Tom Wilson
November 2, 2012

John Heermann is one of those young men you're sure to read about more than once. The Colorado farmer and sheetmetal man was just 21 years old in 2010 when attending the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Between his Ag Economics studies, he read an article in our sister mag Mustang Monthly describing the Roller Hoop rotisserie offered by Auto Kraft, in--of all places--Lincoln, Nebraska. Out of curiosity, John stopped by Auto Kraft www.autokraftnebraska.com and before you could strike a gas axe, the irrepressible metal ace and Auto Kraft proprietor Doug Kielian gave John a job. Doug is something of a Pied Piper of nascent auto-body talent. He spotted John's hard-core farm-bred work ethic and searing desire and thought he could direct it to good use. He was right.

By the end of this story, you'll find John sweated bullets to hand-build the incredibly cool, sophisticated custom Mustang gracing these pages--and under that sexy late-'60s bodywork, there's an '11 Mustang GT. Yes, the bodywork is all-metal, and no, this isn't another bolt-on wonder, but a real one-off piece of auto art. The effort and vision required to execute a job of this magnitude is far off the charts for the typical car enthusiast, and if John wasn't made of the right stuff, or Doug wasn't able to spot those gifts or willing to slave himself to stewarding the project to completion, this car never would have been built. It started with--what else--the '11s taillights. In July 2010, the Auto Kraft crew went to a modest Mustang show at a local Ford dealer and took in their first in-the-steel view of the '11 Mustangs. As John put it, he overheard Doug and others discussing how unfortunate they found the 2011 rearend treatment and how they would change it, should they have a chance.

The next day, John made the 500-mile trip back to Colorado to work the farm for three days. "I thought about that car pretty hard," recalled John. Then he returned to Lincoln, "And [on July 15, 2010] bought a black 2011 5.0 that was on the lot. I didn't tell Doug or Stefanie (Doug's wife). I just showed up at Auto Krafters." You can imagine the surprise of that arrival, but what's more, John was ready to cut up the car that afternoon. "I thought I'd do just the taillights or something minor." The Kielians offered the near-parental advice to drive the achingly new Mustang a few days--enjoy it and think about it. Knowing good advice when he heard it, John said, "I drove it five and a half months," even taking it on the road course at Hastings, Nebraska, for a little fun. Even so, as seen here, the car has but 1,700 miles on it.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

In the fall of 2010, John went to the SEMA show in Las Vegas with Doug, and John zero'd in on the '60s-themed Mustangs sitting outside the main show hall. "I liked the idea but not the proportions," said John, following by, "So if they could do it in glass, I figured I could do it in metal." He wanted something more structural and not an overlay atop the 2011 bodywork. Also wanting more in-depth metal work tutoring, John flew to Connecticut and took a three-day, 36-hour metal shaping class from Wray Schelin. Then, "In early December, I gutted the interior and put it in my room." But John had second thoughts and reinstalled the interior. Screwing up his courage again, "The day after Christmas 2010, I took the interior all out again. On Dec. 26, I brought the car into the shop at Auto Krafters."

John ordered a selection of early Mustang Dynacorn skins. From the '68 fastback he got quarter-panels, door skins, front fenders, and a decklid; the rear body panel, rear and front valance, and front grille are '69 parts. While waiting for the sheetmetal to arrive, John took the car back to Colorado and stripped it. On January 25, 2011 he trailered it back to Lincoln, "…called the glass guy in, and he removed the rear and quarter-windows. He wondered what the heck we were doing."

"I didn't know where to start, but I got out the Sawsall. The car didn't have a scratch in it and had 1,400 miles on it. So I cut into the quarter-window area. I cut off a little of the quarter-panel to check fit on the '68 quarter-panel and there were a lot of problems...I didn't know where to cut the '68 quarter-panel to make it fit." "So, eventually I cut the '68 panel into six pieces, maybe, and then we just started down the side of the car. We ended up with just the door skin, I guess. I had to cut off the outer door skin and modify the '68 and '69 door skins to fit, somehow."

"By June, it started looking like a car," and Doug's idea was to get the car to SEMA in November. A call to Bill Smith at Speedway Motors got the car a date in the AFCO/Dynotech booth, and the pressure was really on. John's response was to let go of whatever was left of life other than his Mustang. "By June I gave up everything social. I just worked on the farm all day, then went to the shop. In July I started sleeping in the shop…slept on a creeper for two weeks. My parents were wondering what the hell I was doing or where I was at; my dad ordered an old army cot."

As for the hood, John "decided I'd do the whole car out of metal, so I might as well use the stock aluminum '11 hood. So, it got flattened out a little bit and lengthened. The front 14 inches is all built from scratch ... and I had to rebuild the inner structure to have something to wrap the skin around." John didn't finish the metalwork and detailing until the first week in September. The car was still in bare metal, and he hadn't touched the taillights yet. He had no good idea on how he was going to handle them. It seems Ford isn't the only one who's struggled with those taillights.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery