My Car Quest

February 26, 2024

The 46th Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival in Review

Text and photos by Taylor Brown

You have probably never heard of Dawsonville, Georgia, but this town of 2,500 residents, located about an hour north of Atlanta, holds a serious place in motorsports history.

It was once dubbed “The Moonshine Capital of the World”, serving as it did as a launch point for moonshine “trippers” who burned down Highway 9 into Atlanta, evading revenuers as they hauled their nightly loads of moonshine to thirsty customers in the big city.

That illicit activity dovetailed neatly into racing, and the town is now home to the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame, Atlanta Motorsports Park, and the annual Mountain Moonshine Festival–a 500-strong car show that includes the largest gathering of real and cloned moonshine “trip cars” in the country, including an astounding number of 1939 and 1940 Fords.

I was fortunate enough to attend the 46th Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival in late October, and without further ado, I present some of the highlights of the show.

Lloyd Seay’s 1939 Ford Standard Coupe Racer

“Lightning” Lloyd Seay (“See”) was a Dawsonville native whom Big Bill France, NASCAR’s founder, called the “best pure race driver I ever saw.” He was related to Roy Hall, another famous early stock car driver, and also to Ray Parks, a moonshine kingpin who served as one of NASCAR’s first team owners.

Unfortunately, Lloyd’s career was cut short at the age of just 21, when he was killed in a quarrel over a load of sugar being used in a moonshine operation.



White Lightning Tribute Car: 1971 Ford Custom 500

One of the first cars that caught my eye was this tribute to the car Gator McKlusky (Burt Reynolds) drove in White Lightning. It features a 466 big-block, complete with Dove heads and roller-tip rockers, along with a 4-speed top-loader–not something you often see in a big sedan of this era.

The blacked-out police-style wheels are the only hint that something serious is going on under the hood. If you need to outrun the law, and carry 100+ gallons of white whiskey at the same time, it’s hard to imagine a better vehicle.



Thunder Road Tribute Car: 1950 Ford Custom Deluxe

This car was built in 2008 as a 50th anniversary tribute to Robert Mitchum’s 1958 classic Thunder Road. It runs a Ford Y-block 292 with three two-barrel carbs, an overbore of 0.060, milled heads, aluminum piston and flywheel, and a mild cam.

The actual car in the film was a ’51 with a ’50 grille and a ’49 hood, but everyone called it a “1950 Ford.” Perhaps the most interesting feature of this build is the moonshine tank installed in the trunk. Cars that haul whiskey in tanks, rather than in jugs or mason jars or carboys, were often known as “tankers.”



Charlie Mincey’s 1939 Ford “Trip Car”

Here we have a 1939 Ford owned by Charlie Mincey, who began hauling whiskey in it in 1945…when he was 14 years old! He went on into organized racing in 1950, at age 19, and raced in various series until 1980.

As you may know, the 1939 and 1940 Fords were, historically, the most popular cars for bootlegging. They were cheap, plentiful, inconspicuous, and the flathead motors were easily hopped up for more power–though by the early 1950’s, bootleggers were beginning to prefer Olds 303 and Cadillac 331 swaps.



1950 Oldsmobile Rocket 88

Here we have a pristine example of a 1950 Olds Rocket 88. Today, we may not regard Oldsmobile as a performance marque, but this model quickly gained its reputation as the first “King of NASCAR,” winning 6 of 9 races in 1949 and 10 of 19 in 1950–as well as the 1950 Carrera Panamerica.

The 303 cubic-inch Rocket V8 sported overhead valves, and as previously mentioned, it quickly became a popular swap for Ford-driving bootleggers.



Turbo-Diesel International Truck

The 46th Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival was home to more than just old whiskey-runners. There were a number of unique and interesting builds, one of which was this vintage 1940 (?) International running one very big, unhooded Cummins turbo-diesel motor. Not the cleanest build, perhaps, but big on character.

The oily black smoke-stain down the passenger side door just adds to the truck’s low-down, devil-may-care attitude.



M35 “Deuce and a Half” from Custom Combat Trucks

This monster is the latest build from Custom Combat Trucks, a Georgia company specializing in M35 (2.5 ton) and M923A2 (5 ton) ex-military trucks.

Most such trucks start as 6×6. CCT removes an axle, installs creature comforts and crew cabs, and winds up with towering behemoths that can be driven on the road in a bit more comfort.




Author Taylor Brown is the founder of, and he’s also a much-published fiction writer working on a novel set in the world of bootlegging in the early 1950’s. He wants to thank for helping sponsor his trip to the 46th Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival. He’s already looking forward to next year’s event!

Sell your classic car on My Car Quest (even if it ran moonshine) – click here.

The 46th Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival in Review
Article Name
The 46th Annual Mountain Moonshine Festival in Review
Dawsonville, Georgia was once dubbed "The Moonshine Capital of the World," serving as it did as a launch point for moonshine "trippers" who burned down Highway 9 into Atlanta, evading revenuers as they hauled their nightly loads of moonshine to thirsty customers in the big city.


  1. phillip t long says

    thanks for putting my car on this site. mine is the 1971 white lightning tribute car. thanks again. i should be there again this year 2015

    • Hi Phillip – Great work!! I own a 71 LTD Hardtop. May I ask you which Kind of Brown did you use?? regards from Switzerland cheers Ralf

    • just remember to keep it between the ditches!

    • Phil,
      Can you contact me in reference to your car? My e-mail address is thanks!

    • Gregg Merksamer says

      Being “all business” down to the bare steel wheels, Gator’s 1971 Ford Custom 500 Moonshine Runner may well be my favorite movie car of all time! Though I’m a lifelong New Yorker with no direct exposure to southern whiskey running culture, I’ve long harbored ambitions about building my own WHITE LIGHTNING replica and would savor additional detail from Phil Long on the story behind his homage car. For starters I would wager a correct base car was mighty hard to find – did he have to de-trim a Galaxie as so many police car replica creators have had to do? – and that it must have been an ever greater challenge swapping in a manual gearbox. Do tell! Do tell! My direct e-mail is

  2. Phil, if you read this. I would like to speak to you about your 71 ford. e-mail please

    • Gregg D. Merksamer says

      DEAR HENRY: I get the meaning behind your e-mail address – I guess you’re a fellow fan of Mad Max’s Australian Ford Falcon Main Force Patrol Interceptor? That’s my Second Favorite Movie Car of All Time!

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