"Surfer Girl" reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, while "Little Deuce Coupe" became The Beach Boys' highest charting b-side, making it to #15. It was the first of the Beach Boys' b-sides to receive a million spins on US radio. Internationally, it was reported by a French internet publication to be the 20th biggest hit of 1963 in that country. A Christmas-themed spin-off, "Little Saint Nick", was released by the group as a single later in the year.
The car referred to is the Ford Model 18; the 1932 coupe model was referred to as a "deuce coupe". There was also a roadster that year. Contrary to popular belief it was not a Model B. The Model B had four cylinders, but the Model 18 had the first Ford flathead V8 engine (221 cu. in.). Model 18s and Bs were readily available and easily modified, as auto enthusiasts (or "hot rodders") removed spare weight and improved the engine.
Brian Wilson commented on the song in the liner notes of the 1990 CD re-release of the original Surfer Girl album: "We loved doing 'Little Deuce Coupe'. It was a good 'shuffle' rhythm, which was not like most of the rhythms of the records on the radio in those days. It had a bouncy feel to it. Like most of our records, it had a competitive lyric. This record was my favorite Beach Boys car song."[full citation needed] According to author Jon Stebbins in his book The Lost Beach Boy, while the group was on tour in July 1963 Mike Love hit on the idea to use short instrumental segments of the song in the Beach Boys' live set as a way to introduce the bandmembers to the audience, starting with Dennis Wilson on drums, then adding David Marks (and later Al Jardine) on rhythm guitar, Carl Wilson on lead guitar, and finally Brian on the bass, before launching the song from the top.[full citation needed]
The song was recorded at Western Studios on June 12, 1963, at the same recording session as "Surfer Girl". The two songs were the first songs recorded for The Beach Boys' third album, Surfer Girl. This was the first Beach Boys recording session where Brian Wilson served as the official producer, and also one of the last sessions before Al Jardine rejoined the band.
The song has been a regular during Beach Boys sets often as part of the car medley. Brian Wilson has performed the song live several times including on his 2013 tour with Al Jardine and David Marks in which Jardine took the lead vocal.
Frank Zappa was quoted in his autobiography The Real Frank Zappa Book, "One of the most exciting things that ever happened in the world of 'white-person music' was when the Beach Boys used the progression V-II on "Little Deuce Coupe." An important step forward by going backward."