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  • Jason Chandler

Moonshiners and Muscle Cars

Moonshiners would modify and hop up their cars to out run the Government issued economy cars that agents used. When it came to modifying a Moonshine car, the number one rule was not to attract any attention.The car had to appear stock, it couldn’t have any fancy paint jobs, chrome pipes, nice wheels, or anything else that would attract attention and make the car stand out on the road.


The car that was most commonly used by the shiners was the 1940 Ford Coupe. The were many reasons this model Ford made such a great “runner.” Besides for it being a pretty common car on the roads at that time, the 1940 Ford was powered by a Flathead V8 engine which was ideal to make horsepower.


Another reason these Ford’s were so popular with the runners was because of the large trunk space and the ability to easily modify the suspension to carry such heavy loads. The large trunk capacity and increased suspension load allowed much larger runs of “white lightning” to be carried during a single trip.


Other cars such as the Oldsmobile Rocket 88s, Dodge Coronets, and Chevy Coupes were also used as haulers. Pick-up trucks, sedans and other vehicles were used as well, but weren’t as common as they were spotted first. Former shiner Willie Clay Call even used a 1961 Chrysler New Yorker, even though it was one of the Luxury cars of that era. Fortunately for good ol’ Willie, he found his car to be very effective in tricking johnny law.


According to the late Benny Parsons (former NASCAR Driver and Moonshiner) some of the things done to the cars to hop them up was to “add more carburetors so the car can burn more fuel.” New intake manifolds like those made by Edelbrock and Offenhauser were also added to bring more air to the Flathead V8.

Sometimes if a runner needed a lot of power Superchargers and Turbochargers were also added to the engine (but they were very careful not to draw attention to these cars, unlike the power upgrades of today). Another common modification was to increase the cars displacement for more horsepower, this was done by over boring the cylinders but you can only bore an engine so big. Benny Parsons also said “Soon they had to go to other engines, they would swap in the Cadillac V8s to get all the horsepower they could, or even swap in the old Ambulance engines for long and fast hauls.”


Some runners claimed that they were able to make over 500 horsepower with their modifications, Willie Clay Call was noted as mentioning that he was able to get his ’61 Chrysler over 180 miles per hour. Imagine that in the 60s on the open roads?

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