Car movie of the day: ‘American Graffiti’

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Editor’s note: Car guys, and even car girls, can take only so much of those Hallmark holiday movies that fill the airwaves and cable systems this time of year. As an automotive alternative, we’re offering our own suggestions of our favorite car movies for your viewing pleasure. Check out more of our favorite car movies here.


Before he made it huge with a little film called Star Wars, director George Lucas co-wrote and directed American Graffiti.

The film tells the exploits of groups of teenagers in small-town California over the final night before they all go their separate ways -– some on to college, some not. American Graffiti used vignettes to tell the stories, but we’re here to focus on the cars.

From Terry “The Toad” Field’s 1958 Chevrolet Impala to John Milner’s 1932 Ford coupe, the movie is full of some great American classics and even features a drag race. We won’t tell you who wins, but the ’32 Ford takes on Bab Falfa’s tuned 1955 Chevrolet. It’s a real doozy on “paradise road.”

A young Suzanne Somers cruises in a 1955 Ford Thunderbird in <i>American Graffiti</i>. | Universal Pictures Screenshot
A young Suzanne Somers cruises in a 1955 Ford Thunderbird in American Graffiti. | Universal Pictures Screenshot

Oh, don’t forget the blonde — played by Suzanne Somers — in the 1955 Ford Thunderbird. She’s important.

The movie is basically a portrayal of cruising culture among baby boomers and was judged to be so culturally significant that the Library of Congress placed it in the National Film Registry.

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Carter Nacke is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He began his career at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix, the largest news radio station in Arizona, where he specialized in breaking news and politics. A burgeoning interest in classic cars took him to the Journal in 2018. He's still on the hunt for his dad's old 1969 Camaro.

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