The History of Moonshine Runners

December 18, 2015

 

Much of what makes moonshine so fascinating is its history. You might know a bit about the history of moonshine—the backwoods stills, the Prohibition Era, the gunfights—but you might be surprised to know the interesting facts behind moonshine runners. Moonshiners wouldn’t have gotten very far in their illegal activities if it weren’t for the moonshine runners who risked their lives and freedom to race around cities outrunning the authorities in order to deliver it to paying customers.

Check out more on the history of moonshine runners.

How They Came to Be

Because the government wanted its liquor tax revenue, feds were constantly trying to shut down illegal stills in operation. But moonshiners got smart—they hid their operations in the woods. Distilling and producing moonshine wasn’t the hard part, it was getting it into cities. That’s where the real risks arose. Their operations were safe when they were hidden in the backwoods, but they could be busted once they walked out into the daylight. So, they hired moonshine runners to outrun law enforcement and deliver their loads to customers.

The Car and the Modifications

Law enforcement officers, with their economy cars, were no match for the runners and their supercharged, super-fast, modified machines. Runners weren’t scared to modify their cars in any way they needed to in order to outrun the law. They knew they had to make their cars as fast as possible. But the first rule was—don’t attract attention. The modifications had to appear inconspicuous—no fancy chrome pipes, wheels, or paint jobs.

The most commonly used car was the 1940 Ford Coupe. It was a common car at the time so it wouldn’t attract attention. Plus, it had a Flathead V8 engine, which was great for horsepower. It also had a roomy trunk to store tons of heavy loads of hooch and the suspension was easy to modify, in order to hold the weight. Chevy Coupes, Dodge Coronets, and the Oldsmobile Rocket 88s were also used by runners.

The Drivers

The cars weren’t the only advantage moonshiners had—the drivers themselves could handle their machines like you wouldn’t believe—and many of them were still teenagers working for their daddies’ moonshine businesses. Barely able to see past the steering wheels, the kids knew how to make every turn and outrun the cops. And because the government agents were all over the road, just waiting, the runners worked after midnight, in the cover of darkness. They knew the back roads of the country and could easily navigate them, when the feds didn’t, so it was easier for them to outrun them after dark.

Stock Car Racing

Runners would brag and argue among one another about who was the best driver and who had the fastest car—so they started racing each other. Local fairground promoters started selling tickets to the races, and stock car racing began. Soon, NASCAR was born. Many moonshine runners put down the white lightning and started racing cars with the skills they learned on the streets.

Moonshine Runners in the Present

The illegal moonshine business slowed to a halt in the 1950s. There are no more high-speed chases, wild escapes, roadblocks, crashes, or gunplay. The underground moonshine business thrived back in the day, thanks in part to moonshine runners, but with it now being legal to produce and sell hooch in many states, there’s just no need for moonshine runners anymore. But, the history of moonshine wouldn’t be as interesting if it weren’t for the intriguing tales of the runners.

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