How Moonshiners Changed American Car Culture Forever


Without moonshiners, there would be no stock car racing. Without stock cars, muscle cars like the Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang, and Chevy Camaro wouldn’t be the same. Stock cars and muscle cars are inspired by the getaway vehicles modified by moonshining families with their roots in the Southern Appalachian mountains.

From from real-world moonshining racers like Jimmy Johnson to mythical movie liquor-smugglers like Burt Reynolds’ Bandit, countless American muscle cars, stock cars, and drivers got their inspiration from the moonshining life. 

Famous Movie Vehicles From Top Racing Movies and Their Moonshiner Roots

In 2006, Will Ferrell took on stock car racing as the titular character in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Four cars from the movie, including the ME Ford Taurus and Wonder Bread Chevy Monte Carlo were auctioned off to benefit children’s charities after filming.

General Lee is the name of the bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger that Bo and Luke Duke drove to get away from Boss Hogg and his henchmen in “The Dukes of Hazzard.” The car is arguably more recognizable than the stars of the television show or film.

It wouldn’t have been the late ’70s without a souped-up Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams zooming around the streets with a stylized firebird decal and airscoop on the hood. The Pontiac Firebird and its sister car, the Chevy Camaro, would have been popular with or without “Smokey and the Bandit.” But the wise-cracking, beer-smuggling Burt Reynolds and his black, red, and gold “Screaming Chicken” Firebird sped up the process.

Going Fast to Avoid Getting Caught

When Prohibition started in January 1920, people could still drink alcohol legally in their own homes — they just couldn’t legally make, transport, or sell it.

Moonshine got its name from the late night work the “shiners” did to distill, bottle, and transport the powerful liquor — all their work was done by moonlight. Moonshine is also called “white lightning” because it’s un-aged and clear, not brown or amber like traditional whiskey aged in oak barrels.

Moon runners started delivering clear moonshine whiskey late at night in their own cars. At first, their old cars — mostly Fords couldn’t outrun the police, so smugglers began modifying their cars to handle better on backwoods roads. Soon, they discovered enough improvements, from beefed-up suspensions and bored-out carburetors, to easily outrun their pursuers while carrying heavy jugs of moonshine. Some moon runners bragged they could make their night runs at over 120 mph without headlights.

What Engines and Modifications Made it To the Street From Moonshining?

The most popular engine that shiners modified was Ford’s flathead V8. Outlaw John Dillinger wasn’t a moonshiner, but he liked the Ford engine so much, he even wrote Henry Ford a letter praising its performance in outrunning the law. Shiners with heavy loads and high horsepower needs even dropped Cadillac ambulance engines into ’30s Ford sedans.

Junior Johnson, moonshiner and NASCAR pioneer, had a “one brake wheel,” which allowed him to stop, turn, and then speed off in the opposite direction past lawmen. Turbocharging, supercharging, beefed-up and weighted suspensions all emerged during the moonshine era. These techniques became more refined when stock car racing started in the late 1940s. As automakers became officially involved, stock cars had street versions including ’60s and ’70s muscle and pony cars. Classic street cars like the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro emerged during the ’60s, got bigger, longer, and more powerful during the ’70s, and then fell out of favor during the gas crisis that same decade.

But today, they’re back current muscle cars with a retro feel like the Dodge Challenger and Charger, Ford Mustang, and Chevy Camaro all come with modified engines, performance brakes, tuned suspensions, and tires made for speed and power. The Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Hemi Redeye 6.2 liter V8 engine delivers 797 horsepower using a supercharger that would be the envy of any 1930s backwoods moonshiner. 

Protect Your Car at Any Speed

If you’re continuing the moonshining heritage of an all-American enterprise and competition with a modern stock car-inspired muscle car, you can protect your pride and joy with an extended car warranty from Protect My Car. Protect My Car offers three levels of extended vehicle protection to meet consumer’s needs: Driveline, Select, and Supreme. These extended warranty programs cover vehicles that are less than 10 years of age and less than 125,000 miles. Protect My Car also offers the Ambassador Policy, which covers most vehicles regardless of the year or miles.

With an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and a top-5 ranking from Consumer Affairs, Protect My Car stands by its extended warranty protection and ambassador programs with a money back guarantee. If something should go wrong, Protect My Car’s plans include 24/7 roadside assistance in addition to repair coverage. While we don’t recommend evading law enforcement through the backwoods of the moonshining district, you can at least rest easy knowing your car will be protected wherever you take it.


About Protect My Car

Protect My Car is an extended auto warranty company. Our goal here at Protect My Car is to eliminate your worry of being financially responsible for an expensive mechanical breakdown. With our extended auto warranty, you don’t have to worry about being fully burdened with the cost of a covered repair.