Iconic cruise car slated to be among Cut the Gut classics

‘American Graffiti’ reborn – literally – for one night in Sweet Home

If that yellow 1932 Ford cruising by during this Thursday’s Cut the Gut cruise night looks a little familiar, it should – at least, if you’ve seen “American Graffiti.”

George Lucas’ 1973 blockbuster, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, features that exact car among other vintage street beauties in a coming-of-age comedy-drama that focused on cruising and rock ‘n’ roll culture in 1962.

Shawn Anderson watched the film “when I was 10 or 11,” and it “lit a fire in me for hot rods.”

And Anderson, who now owns Anderson Auto Body in Sweet Home, has wanted that car ever since.

“My dad built one similar when he was young, but sold it before I was born,” he said. “I’ve only seen pics of his car. The ’32 Ford from that movie is one of the most iconic cars ever built, as far as hot rodders are concerned.”

Anderson got an early start in hot rods with a Model T coupe when he was 12. He still has it and still drives it.

“I started young,” he said. “It wasn’t a ’32 Ford like I wanted, because I couldn’t afford one. But it was still cool and a lot more affordable to a dumb kid.”

Anderson, who said he’s built “30 or 40” cars over the years – including 10 he still owns (“I’m trying to slow down on that stuff,” he confessed) – said this particular vehicle was the one for him.

“For me, if I had all the money in the world and could have any car for me, that’s it,” he said, pointing to the classic as it gleamed in the sunshine.

“I just gathered up all of the same parts that were on the movie cars – some of them were pretty unique and hard to find,” he continued. “About two years ago, I started putting all the parts and pieces together.”

The body is an original 1932 Ford Coupe, with the top chopped by 3 inches.

“People wonder how I get into the car,” Anderson said. Then he demonstrated.

A Chevrolet 327 engine has replaced the original flathead, equipped with a Manifree intake manifold with four carburetors – “a pretty simple setup, really.”

“There’s a lot of wrong stuff on this car,” he said, noting that the car has a 1940 Ford front end and a 1957 Chevy rear. “But,” he added, “it looks right.”

“I’ve met a lot of the people from the movie and have gotten knowledge and parts from people all over the country,” he continued. “It’s not for me to say, but I’ve been told that (his car is) one of, if not the closest thing you can have without having the real car from the movie.”

Anderson did most of the restoration himself, although “one of my buddies wired it and Mark Wyfant (of Premiere Upholstery in Lebanon) did the upholstery. But everything else I pretty much did myself. I wanted it to be a personal project and I wanted to do as much of it as I could.”

And he’s not done yet. He plans to build a black 1955 Chevy like the one in the movie.

Anderson said “American Graffiti” has had similar effects on the population as Lucas’ other major successes with “Star Wars.”

“George Lucas has done a good job of creating his nerd following to his movies,” he said. “There’s a group of guys that are just fanatics about this car – a bunch of them, and it’s just fun.”

The “American Graffiti” ’32 Ford “is probably the most copied car ever,” Anderson said.

Anderson took his car in May to Petaluma, Calif., where most of the movie was shot, and which hosts an annual “Salute to ‘American Graffiti,'” which drew 550 vintage automobiles. The local Santa Rosa Press-Democrat newspaper featured Anderson’s car on the front page with a story about the event and its history.

Anderson noted that some of the actors from the film have signed the dash, and he’s hoping to get more autographs when he takes the car in August to Modesto, Calif., where the “American Graffiti” story was set, for the release of the remastered movie.

“I’ve got a few other hot rods that I’ve had tons of fun with over the years but the journey of building this coupe was by far the funnest adventure,” Anderson said. “My goal was to build it as absolutely close to the real car as possible. It was just a fun, fun build.”