Gas Rationing in World War II

1922 Ford Model T located at the Stuhr Museum in Grand Island, Nebraska.

I used this photo of a 1922 Ford Model T coupe in a post the other day, and I wanted to point out that the car has a gas-rationing sticker from World War II on the lower driver’s side corner of the windshield. 

It is an “A” sticker which was the basic ration, and therefore the most common, but drivers could apply for supplemental rations “B” and “C” if they could show a need for extra mileage based on their occupation or if they were performing duties deemed essential to the war effort.  

Gas rationing in the United States began in eastern states in the spring of 1942 and was in place nation wide on December 1st of that year.  The primary goal of the rationing was not to protect the gas supply but to conserve rubber after the Japanese cut off America’s supply of the precious commodity.

Gas rationing involved a complicated system that was designed, in theory, to prevent cheating.  Each car (and its tires) had to be registered to receive a sticker, and no gas was to be transferred to any vehicle that didn’t have one.  A coupon book was issued for a specific car, and you could not buy gas for one car with coupons issued for another car.

Gas ration form published November 5, 1942.

To purchase gas, you gave the attendant coupons equivalent to the amount of gas bought.

Photo of a gas station attendant in Merion, Pennslyvania, published in the July23, 1942, issue of the Caledonia Record.

The driver was not supposed to remove coupons from the book prior to the purchase.  The attendant pasted the coupons on sheets that had to be turned in to the distributor before the gas station’s supply would be replenished. 

In connection with the recent pandemic and associated hoarding, I have heard people draw comparisons to this period of WWII rationing.  They tend to wax poetic and idealize it as a time when people embraced the idea of making do with less simply because it was their patriotic duty.  Well, I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but people will always be people and the newspapers back then were filled with stories about hoarders and cheats:

In October of 1942, the National Safety Council warned the public on the dangers of hoarding gasoline, saying that the vapor was highly explosive and a spark could cause an explosion that could destroy a house and cause death or injury.  “You may get an extra ride by hoarding gas, but the chances are it will be to the hospital.”

In Allentown, Lehigh Valley motorists drained every service station in the area the night before rationing took effect:

In Boston, there was such a rush for gasoline that it made the “Yukon gold rush look like an amateur showing” in comparison. Drivers waited for hours at gas stations, hoping for a gas truck to show up, and more than 50 cars followed a gas truck along the Concord Turnpike until it reached its destination with everyone clamoring for gas before the truck even came to a halt.

Also in Massachusetts, 112 gas rationing books containing coupons for 36,000 gallons went missing from the Cambridge rationing board’s supply.  Not coincidentally, it was also reported that the state OPA (Office of Price Administration) director was investigating a report of bootleg ration books being sold in Cambridge. In California, an entire carload of gas rationing books went missing, and, in our nation’s capital, 10 filling stations were linked to black-market racketeering in ration coupons.

In October of 1942, many California tire dealers were charged with violating tire rationing regulations including the California Highway Commission Chairman. It was claimed that the Governor of California was trying to cover for him.

In Oregon in 1944, a surprise raid on the city’s largest high schools found many drivers with illegal rations, both teachers and students.  One driver had four “A” books, none registered to his own car, and many of the students were driving “C” cars.

Other stories reported the illegal mixing of kerosene and other substances with gas to increase mileage as well as hoarding gas in closed gas stations, but I think you get the picture. Some people did find lawful ways around the restrictions, however. The first picture shows F & M students using “a 34-year-old horse and a runabout that’s even older” to make it to campus, and I just love the last photo which features a group of young women with a car-sharing club that were all employed at the Hamilton Watch plant in Pennsylvania:


“112 Gas Rationing Books ‘Missing’ in Cambridge.” The Burlington Free Press, 21 July 1942, p. 1

“Answers to Gas Rationing Questions.” The Caledonian Record, 23 July 1942, p. 1.

“Car Sharing and Horse Used to Save Gas.” The Lancaster New Era, 25 July 1942, p. 1.

“Gas Ration Forms are Distributed.” The Salinas Californian, 5 November 1942, p. 2.

“Gas-Rationing Sticker Must Be on Autos.” The North Hollywood Valley Times, 18 December 1942, p. B.

“Gas Sidelights.”The Boston Globe, 21 July 1942, p. 8.

“Inquiry Into Black Market in Gas Rationing Launched.” The Los Angeles Times, 15 November 1942, p. 11.

“Jaloppy Roundup Finds Many With Illegal Rations.” The Medford Mail Tribune, 15 March 1944, p. 1.

“Last Minute Motorists Have Their Worries.” The Morning Call [Allentown], 22 July 1942, p. 5.

“Oil Scion’s Bride to Be.” The Caledonian Record, 23 July 1942, p. 8.

“OPA Answers Your Gas Rationing Questions.” The Salinas Californian, 10 November 1942, p. 10.

“Public Warned on Danger Involved in Gas Storage.” The Bakersfield Californian, 14 October 1942, p. 5.

“Rent Control Forms, Gas Ration Books Still Lost.” The Pasadena Post, 13 November 1942, p.1.

“Tire Dealers Give Selves Up.” The Los Angeles Times, 21 October 1942, p. 10.

“Tires Must Be Listed to Get Gas Rationing Books.” The Fresno Bee, 6 October 1942, p. 1.

Ford Big Job Truck

Many of the car shows we frequent have been canceled this year, and I have missed them terribly. That’s why I was beyond excited to make the short trip to Elm Creek, Nebraska, to attend the show hosted by the E.C. Cruisers Car Club. There were many beautiful rides gracing the downtown streets of this central Nebraska village, and here are just a few:

1953 Chevy
1934 Ford
1951 Merc
1955 Ford Vic

It is fairly rare to see big trucks at the local car shows, so I was absolutely thrilled to see this unique entry:

It is a 1952 Ford F7, part of the “Big Job” line, and someone has made it gorgeous. The original truck would have come equipped with the 145-hp 279-ci Cargo King V-8 engine. The chassis in ’52 was available in a variety of lengths, ranging from a 135 to 195-inch WB, and the cab was either the 5-Star Cab or the 5-Star Extra. The “extra” consisted of things like sound deadener, custom door panel trim, sun visors, arm rests, door locks, chrome windshield molding and an illuminated cigar lighter. I don’t know what this particular truck had for a cab originally, but it was not neglected in the upgrade:

However big the job, it would be a blast to work it in this beast!

Golden Gazelle Hood Ornament

People frequently think “impala” when they see this accessory hood ornament, and that is understandable because, after all, it is a Chevrolet mascot:

This gazelle hood ornament is marked with the casting number 3695864.

This hood ornament is actually a gazelle, however, and those are apparently two different things. This flying golden gazelle was part of a “sparkling line of high quality, genuine accessories, styled, engineered and manufactured especially for Chevrolet in General Motors plants” for the 1951 model passenger cars.

They are relatively rare now, and that scarcity is likely directly related to the popularity of the standard hood ornament for that year:

Neither of these hood ornaments are in mint condition to be sure, but if you are going to play with old cars, you better be able to handle some imperfections!


“Accessories Keynote New Style.” The Bismarck Tribune, 8 December 1950, p. 11.

1951 Chevrolet Motors Sales Brochure, published by General Motors Corporation.

Automobile’s Impact on the Farm

1922 Ford Model T Coupe

It would be difficult to overstate the impact the automobile had on the American farm.  Farmers accustomed to leading a relatively isolated existence were suddenly able to have regular contact with the outside world.  Instead of relying on horses to haul their products to market, they were able to use cars and trucks to quickly transport their butter, milk, eggs, grain, chickens and other livestock. The automobile changed production methods as well, used for everything from delivering inputs like fertilizer, fuel and feed to harvesting in the field. 

In one El Paso Herald story, “Automobile Crowding the Horse Out of Existence” by Frederick J. Haskin, the author described how the automobile had already conquered the city and was “carrying its active warfare to the very citadel of the stronghold of the horse, the farm.”  The author spoke with 15 farmers gathered at a local hotel. The year was 1909 and, although this was very early in the automobile’s existence, 12 of the farmers already owned automobiles and were hitching light machinery to them to mow and plow and even using them to herd livestock.

Using an automobile for farm work was made easier by inventions such as the Knickerbocker Forma-Tractor, an attachment for converting a Ford Model T into a tractor.  According to a 1918 ad, the Knickerbocker Forma-Tractor would pull two 12-inch bottoms in all soils, would plow four to six acres a day while being operated by “either a boy or a girl,” would disc 12 acres per day in heavy soil and would do the work of three or four horses.

Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska, has one on display:

1919 Model T with Knickerbocker Forma-Tractor attachment.

According to a 1935 story in the Muncie Sunday Star titled, “Auto Leads Way in Movement of Modernizing American Farms,” 60 percent of farm families owned at least one automobile by this year, while only 35 percent had electricity and a measly 12 percent had running water.  Seen as a necessity rather than a luxury as many railroad spur lines to rural areas were being abandoned, more than 1 million trucks were owned by farmers. The author added this observation:

“It seems more than passing strange that legislators on the one hand will try to aid the farmer through various relief schemes and at the same time favor the placing of higher and higher taxes upon the motor vehicle transportation that the farmer uses.” 

It didn’t get any better from there.

1931 Ford Pickup