotive talk radio show heard all across America and in more than 172 Countries world wide

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About Author

Donny is a Southern California specialty shop owner with primary emphasis on transmission and differential systems. He is an automotive technology graduate with over 30 years of experience. He and his wife own DMC Transmission outside of Los Angeles and were awarded “Shop of the Year” honors in 2010 and 2011.

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  1. Johnny Martinez on

    A very good friend of mine and neighbor has one of these wagons, I have had the opportunity to work on it several times. Being its rare and Pontiacs version to the Chevrolet Nomad it makes it stand out. They were never as popular as the Chevrolet Nomads back in the day but now over time they have become collectors and stand in popularity and may be considered as popular as the Nomads we all know… I have driven my friends Safari many times…. it very much feels like a very big car and handles like a giant… still easy and friendly to drive.

    • Hi Johnny, I agree the Safari is preferred. When we did this segment on air, I thought the Nomad would be an easy winner but much to our surprise, the majority of the listeners liked the Safari better. It’s rarer and cooler!!!!!!

  2. I remember as a child riding to school in brand new black and white 1957 Chevy Nomad. This was somewhere in 1957-58. It was and still is love at first sight.

    • Jeffrey Morgulis on

      Mark, thank you for your comment and to our article. We appear to be on the same page as to what Classic Cars mean. It is all about Nostalgia with a capital “N”. Wait and watch as we create a “video version” of our “Clash of the Classics” made popular on our radio show Horsepower for an Hour, heard all over the USA.

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