Contracts r32 and r32A, totaling 600 subway cars for the IND and BMT Divisions of the New York City subway, were awarded to the Budd company in 1964. This was the largest single order of subway cars ever made up to this date. The carbodies were constructed entirely of stainless steel, which made the cars 10,000 pounds lighter than the r30 cars of 1961. They were also more resistant to rust and graffiti. Internally, the cars had similar propulsion equipment to the preceding classes, and therefore had considerably faster acceleration and a higher top speed. The cars were nicknamed Brightliners, as they were painted in an attractive scheme of silver with dark blue doors. The cars were numbered 3350-3649 (r32) and 3650-3949 (r32a). Like all other IND/BMT R-series cars (up to the r44's of 1971), the r32 measured 60 feet in length and 10 feet in width. Each car had four pairs of doors on each side. The differences between the r32 and r32A were minimal. There were slight differences in interior design, and the r32's were equipped with a GE controller, while the r32A's had Westinghouse. After the general overhaul (GOH) of 1988-1990, most of the cars were standardized.

The r32's operated all over the system, though they have usually been based out of Coney Island (B, D, F, N, Q) and Jamaica (E, F, G, R) yards. Beginning in 1988, the r32 class went through a general overhaul. The braking and propulsion systems were replaced, and air conditioning was installed on all but 10 of the cars. The 10 cars without AC were rebuilt by GE, and the rest by Morrison-Knudsen. The cars' external appearance was also modified. The doors were now also painted silver, and the front end appearance was drastically changed to make room for the roof-mounted air conditioning units. The original front end had two roll-signs at top center; one for route and one for destination. There were also a pair of marker lights and local / express indicators (only the IRT Redbirds retain this front end arrangement). The current r32 front end has a single, hard-to-read route indicator (nicknamed The Cyclops that glows a very dim green.

The last of the original r32's ran on the N Astoria Local, and were overhauled in early 1990.

The r32's are currently assigned to Jamaica Yard, on the E, F, and R trains, and Pitkin Yard, which supplies the A and C lines. They are currently the oldest cars in the system (with the recent retirement of the r26-series Redbirds), but are expected to outlast several classes of newer cars because of their tough stainless steel construction.

Only a small handful of r32's have been retired. These are cars #3629, which collided with an r42 in 1971, #3669, wrecked on the Franklin Avenue Shuttle in 1972, and #'s 3651 and 3766, which were scrapped at an unknown date.
Car #3668 was renumbered to 3669, and #3659 was renumbered 3348. Cars #3616, 3934, and 3935 are stored on-property. 3616 was never overhauled and may have since been scrapped.