I just couldn't resist this one when I read it, soo....
Southern comfort: Stock cars, moonshine
Bill Vance National Post Friday, July 05, 2002
Souped-up sedans, such as this Hudson Hornet, were used by southern moonshine runners to evade state troopers and government agents. This gave rise to stock car racing and a new era for Detroit automakers.
Stock car racing is big business, particularly in the southeastern United States where its origins are deeply rooted in the culture and history of the Appalachian Mountains.
a good part of the reason is that it is linked to another historical southern pursuit: making moonshine whisky.
Moonshining goes back a long way in the southeastern UnitedStates. In the 18th century, the Scots and Irish began immigrating to the mountains of Pennsylvania, and they soon extended right down into Alabama. They brought their whisky-maker's art to their adopted land.
Crop yields were sparse in the hill country, and the simple laws of economics indicated more money could be made by converting a crop such as corn into whisky, rather than selling it as corn. Although distilling and selling moonshine whisky was declared illegal, it did not stop -- it just went farther into the piney hills.
If the deep South was the cotton belt, Appalachia was the whisky belt. Making and transporting 'shine became a cat-and-mouse game between the U.S. alcohol and tobacco tax agents and the proud, independent and ingenious moonshiners. And therein lie the roots of stock car racing.
Running loads of illegal whisky down into the cities of the Old South such as Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, N.C., went on through the 1930s, having received a real boost from Prohibition, which lasted from 1919 to 1933. Then it really took off during the Second World War.
After the war, the car culture in North America exploded. There was new found prosperity, and people who could not have dreamed of owning a new car during the Great Depression suddenly found themselves with jobs that paid well and war bonds to cash.
While California went crazy over hot rods and sports cars, Appalachia went crazy over big American cars. Tourists returned from southern trips with tales of big shiny cars parked outside extremely modest homes. The South was liberated as never before.
Yet for all of their new-found freedom, the mountain people still stuck to their fiercely independent nature and almost clan-like loyalty. The term "hillbilly" was used to describe them, although one should be cautioned about using that term in the new South of today.
The description most often heard was "good old boy." The term has little to do with age but instead refers to a man who is reasonably amiable, has a sense of humour and can generally be trusted.
What the good old mountain boys had in common was their strong independence; if they wanted to make and sell moonshine whisky, that was their business. So the illegal whisky business flourished and the agent-versus-distiller feud was raised to new levels of sophistication.
The best way to evade the agents and get the booze from the upcountry stills to the urban markets was with a fast car.
Good-natured rivalries naturally developed about whose car was fastest. Races inevitably broke out and sometimes moonshiners did not know whether they were racing with an agent or one of their own.
Not surprisingly, the mechanical skills that can build a supercharged Oldsmobile capable of quickly transporting 100 gallons of moonshine whisky through the clay cuts and back roads of Appalachia transfer readily to automobile racing.
The cars themselves were plain enough, but the slightly jacked-up rear ends, caused by the heavy-duty springs and big wide tires, were a dead giveaway that these were not normal go-to-church family sedans.
A healthy burble from the tailpipes was a sure clue there was something potent under the hood.
It was, therefore, an easy trans- fer to racing for the men who piloted those cars at breakneck speeds through the hill-country nights, evading alcohol agents and state troopers. Depth perception, eye-hand-foot co-ordination and car-handling abilities were honed to a fine edge.
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) was established in 1947 to give racing some organization and credibility, and it soon became a huge spectator sport all over the South.
It was not long before Detroit's automakers discovered the enthusiasm for southern stock car racing. Brand loyalties started to build, and it was soon noticed that the makes that were winning on the tracks, names such as Hudson, Oldsmobile and Lincoln, were also selling better in the southern showrooms. This was the signal Detroit needed to get into racing in a big way.
Not all stock car drivers, of course, came from a moonshining heritage.
Many did, however, and the spirit, skill and ingenuity of those car builders and moonlight whisky runners certainly contributed to the legacy of a sport whose heart and soul is still in the Old South.
© Copyright 2002 National Post
Here is the link too, if it will work...
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07-10-2002, 03:57 PM #1
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