The 1932 Ford Deuce Coupe has a reputation as the ultimate hot rod, and for good reason. It came out during the introduction of the flathead V8 engine and was highly sought-after from both a performance and design standpoint. Then, it experienced a resurgence in the '40s and '50s, especially as it became more affordable for the younger demographics and hot rodding culture really took off.
Finally, when the movie American Graffiti came out in 1973 -- directed by George Lucas and starring Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, and Cindy Williams -- a whole new generation of classic car enthusiasts, drag race fans, and would-be hot rodders was introduced to pure greatness. While there were a number of incredible muscle cars and roadsters in the movie -- from the '58 Chevrolet Impala to the '55 Chevy 2-door sedan to the '56 Ford Thunderbird -- the 1932 Ford coupe, driven by the character John Milner (Paul Le Mat), is on another level of iconic. The real deal. In fact, to this day, replicas of the American Graffiti coupe have been known to draw in serious crowds at street rod car shows all over America. I'm sure that eye-popping yellow paint job has a little bit to do with it.
1932 Ford Deuce Coupe From American Graffti: The Ultimate Movie Car
Between 1932 and 1934, Ford produced three cars -- the Model B, the Model 18, and the Model 40 -- that succeeded the Model A. While the Ford Model B was outfitted with an updated four cylinder, the Model 18 was the first Ford to come with the flathead V8. To make the most of that powerful Ford V8, hot rodders would strip weight off the coupe (one without fenders was known as a "high boy") and customize the engine. The Ford 5-window coupe was the most common body style, though the car also was available as a three-window coupe. These days, it's extremely rare to see an unmodified deuce coupe, as fiberglass body reproduction, and more recently, steel body reproduction (spearheaded by the Brookville Roadster company) is a common practice among customizers and classic car enthusiasts.
Besides American Graffiti, which took place around the San Francisco, California area, the '32 coupe's most famous pop culture reference is probably in the 1963 Beach Boys album Little Deuce Coupe. Not only is it a famous song on the album, but a three-window Ford coupe is displayed prominently on the album cover.
This post was originally published on November 7, 2019.