“Sickness”: Tom Bailey’s Street-Legal ’55 Nomad Gasser On NITRO!

Having driven what is effectively a Pro Modified car several thousand miles around various parts of the country on his way to two of his four Drag Week titles, Tom Bailey has done some wild things in his racing career, but even his “Sick Second 2.0” Camaro — all 4,000-plus street-able horses and 250 miles-per-hour of it — pales in comparison to his latest project.

In his latest (ad)venture, Bailey has teamed with Dennis and Alex Taylor at Hot Rods by Dennis Taylor in Arkansas to create a vehicle that he says “aims to do as many things wrong as possible, while still being fast.”

Bailey’s still-under-construction 1955 Chevrolet Nomad will raise your eyebrows a little higher the longer you read about it.

The wagon, as you can see, will have a traditional “Gasser” style appearance, with a higher stance and, of course, a straight front axle, with a full tube chassis housed underneath to provide the bones of a highly-capable racing machine. However, in a departure from his two Drag Week-winning Camaro’s that have relied on turbochargers, Bailey and crew chief/co-pilot/engine builder Steve Morris have bolted a screw supercharger atop an SMX (481X-style) big-block engine, with….get this….three choices of fuels: gasoline, methanol, and nitromethane.

If you were to build your dream car and it could somehow function, what would be the coolest car you could think of? So this really brings together as many cool things as we could think of, all into one car.

Bailey will utilize the gasoline fuel system on the street, the methanol for racing, and the elixir of the Gods…nitro…for burnouts and cackling. Wild stuff. And if that isn’t enough, he’ll eschew a big set of slicks — seemingly necessary for an engine combination capable of 4,000-5,000 horsepower, for drag radials. He really wasn’t kidding when he said he’s “aiming to do everything wrong,” but at the same time, do everything right.

“Sick Seconds 1.0 is an awesome car and great for driving around; 2.0 is as purpose-built as you’re going to get, and that’s not the one I’m going to take to the car show. So to take a step back, if I was to have one car that was super cool to go race, as well as to take to a car show, this is what I’d do,” Bailey explains. “And that’s the idea behind it. The goal is to get it into the sixes, and it will have the power to do it, but it also has a ’55 Nomad hanging on it, with a straight front axle.”

He continues, “with 2.0, the goal was to see how quick and fast we could go with something that’s street legal, and we really pushed the limits on that, so then it was a question of, ‘well what’s next? How cool can we make something.’ If you were to build your dream car and it could somehow function, what would be the coolest car you could think of? So this really brings together as many cool things as we could think of, all into one car. The idea is that if you had today’s technology in the 1960’s and you were building a Gasser, how would you build it? This car will have all of the modern technology, but it’ll look like a traditional Gasser.”

As you’d expect, this ’55 will be fully street legal, with the intent of contesting Drag Week, Rocky Mountain Race Week, and Midwest Drags, and also starring in Bailey’s usual series of internet and racetrack shenanigans when it debuts on-track next season.

“Sickness,” as it will be known, will utilize a combination of a ‘C’ and ‘D’ rotor screw superchargers from Darren Mayer — the ‘D’ rotor will be driven on the street, with excess boost beyond around 10-pounds routed out of the system (possibly through a wastegate on the backside of the supercharger sent back through the injector hat), and the ‘C’ rotor swapped in upon arrival at the track. Three separate fuel systems and tanks will be onboard at all times, positioned underneath the body.

The screw supercharger combination was proven two seasons ago by NHRA competitors Jonnie Lindberg and Richie Crampton in their street-legal wagon, and Bailey, after driving a screw-blown Pro Modified car, was convinced to take on the challenge.

“I drove Skinny’s [Keith Engling] car and fell in love with the screw blower setup, so we want to do it on the street — it’s such a ‘cool’ factor,’ Bailey says.”

Even on methanol, Bailey will have with the power potential under the hood to run in the fives to the 1/4-mile, and making it all work on a drag radial tire, with a higher center of gravity and a straight axle, is sure to pose a unique tuning and driving challenge.

“The idea with the nitro, being on radials, is now you go to Duck’s race [drag radial promoter Donald Long] in South Georgia, and you pull up to the line, on nitro, with zoomies…can you imagine what the starting line will be like? he asks with a laugh. “And we can adjust the timing a little and get a nice flame out of it at idle.”

Bailey says the idea came to mind for this project in 2018 — he was originally going to build a car specifically for the drag-and-drive Gasser classes, but the limitations of the category were going too far backward for his liking. Instead, he opted to build the Gasser he wanted, understanding it would fit into the Unlimited class with lighter, quicker, and more capable cars. But, competing isn ‘t really the end goal, but rather, proving to himself and others that something this unique can be done.

“There will obviously be obstacles, and that’s the cool part about it is figuring out something that’s different. This is taking something that’s not a street combination and making it reliable and drivable,” he explains. “We’ve worked extensively with Daren Mayer just to figure out how to make the screw blower live for 1,200 miles.”

Those who have been in-the-know on the “Sickness” project have given resoundingly positive reviews, but Bailey knows some of the vintage purists will take offense to his creation.

“I’m sure that it will have all the purists upset, because it’ll be called a Gasser, but they’ll have a variety of reasons to share on why it’s not one…which is good, because with 2.0, I get told all of the reasons why it’s not a street car.”

Bailey is partnering with tuner Shane Tecklenburg on the project, and so the project will utilize a MoTec ECU; however, the extent to which the car can rely on electronic fuel injection — or be forced to run some aspects mechanically — is still to be determined. “Sickness” will sport a QuickDrive lock-up transmission and torque converter, mated with a 7-speed manual Liberty transmission with a custom gear cut and a Gear Vendors Overdrive (that’s eight man-sticks protruding from its case, one for reverse and seven forward gears, with two sixth gears, one with a larger detent).

For those curious, Tom hasn’t put “Sick Seconds 2.0” out to pasture, by any means; the record-setting machine was damaged in a fire during an exhibition at the NHRA Gatornationals in March, but he and Morris are hard at work making repairs to get it back on the street and the strip, so it can show it’s new sibling a thing or two. Bailey also noted that the Nomad won’t be the last Drag Week-style build to be added to his arsenal this season, with another ongoing project slated to be announced in the coming weeks. The completed “Sickness” is slated to be unveiled to the public at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas this fall.

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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