Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop Tackles a Modern Milner Coupe Concept
A half century after its release, the movie American Graffiti still resonates with fans everywhere, especially car enthusiasts. Among hot rodders, it’s no surprise the film’s most emulated car is the iconic yellow ’32 Ford coupe belonging to character John Milner – the “baddest car in the valley.”
EB Chester is one fan who always admired the Milner coupe, and he presented a challenge to Alan Johnson and the team at Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop: build a modern interpretation of the Graffiti ’32 Ford with a classic look and contemporary technology like independent suspension, LS power, and overdrive.
The JHRS team accepted the challenge and got started by building a custom frame with stepped-in rear rails to accommodate wider tires, and modified front rails that are narrowed and extend the wheelbase. A modified Kugel independent front suspension with Ridetech coil-overs directs the 16×5-inch Billet Specialties wheels and Toyo tires, while a Kugel independent rear suspension employs inboard disc brakes and dual Ridetech coil-overs on each side behind 18×10-inch wheels and Toyo rubber. A custom spreader bar connects the bobbed rear frame rails and has been notched for the exhaust tips.
The stretched wheelbase made more room for the Chevrolet Performance LS376/515 engine, which now puts out closer to 600-horsepower thanks to a hot cam and Hilborn eight-stack EFI with Holley Terminator controls. The Graffiti look is enhanced with Corvette-style valve covers from PML and custom-built headers by JHRS that flow into side pipes. A McLeod clutch connects the engine to a Tremec T56 Magnum six-speed transmission.
The five-window coupe body was built from new United Pacific panels and was significantly modified, starting with the 2.5-inch top chop and filled top and cowl vent. Custom rear wheel wells were fabricated to accommodate the wide tires, while custom frame horn covers and a fabricated lower rear body panel were built to work with the bobbed rear fenders. Up front, CAD-modeled radial brake caliper mounts were built to hold the custom front fenders, and a three-piece hood was fabricated with large openings in the side panels and custom flush-mount plexiglass windows in the top to expose the engine. Finishing touches include a frame-mounted Moon tank, Holley LED headlights, Pontiac taillights, and 2018 Corvette Yell-O-Tint paint mixed with Axalta materials.
The interior was CAD modeled to better design elements like the custom console and dash fitted with a stainless insert, Classic Instruments gauges, and a Kenwood navigation and stereo screen. The red Garrett leather upholstery was stitched at JHRS over modified electric BMW seats and custom side panels. Amenities and details like Vintage Air and custom pedals complete the cabin.
Finished earlier this year, the Milner coupe concept delivers on its goal of blending Graffiti style with modern performance. We can’t wait to see it run at Paradise Road!
Photos by John Jackson