Impact of Prohibition on the Creation of Muscle Cars

Benz, Robert. “Muscle Cars Explained: History, Evolution & Buyer’s Guide.” Gentleman’s Gazette. Gentleman’s Gazette, 24 July 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2016. <;.

Although most of the article is more on the overall history of Muscle Cars, the beginning of the article provides some interesting insight into how Americans feel in love with muscle cars and lead to the production of larger engine model cars. Robert Benz argues that the origins of the muscle car connects to the problems with alcohol transportation during prohibition. As there was a demand for illegal alcohol during prohibition, bootleggers decided to modify their cars in order to outrun the police and get cargo to their end location with large compartments for hiding liquor. As Prohibition came to an end, the market for bootlegging became weaker, the cars became more and more modified, trying to maintain business against legal alcohol by increasing speed, capacity, and handling.

Eventually, the bootleg alcohol market became too weak in the 1940’s to sustain a profitable business, so old bootleggers decided to race their cars against each other. One of the origins of NASCAR lies within racing old bootlegging machines. Eventually, car companies saw the potential for sales with large engined cars, with Oldsmobile to be the first to release the Oldsmobile Rocket 88(Pictured below), starting a golden age of V8 engines in cars that lasted until the oil crisis and environmental regulations of the early 1970’s.

This source is relevant as it portrays one of the reasons that muscle cars became a separate branch of car production than normal coupes. In addition, the origins of the mass-produced V8 engine was explored, as one of the defining factors of muscle cars from normal cars is a large engine. Although the source explored more of the early predecessors of what people call muscle cars, it does connect the muscle car trend to prohibition era vehicles that were made to outrun cops. I believe that the modification of otherwise normal cars represents why muscle cars became prevalent in the United States; that Americans love to modify their car and use powerful cars in order to maintain their freedom and give themselves an illusion of power, as muscle cars were made to be normal, yet exceptional.


Picture: 1949 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, Gentlesman Gazette


Ryan Moore


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