Sometimes, a certain age is a turning point. For Jon Backlund, it was
41. His father and grandfather both died at that age, so when Backlund turned
41 he made two important decisions: He quit smoking, and he started building
his “Wonder Car” with the money he saved from not buying cigarettes. He turns
70 next month.
Backlund said he calls his creation the Wonder Car because people
wonder what kind of car it is, and because a friend usedto tease him by
wondering when it was going to be finished.
The Wonder Car began 25 years ago as a Kelmark kit car, but only the
nose and chassis are from the Kelmark. The rest is handmade. Backlund learned
to use fiberglass from a $5 book. He formed the body’s basic shape out of wood,
aluminum and chicken wire, and then he covered it with fiberglass.
The engine, mounted right behind the driver, is a 350-cubic-inch
Chevrolet V-8, and it drives the rear wheels through a four-speed transmission
and transaxle. His car has a Cadillac steering column, seats from a Chevy van,
a dashboard from a Kenworth road tractor and a front suspension from a
Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. “It handles like a Corvette and rides like a Cadillac,”