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Moonshine Runners and Their High-Performance Cars

  • Things To Know
  • Renee Martin
  • 7 minutes

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Discover the thrilling tales of moonshine runners who risked it all for a chance at big profits. From high-speed chases to treacherous roads, this article will give you fascinating look at an oft-overlooked piece of American history and how these bootleggers or rumrunners influenced the automotive industry.

Yes, you might legit wonder what moonshine has to do with the automotive industry. But the fact is moonshine runners played a pivotal role in the history of cars in America. During Prohibition, these rumrunners needed vehicles that could outrun the cops while at the same time transporting enormous amounts of booze fast and safely. To do this, they updated their vehicles with new and inventive features. This, in turn, had a significant impact on the automobile industry.

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But before we get to their cars, let’s take a ride through the Prohibition era and into the dangerous world of moonshine running to discover what it took to keep the booze flowing in America.

What is moonshine?

Moonshine is illegally made (without government authorization) high-proof distilled liquor. It’s usually incredibly potent, having an alcohol content of up to 190 proof. It’s usually made from corn, sugar, or fruit.

Moonshine still

Origins of Moonshine running

You can’t get into the origins of moonshine running without understanding why it started in the first place. It all started with Prohibition.

Prohibition was a time in American history, from 1920 to 1933, when it was against the law to sell, make, or move alcohol. The 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, also known as the Prohibition Amendment, was passed in 1919, and it made it illegal to manufacture, sell, or transport intoxicating liquor in the United States.

What happened during Prohibition?

Prohibition was enacted in reaction to the mounting social problems linked with alcohol abuse. The temperance movement, which had been active in the United States since the early nineteenth century, contended that alcohol was a major cause of social issues such as poverty, crime, and family violence. Prohibitionists felt that by outlawing alcohol, they might establish a more moral and stable society.

But what actually happened during Prohibition was that organized crime syndicates took advantage of the demand for alcohol and began producing and distributing illegal liquor or moonshine. Many people continued to drink, and the consumption of alcohol actually increased during Prohibition!

Prohibition also had unintended consequences on the American economy. The loss of tax revenue from the sale of alcohol had a significant impact on the federal government’s finances, and the illegal liquor trade created a large underground economy that was difficult to control or regulate.

Why were moonshine runners important?

As far as the general public were concerned, they felt that moonshine runners were the rebels, even heroes who made sure that the thirsty public got what they needed. These daring men put their lives in danger in order to smuggle illegal liquor from concealed stills to thirsty clients.

After the moonshine was distilled, runners or bootleggers transported it, frequently at night, in vehicles designed to travel quickly and carry a lot of cargo. The cars looked normal on the outside, but the insides, oh they told a different story. Moonshiners knew that if they wanted to outrun the police, they needed cars with more power and speed. So their cars had souped-up, powerful engines, more space to store contraband, and stronger shock absorbers to handle the weight of the illegal booze.

The risks involved

Running moonshine was a risky and often potentially deadly business. If caught, bootleggers faced arrest, fines, and even jail time. They were also often threatened with violence by other bootleggers or law enforcement personnel.  That’s why moonshine runners drove modified rides that could outrun the cops to evade discovery.

prohibition car

How did moonshine runners impact the automotive industry?

Moonshiners tinkered around quite a bit with their engines. Some of them installed dual carburetors and high-compression heads, which significantly increased the horsepower of their vehicles. These improvements set the platform for the creation of high-performance engines in production cars, resulting in the American muscle car era of the 1960s and 1970s.

After Prohibition was lifted by the end of 1933, erstwhile moonshine runners formed the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing to compete in organized races to keep their talents sharp (NASCAR). There have been a number of successful NASCAR race car drivers who were formerly “runners.”

Famous/notorious moonshine runners

Numerous legendary moonshiners have entered American popular culture.

Raymond Parks was a trailblazer in the field of stock car racing. He established NASCAR racing, which is today one of America’s most popular sports. Raymond Parks was involved in the moonshine trade during Prohibition before becoming a pioneer in stock car racing. He worked as a moonshine runner, bringing illegal whiskey from rural areas to cities like Atlanta. Parks modified his automobile with his mechanic talents to make it faster and better suited for fleeing the cops. His time as a moonshine runner helped him build the skills and expertise that would later come in handy in the world of stock car racing.

Junior Johnson is another well-known stock car racing driver who got his start in moonshine running during Prohibition. Johnson, who was born and raised in rural North Carolina, began selling moonshine at an early age. He drove his father’s car on dirt roads to avoid investigators. Johnson became one of the best drivers in the moonshine business right away. He used his skills and knowledge to make cars that were faster and had more power. Johnson was soon caught and sent to prison. He then turned to stock car racing, where he quickly made a name for himself. In his career, he won 50 races, including the Daytona 500. He had an aggressive driving style and the ability to outsmart his competitors. Nowadays, Johnson is regarded as one of the best drivers in stock car racing history, and his influence can still be seen in the sport.

What were the most popular cars used by moonshiners?

Here are some of the most popular cars used by moonshine runners during Prohibition:

Ford Model A Coupe

The Ford Model A was a popular car among moonshine runners because it was lightweight and easy to modify. Moonshiners often added larger engines, upgraded brakes, and reinforced suspension to make the car faster and more agile.

Ford V-8

The Ford V-8 was another popular car among moonshine runners, especially the 1932 and 1934 models. These cars had speed and power and moonshiners often added modifications to make them even faster.

Chevy Coupes

These cars were durable and handled well. Moonshiners often added modifications such as upgraded suspension and brakes to make them more suitable for off-road driving.

Dodge Coronet

Runners favored coronets for their durability and handling. They modified Coronets with larger engines, upgraded brakes, and reinforced suspension to make them faster and more agile.

Legacy of moonshine running

Although Prohibition is no longer in effect, the legacy of moonshine production lingers on. Many states now legalize and regulate moonshine.  Also, many distilleries pay respect to the rebellious spirit of moonshine runners by developing their own versions of the traditional spirit.

Do you happen you have a classic moonshine car stashed away in your garage? It’s a part of American history and you must make sure that it has all the coverage it needs. Way.com will give you free quotes from the best providers to make sure your car gets the necessary classic car insurance coverage.


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