When Making A Car Was Illegal

The last Packard, 1942

The last Packard, 1942

 

This was originally published as a Guest Post for Judy Hardy at Greatest Generation Lessons.

After Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered all car manufacturers to cease the production of private automobiles and convert the factories to produce military vehicles, weaponry, airplane engines, parts, etc. But, this would not put an end to man’s love affair with the automobile. A car manual became priceless to a private owner and a truck manual was an absolute necessity for a farmer or businessman. With the rationing of gasoline in the U.S., the “National Victory Speed” was 35 mph and driving clubs were encouraged. (Our modern day car-pools).

The news spread around the world.

The news spread around the world.

Automobiles were produced in massive quantities before the Great Depression and this brought the price down considerably. Then, the stock market crashed and many people were unable to afford the fuel for the cars they already owned. There were some that removed the engines from their vehicles and had a horse pull them. These were nicknamed “Bennett Buggies” in some areas.

"Bennett Buggie"

“Bennett Buggie”

FDR gave a long-winded speech on 28 April 1942 called the “Call for Sacrifice,” where he stated, “…Not all of us have the privilege of fighting our enemies in distant parts of the world. Not all of us can have the privilege of working in a munitions factory or a shipyard, or on the farms or in oil fields or mines… There is one front where everyone is in action and that is right here at home and that is the privilege of denial.” (Can any of us even imagine what would eventuate from a statement like that today?) It was not until June that civilian truck production ceased, except some tightly government controlled heavy trucks produced during 1944 by GMC.

Packard was known as a “company of premier luxury cars.” In 1937, they introduced their first 6-cylinder engine since 1928 – right in time for the ’29 Depression, so they designed the “110” model in 1940-41 to serve as taxi cabs. With the onset of war, air plane engines, such as the Merlin that powered the P-51 Mustang fighter were produced. Many American and British PT boats were equipped with the Packard 1350-, 1400-, and 1500 horsepower V-12 marine engines. During this era, the company also produced ambulances and other military vehicles. All in all, 60,000 combined engines were built by Packard.

GMC had produced nearly 584,000 multi-drive vehicles for use in WWII, the first of which was the amphibious 6×6 “Ducks.” These were sent to the Army for island landings and river crossings. Over 21,000 of these unique vehicles were produced. GMC also built the first 2 ½ ton 6×6 trucks powered by a 270 cid engine which became the famous “workhorse” of the Army.

"Duck"

“Duck”

The Ford Corporation during 1942-45 built approximately 8,600 of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers. They also produced aircraft engines, M-4 tanks, spare parts and the ever-famous Jeep. In England, the Dagenham plant built the Ford military trucks, Bren-gun carriers and more than 30,000 super-charged V-12 engines for the Mosquito and Lancaster bombers.

The transportation department of the U.S. Army performed monumental feats during WWII. They moved tons of food, weapons, equipment and men despite gasoline, oil and lubricants being in short supply. If one delves deeper into this research, they find that Congress was not always willing to loosen the government’s purse strings. As I have mentioned previously on my site, Europe received the majority of the supplies, hence their slogan, “Europe First.” (But, even the ETO had shortages.) I have two specific reports stating that my father’s unit, the 11th Airborne Division while fighting in the Pacific, could not reach the city of Manila before the Sixth Army due to the lack of trucks. 

Since the first automobile sputtered down the street and caught up to a horse, men have defined themselves by their vehicles, showing their cars off with pride and affection. They wash them, wax them and individualize them. It becomes an extension of himself – whereas a woman does the same routine for her home.

The ever-reliable car manual during the WWII era was a lifeline keeping farmers connected to markets, businessmen to their offices and factory workers to their jobs. What you had, you were forced to maintain or learn to do without. Just try to picture it – a world without rent-a-cars or gas stations at every intersection, no leasing contracts for new cars, no power windows or GPS or Blue Tooth… What do you see?

Jeep ambulance from the David Dunham Collection

Jeep ambulance from the David Dunham Collection

 

Research & Photo Resources:

Military History Online; Internet History Sourcebooks; Ford Corp./history; History of Packard; From the Great Depression to WWII; Wikipedia; Classic Car History; Fine Art America; Lopez Transport 1941; Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society; GMC Trucks

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Military Humor – 

WWII_CartoonTheJeep

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Farewell Salutes – 

Deacon Cresswell – Boynton Bch, FL; US Air Force, Korea, 50th Troop Carrier Wing

Gordon Keats – Victoria, CAN; RC Navy, WWIIAmerican-Flag-Eagle2

Kirk Kerkorian – Fresno, CA; RAF Ferry Command, WWII, 33 Mosquitoes from Canada to U.K.

Donnell Nasseth – Valley City, ND; US Navy, WWII, Pharmacist Mate 1st Class

Mary Petrozzi – Wolfeboro, NH; US WAVE, WWII, nurse

Raymond Reitze – Scarborough, ME; US Army, WWII, POW

Bryan Smith – Beverton, OR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, 457th Artillery Reg/11th Airborne

Earl Turner – Lancaster, CA; US Army, Korea, 187th RCT

William VanMatre – Green River, WY; US Navy (Ret. 25 years), Master Chief

Alvin Wagner – Broad Channel, NY; US Army, WWII

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 29, 2015, in Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 68 Comments.

  1. Thanks Gp cox, it is interesting indeed. 😉

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  2. Lovely post.Fine to read

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  3. The Dagenham plant you mentioned brings back memories, I lived in Dagenham during the second WW and my mother actually drove the steam locomotive at the Ford/Briggs Motor Body Works plant, from the wharf to the factory and back. She was at that time the only female steam train driver in England.

    The Factory was situated right on the River Thames a couple of miles east of the Barking Power Station and Becton Gas Works prime targets for the Luftwaffe in what we called bomb alley for obvious reasons.

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  4. Another instance of your great research and interesting articles.

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  5. Ah, that famous Jeep. It was never ever a vehicle, it was part of the driver’s soul!

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  6. Well that was quite an interesting read gp, a different look at the war from the Car home front perspective, I had never heard or seen of the Bennett Buggy, there must have been massive innovations to overcome shortages during the war.
    Wouldn’t mind owning that Packard today.

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    • Wouldn’t that Packard be something else going down the main street of ANY town! The home front did a lot for the troops back then, so I like to include them in the Intermission Story break time between the years. They earned it – they deserve it, so to speak.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Check out http://www.rainforest.com.au/armyduck.html for modern day use of DUKWs in Australia. (Genuine WWii vehicles)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. most interesting.
    I didn’t know this happened.

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  9. The war times were tough times for my parents and they were fortunate to live on a farm. Know they had a few ration stamps for gasoline that they had saved. Think the Bennett Buggie was a great alternative. Very informative post.

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    • Your parents were very lucky if they still had a working farm after the Depression, but still rough going for sure. I wonder if they had a Bennett Buggie? Thanks for sharing your parent’s story. Anything else you recall?

      Like

  10. I love that patriotism.

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  11. Such different times….everyone made sacrifices

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  12. Particularly love the first two photos.

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  13. Very well written, and, for me, informative, gp

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  14. fabulous post…on a side note, they are running the history of the civil war on the History channel here…spellbound, though it is very graphic ofcourse! Hope you are having a wonderful Monday.

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    • I think the job History channel does with the Civil War is excellent. The history of that war [IMO] is still being learned today, it’s a huge part of US history. Thanks for dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

      • definitely, I think one doesn’t really grasp the brutality (as with most wars) until they see and hear these reenactments and hear some of the actual words written by these soldiers. Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. This post is fantastic. As you know, I did not agree with much of anything FDR said or did, but I have to give him credit for one thing. When he took America to war, he took the entire country. When Bush took us to war, only our troops went … everyone else went to the mall. In my judgment, such a lack of leadership was unforgivable in a commander in chief. We must not ask our warriors to sacrifice abroad if the American people are not willing to sacrifice here at home. I saw a poster the other day that read (paraphrasing) you can thank a veterans for his or her sacrifice by bing the kind of American that deserved it. Again, thank you for this excellent trip back in time.

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    • And, as you know, I usually agree with your opinion of FDR. But, you say Bush wasn’t a leader because he didn’t instill patriotism to the cause – go back even further. JFK got us into Nam real deep, despite WWII generals disagreeing about ever stepping foot in there – that nearly tore the country apart.

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  16. My Dad was Chief of Police of Alliance, NE during WWII. The department had exactly one Ford patrol car, and it was put out of commission when one of the doors was damaged beyond repair in an accident.

    The local dealer couldn’t get a new door for the car, noting the war restrictions, so my Dad wrote Henry Ford a letter telling him the problem. Henry Ford made sure the Alliance police got the needed door!

    Problem solved. There was an air base here during the war, and the population more than tripled for the duration. The police, of course, had limited personnel because most avail;able young men were in the military. A small contingent of MPs worked with the local police to keep things in order, and, it seems, all went reasonably well.

    My Dad always was bothered that he didn’t get to serve in the military. Though he went to the induction center to enlist in the US Navy, the City Manager called the induction center and told them he was a vital person because of his job. Besides, at that time he had two children and a wife.

    He got a military deferment on those terms, was sent home from the induction center, and served his country on the home front, though he never saw it that way.

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    • Great story about the police car. I can understand your father’s point of view, but especially with the base nearby – I can definitely see the military’s side of it. As Chief, he was certainly fulfilling his obligations. Thanks for reading today, Doug, and giving us a peek into your family. Say HI to your brother and sister for me.

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  17. My grandparents owned a hardwood flooring business during the war. They weren’t able to buy a new truck until 47 to replace the ones that were wearing out. Family legion has it that during a job they were doing for the army in Reno, grandma, due to the shortage of men, was working as truck driver hauling wood. Reportedly, on more than one occasion grandma got to the top of the Sierra Nevada, slipped the truck in to neutral, turned off the engine and coasted a hundred miles towards Sacramento to save gas.

    Just because they had an Army contract, they didn’t get extra gas rations.

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    • It seems odd that having a government contract that they didn’t get additional gas rations or even new trucks. Even city officials received more rations as according to law.

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      • I’ve always suspected that there was part of a story that I hadn’t been told. It’s possible that they just didn’t apply or that it was ruled that they didn’t need more. After all the story of grandma and a 2 ton truck flying down the mountain is a much better story than a paperwork mess.

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  18. Wow! Great bit of history here.

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  19. Quite interesting again. I didn’t know about that – not at all.
    Have a great week,
    Pit

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  20. For awhile, not long, selling pre-sliced bread was prohibited, too. It required too much waxed paper to package it. The ban went away after housewives massively complained that the ban went too far.

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  21. Great wartime account as usual–GP. I have a few things to add to the discussion.
    Last cars before production shut down in ’42 were to have painted trim instead of chrome–which was needed for the war effort.
    Some people put their cars up on blocks for the duration. Two gallons of gas per week didn’t go very far.
    Ford built a 32 valve, twin cam V-8 for Sherman tanks.
    The Russians got Studebaker heavy-duty trucks, loved them for their reliability and ruggedness. They can be distinguished in pictures by their squared front fenders.

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  22. A nice look back to when cars (and life) were simpler. There are still ‘Ducks’ running around in London. They do tourist trips in the streets, then head into the river for a combined land/water experience. They are painted in bright colours these days though.
    http://www.londonducktours.co.uk/
    Best wishes, Pete.

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