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Shop owner John Diermeier is up against the clock with this 1968 Camaro build

Shop Owner Up Against Tight Deadline

John Gunnell has been writing about classic cars since 1972. He is also the owner of Gunner’s Great Garage in Manawa, Wis. He owns 11 cars and seven motorcycles.

*See photos with notes below

Shop owner John Diermeier hasn’t been sleeping much the past week or so. Like many small businessmen, Diermeier understands the meaning of the customer is always right.

Diermeier, owner of Manawa, Wisconsin-based John’s Custom Auto, has been working on one particular customer’s 1968 Camaro convertible for nearly a year. Now, it’s car show season and the man wants the car D-O-N-E!

Diermeier said he’s pulling out all stops to get the Camaro together by June 1. He has fewer than 20 days to hit his goal and the calendar is racing quickly toward June. It’s going to be a job for Diermeier to reach the finish line by the first day of next month. But, each step brings him closer.

Trust The Process

Last October, the ’68 Camaro was a door-less body shell covered with yellow primer. Diermeier had the body sitting on a move-around cart he had built. By Feb. 1, both doors were fitted back on the car and shiny red paint had been applied to the body.

Diermeier likes PPG’s CONCEPT (DCC) paint. It is a single stage acrylic and requires far less buffing than other finishes. He said it’s more expensive than other finishes, but the buffing time he saves more than offsets the additional cost of the paint. PPG CONCEPT is a single stage, two-component product. It provides exceptional gloss and color match. It comes in single-stage solid and metallic colors, according to the company.

By April 4, Diermeier was installing a new wiring harness. Over the years he has done lots more than just basic body work. He does work on fiberglass cars, boats, snowmobiles and anything else that contributes to the bottom line. Projects like the Camaro tend to be more interesting than fixing a deer-damaged everyday driver.

As the project moved into May, Diermeier began chassis re-assembly. He recalled the owner had said the car was bottoming out. This inspired some front and rear chassis work and a conversion to multi-leaf springs that was completed May 3.

On May 5, Diermeier enlisted his son Ian (a power boat tech) to help him install the 327-cid V-8 and transmission into the Camaro. That and other chores ate up eight weekend hours. On May 8 the car went back on wheels and tires, bringing the project to its current state.

The Camaro needs front end sheet metal, interior trim and a new convertible top.

In 1968, Chevy built convertible tops on a side assembly line. It took 20 minutes to assemble a top on a jig. Convertibles were spaced to come down the line every 20 minutes. About the time they got done building the top a convertible body would emerge. They’d take the top, set it on the car, bolt it in, run it up and down and it would fit perfectly almost every time.

Diermeier realizes he can’t get a top installed that quickly, but he doesn’t have any spare time either. His project is in high gear and he wants to get it done. He knows that all shops have their crunch times and now it’s his turn to step on the gas.

Do you think he’ll make it? We’ll check back in a few weeks to see if the deadline gets met.