Unlike the country where I come from, American young automotive enthusiasts have an advantage of obtaining a driver’s license when they are only sixteen years old. In addition to that it seems that since consumerism hit US finding a car to drive is one of the easiest things to do. My dad always told me that number of car accidents would fall to only 30% of the current number, if parents stop buying fast cars to their kids. He was always telling me that in France there are much less car accidents because French parents don’t buy cars to their children, and that their sons and daughters need to earn enough money to buy their first car themselves. That’s why French kids never drive fast.
I’m not so sure if this story was true, or it was just an excuse for him not to buy me a car. I remember going to a rich friend’s 18th birthday (which in my country is something like a sweet sixteen) bringing cheapest wine bottle in gift wrap and seeing used VW Golf Mk4 with a big red ribbon on its roof. Thinking, omg this is what i call a birthday present. If my dad was thinking like the rich dad who shows off his love with a used Golf, I would probably never like cars as much as I do now. Since collecting enough money to buy your first vehicle when you are 20 something is probably one of the first steps in becoming an auto freak. Guys and girls who got stuff like these for their birthdays, usually get fed up with them very fast.
So lets get back the US, wonderland where 16, 17 and 18 year old kids drive their own cars. Not the ones their daddy both them. One of the favorite American past times is cruising. Driving cars slowly around town, just for the fun of it. Doing that in groups, race each other on traffic lights and pick up girls and booze along the way. All that without thinking of fuel consumption, driving safety or any other thing accept which station to play on your car radio. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
One of the most iconic movies in which cruising is presented in the best possible way, in which one of the favorite past time activities of American youth is dissected to bits, thoroughly inspected and built back again from scrap like John Milner’s yellow ’32 Deuce Coupe.
So here are the cars from American Graffiti, photos and stories about their owners and drivers:
John Milner’s 1932 Ford Model B (a.k.a. the 32′ Deuce Coupe )
This is one of the most legendary pieces in this movie. After the movie rose to stardom together with John Milner, vast number of hotrods and low riders start buying old Deuces and chopping their tops off, so they can look like the one seen in the American Graffiti. This is interesting, because the chopped top is the thing that made this car pass the audition and reminded John Lucas on his adulthood cruising days in Modesto during the sixties. It is also the first car to have a V8 engine, and definitely a right choice for John Milner since it emphasize both sides of his personality. He’s an agressive hotrod as well as kind and good hearted bloke who’s feeling a little bit insecure being the top dog in small town Modesto.
Stevie Bolander’s 1958 Chevrolet Impala
Perspective college boy Stevie Bolander drives a nice 1958 Chevrolet Impala, with custom Cadillac tail lights, twin pipes, chrome rims and truck and roll upholstery. Although they are not mentioned in the movie Stevie’s parents might have something to do with this kiddo owning this luxury piece. Stevie’s a career man, he’s got a shinny car, cute girlfriend and a plan to go to college. Unfortunately or luckily, there’s always something that messes up our big plans, in this case it was love for Laurie and fond of his friends and easy life he has in Modesto.
Stevie’s Impala did wonders for Terry The Toad. This modest nerdy guy would never had a night like that if he stick to its Vespa. Driving Chevy Impala, which was considered to be a luxury piece at the time give him chance to drink some nice booze, get into a fight and score. What a night for The Toad.
Bobby Falfa’s 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air
Seeing Harrison Ford in his later roles, it is really hard to imagine him as an arrogant asshole named Bobby Falfa. He wants to prove his macho image by racing with John Milner. Bobby drives powerful Chevy, and he is one of the top dogs of the “Paradise Road” racing strip. His car is much more faster than Johnny’s 32′ Deuce, but he lacks the handling skills, which is why he ended up crushing this beautiful Chevy in the movie finale.
Laurie’s 1958 Ford Edsel
Although this vehicle was produced for only three model years, it is a nice pick for a girl like Laurie. This car simply looks nice, especially with an interesting grille design. Most of the people still don’t know why Edsel was discontinued so quickly, and never earned so much fame as its main rival Chevy Impala.
Curt’s 1967 Citroen 2CV AZA
One of the biggest bloopers in this movie is the use of Citroen from the end of the sixties in the story that’s placed in the end of the fifties. Curt would definitely be a hipster today. He drives an odd looking European car, continues his life in Canada so he can escape the draft and believes into the power of the moment, just one look from the beautiful blond driving a T-bird can make him spend all the night looking a way to see this girl again.
Cop’s 1961 Ford Galaxie
Ford Galaxie police car became the most famous car from the whole movie, although it is shown only in one scene. This great vehicle became victim of a bad boy prank in one of the most popular scenes in American cinematography. After this movie saw the big screens there were a lot of doubt that this stunt is even possible. Maybe some jack-ass enthusiasts even tried it, maybe even on a real police car… Hope that a poor bastard survived the beating that followed his arrest.
Pharaoes’s 1951 Mercury Sport Coupe
This vehicle looks mean and intimidating. Same as the guys who drive it. Pharaoes are a mean greaser gang, who likes to drink, fight, pull off police car’s rear axles and do all the other things greasers enjoy. Their ride is a typical bad boy’s choice, with not much comfort, power or functionality, but with a bulged hood and a style that looks like something only the gang of angry greasers would drive.
Mystery Girl’s 1956 Ford Thunderbird
Girl who needs only one look and ”Love you” whisper to make Curt go crazy, can’t be anything other than perfect. Her ride is as perfect as her smile, since she deserves nothing less than luxury that early T-Bird models provided. Ford Thunderbird was one of the first personal luxurious sport cars and the whole scene of her smiling and whispering to Curt is definitely one of the most funkiest and the sexiest ever filmed. Mystery girl’s 1956 Ford Thunderbird plays an important role in the scene, and if she did the same thing from the sidewalk for instance, she would be a plain prostitute.
Another thing that proves how cool is this car, is the rumor from the shoot that says that the owner of T Bird was present during the whole film set, watching at his pet, and that he was constantly giving orders on how to treat his 1956 Ford Thunderbird.