Mobile content distribution (MCD) is an important emerging application in vehicular ad hoc networks (VANETs). Its high and stable data rate requirement puts significant stress on the severely bandwidth-limited and highly mobile VANETs. Symbol level network coding (SLNC) provides better error-resilience and in turn higher spatial reusability for wireless transmission. It thus is a promising approach for the very bandwidth-hungry MCD networks. This project focuses on two main fundamental problems related to exploiting SLNC for MCD in VANETs. First, a theoretic study on the network capacity and performance bounds achievable by SLNC in mobile wireless networks is carried out. A new model is proposed to characterize the SLNC operation in a flow network setting. Key factors that impact the achievable throughput are identified. Methods to derive accumulated throughput for a mobile receiver following certain mobility pattern are investigated. The second research focus is on the design of distributed and localized algorithms and protocols for MCD networks using SLNC. A suite of new network protocols for SLNC-based MCD network are proposed in order to maximize the throughput of the MCD network.