HOW MOONSHINE LED TO A CAR LOVERS’ FAVORITE SOUTHERN PAST TIME…NASCAR!
What historical domino effect led to one of our favorite southern past times? Believe it or not, it wasn’t the need for speed – but moonshine – that fueled the growth of stock car racing.
How, you might ask?
As officials began to impose taxes on liquor sales farmers and immigrants throughout the south began production distilling their own batches to sell to counteract the effects of extreme poverty in the region.
With the introduction of Prohibition in 1920, moonshine production skyrocketed which created a thriving black market business. Distribution of the product became a dangerous game. Bootleggers began to “soup-up” automobiles to stay ahead of federal agents and local police.
The idea was simple: take a car that looks stock or ordinary to avoid suspicion but modify the engine for greater speed and power. Bootleggers would remove floorboards, passenger and back seats to store as many cases of liquor as possible, as well as install extra suspension springs to handle the weight and rough ride. This became more evident with the introduction of Ford’s flathead V8 engine with eight cylinders in 1932.
Each hidden distillery would hire runners, or drivers, to smuggle the booze. These drivers were extremely knowledgeable of both their vehicles and route. They became known for their high-speed and reckless driving, coining terms like the “bootleg turn,” in which drivers would quickly turn the car around in a controlled skid, to elude cops.
Although Prohibition ended in 1933, production and distribution of illegal whiskey continued for years. When the runners weren’t smuggling alcohol, many spent their free time racing other runners for bragging rights.
The legacy of the Prohibition runner went beyond casual racing in 1936, when the city of Daytona, Florida, held the first organized stock car race as a promotion.
Prohibition-era mechanic, Bill France, placed 5th in that same race and became determined to organize the future of stock car racing. After more than a decade, the first official NASCAR race was held in Daytona on February 15, 1948. The winner was former moonshine runner, Robert “Red” Byron in a modified Ford.
This unexpected connection has inspired us, at Lancer Service, to bring a fun twist to some of the content we develop for our current and future customers alike. So, please join us every-other-Thursday for either a fun and interesting car story, OR cocktail recipe!
We’re always looking for more entertaining stories to share, set up your next service by clicking here, and if you have any topics you’d like us to dig into (cars OR cocktails), let us know and we’ll bring the story to light.