Guest Post – When Making A Car Was Illegal – GPCox


This is the latest Guest Post from gpcox all about the vehicles in service during World War II and a little about what the American Family had to sacrifice back home.

When Making a Car Was Illegal

After Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt ordered all car manufacturers to cease the production of private automobiles and convert the factories to produce military

Utility Truck

Utility Truck

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).

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.

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.

A quote from the Random Memories of Cedric Duryee Guion – “We had a 1927 Packard Touring car. I guess this was when Lad was working at Well’s Garage and he was making a little money there. He saw a 1929 Packard Touring car – it was a beauty – and he asked my Dad if he could trade in the old Packard and my Dad told him “OK”. We didn’t like that because then it was Lad’s car. I think that’s the Packard with the hidden compartment that Lad found while cleaning it out. We figured it must have belonged to some rum-runners”



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

1943 "Duck"

1943 “Duck”

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.

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

WWII Jeep Ambulance

WWII Jeep Ambulance

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, we 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 since their slogan at the time was, “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.  (We once again see why the Technical Forces were so important to the Ground Forces.)( See Guest Post – gpcox –   Technical and Ground Force Coordination, published here Feb. 12, 2013)

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?

Judy and I enjoy these guest posts and want to hear how this situation affected your family or give us suggestions for future articles.

Research & Photo Resources:

Military History Online

Internet History Sourcebooks

Ford Corp./history

History of Packard

From the Great Depression to WWII


Classic Car History

Fine Art America

Lopez Transport 1941

Surrey Vintage Vehicle Society

GMC Trucks

Please leave a comment and let us know what you think of these Guest Posts. Tomorrow, I’ll begin a week of letters from 1944. All five sons are in the service of Uncle Sam. Grandpa is holdong down the fort with Jean, Dick’s wife, and Aunt Betty, his mother’s sister.

Judy Guion


67 thoughts on “Guest Post – When Making A Car Was Illegal – GPCox

  1. Wow, amazing! It’s an interesting post – thanks for sharing!

  2. Karen Evans says:

    Another interesting post. I remember my father bought a car prior to the war with $5 loan payments and was thrilled to purchase a yellow convertible coup following the war for $300.

  3. 56packardman says:

    As “56 PackardMan”, I certainly appreciate your references to Packard! :-)
    Here’s my post on the Packard Merlin engines
    and here’s my post on the V-12s Packard built for the PT boats:

    Seldom remembered today is the fact that an important part of Packard’s business was its marine and aviation engine business.

    Packard even built a diesel aviation business.

    Packard landed a contract to build the J-47 jet engine. The cash flow from that project would have largely funded the planned, but alas unbuilt, all-new ’57 Packards (and Studebakers). Ike had appointed former GM Chairman Charles Wilson as Secretary of Defense. Wilson knew that Packard was making a determined effort to recover the “luxury car crown” it had handed to Cadillac when it began emphasizing cars in the Buick-Oldsmobile-Chrysler price class. Wilson yanked Packard’s J-47 contract. That action really started the dominos falling for Packard …

    • jaggh53163 says:

      56packardman – My Dad, Lad, would have enjoyed your Blog. He had the knowledge and experience to keep a car running in top condition. Today, we have technicians who read computers. We can’t adjust the brakes, we have to replace them. I don’t even know if we can adjust the timeimg anymore. The artistry of a great auto mechanic is lost on the current generation.

  4. oldpoet56 says:

    This is an excellent article, I am going to reblog this article for you.

  5. I wonder, did I never learn these things in school years ago, or have I forgotten? Regardless, it’s all very fascinating to me now especially contrasting it to today’s way of life and present world situation. I will forward this to my grown sons (one just leaving Afghanistan) and hope they will take the time to read it. I will also read it to my husband(a veteran) and it will spur interesting discussion.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Climbing Downhill – Thank you for your comments. I do hope your sons and husband will find this information interesting. GPCox’s and my Blogs represent the same time frame but from totally different perspectives. GP writes about the war in the Pacific and the part the 101st Airborne played in that theater. I write about American life at home using letters written by my Grandfather and his 5 sons (and one daughter-in-law, my Mom) and what their lives were like in the various parts of the world they were living in at the same time. It really helps clarify the situation and creates a more complete picture of World War II. I’m glad you enjoyed this post.

  6. kevinashton says:

    In England, because of the constant bombing, the government instituted a blackout. This meant curtains had to be heavy, many street lights were switched off and cars had to have their headlights covered with material to dim the lights. This was all done to make the finding of targets more difficult for the German Luftwaffe, but my mum said driving or even walking in the dark was pretty scary too!

    • jaggh53163 says:

      kevinashton – Thank you for the viewpoint from across the pond. My Blog is about life for the American family but the privations, sentiments and worries were felt by citizens around the world. It didn’t really matter on which side their country was fighting, I’m sure parents, brothers and sisters had similar feelings.

  7. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I recall the satirical version – “Necessity isn’t the mother of invention; it’s just a mother”

  8. GP is always good value

  9. Enjoyed this recap of what the car manufacturers were doing instead of making cars. Thanks, GP

  10. gaphodoc says:

    What a nice coincidence – my husband and I attended the WWII Heritage Days yesterday, which is held here annually at the Atlanta Regional Falcon Field Airport, which is near us. Among other highlights, including one of 11 remaining B-17s (this one Texas Raiders’ CAF group restoration), we attended a great talk on the Jeep – its history, parts, etc. The restorer of this one, as well as 5 others on display through the air field grounds, was so knowledgeable and we learned so much — for one thing Ford did not come up with, or produce the Jeep alone. “Bob” found this Jeep, one of the first produced, in a farmer’s field in Cleveland GA. He is a member of the MVPA, the Military Vehicle Preservation Association. I am sure they can answer any particular questions anyone has on any military vehicle.

    We learned about another annual WWII event to be held this year in Linden, TN Sept. 29. They will highlight the home front, and also the Coast Guard this year.

  11. jfwknifton says:

    They built so many “ducks” that war-surplus examples were still being used to carry tourists on wildlife trips through seaside marshland in eastern England when I was a kid in the 1960s. A very impressive and capable vehicle actually!

  12. I was born in 1951 and already, during my schooling, this was forgotten. How fascinating your post is!

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Jacqui – It is really sad when history is condensed – or left out – or re-written to please someone’s agenda – but it happens all the time. I believe both GPCox and I are very proud to be able to bring to life this piece of our history with researched facts and the words of those who actually lived through it, written at the moment it happened. It provides a much clearer picture of what really happened.

  13. Fascinating! That sacrifice seems like a dream. I’ve often wondered if WWIII came about if we’d sacrifice as a nation again…

  14. Jennie says:

    Necessity is the mother of invention. The Army (and farmers, etc.) proves we are very resilient when we have to be. Still, it is hard to imagine fixing and maintaining a car or truck. Great post, GP! I highly recommend the Owls Head Museum in Maine for old car lovers. They have it all, from Packards to aircraft.

  15. markd60 says:

    I love reading your posts. My only complaint is that you don’t post often enough! I was stationed in Pearl Harbor while I was in the Navy from ’79 thru ’85, and I find anything that mentions Pearl Harbor or WWII interesting.
    I remember History in school was so boring, your posts are interesting, and it makes me wonder if there was something wrong with the way the textbooks were written back in my day.
    I think that it wouldn’t go over too bad if, today, the President of the USA asked all the people to help out for some common goal, in fact, I think it’s what the USA really needs. Something to focus on to set aside their differrences.

  16. SCLMRose says:

    Another great history lesson from GP. Thanks Judy for posting this.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      SCLMRose – Again, it is my pleasure. GP’s posts are always worth reading – full of interesting and well-researched information. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  17. Great post; thanks for reminding us of how it was back when. :-)

    • jaggh53163 says:

      Susan – I’m glad you enjoyed it. Many of those who lived through it are unable to tell the stories now and I’m glad GPCox and I can contribute to the memory of this time in our history.

  18. Dan Antion says:

    Just considering the changes that had to be made to assembly lines, engine plants and all the new things workers had to learn, tells me this was an amazing feat. This manufacturing capacity was essential to winning that war.

  19. shoreacres says:

    This is very interesting, for a number of reasons. There are some of those Ducks in Galveston, being used as tourist transportation. I found plenty of information about the tours, but nothing about the Ducks themselves. It would be interesting to know if they’re the old ones, repurposed.

    And didn’t I grin at that phrase from FDR: “the privilege of denial.” I can just hear the reaction to that today.

    • GP Cox says:

      I figured you might pick up on that quote from FDR!!
      Some of the ‘Ducks’ are being used today, but there is a company , Original Wisconsin Ducks, that makes new ones.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      shoreacres – I’m glad to know that “Ducks” are still being used today – whether they are old or new. They are quite unique vehicles.

  20. beetleypete says:

    Modern cars are so complex, my dealer needs a computer to diagnose even the smallest fault. I could no longer imagine being able to do any work on my own car, and it is ten years old.
    During wartime in the UK, people tried to run cars on alcohol, steam, and even coal gas, with huge bags of gas fixed to the roof. Ingenuity is always born out of adversity..
    You might be interested to know that some of those Ducks are still being used as tourist boats on the Thames, in London.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • GP Cox says:

      Thanks for adding to the story, Pete! Linda and I were just talking about the Ducks used today, some re-purposed and some new.

    • jaggh53163 says:

      beetleypete – Back in the day, Lad (my father) knew how to fix any car, truck or piece of construction equipment. He also knew how to jerry-rig a part if necessary. I doubt he would be pleased with the technology today. Now, if a door latch doesn’t work they have to replace the entire door! This would not make any sense to someone from The Greatest Generation.

  21. GP Cox says:

    Reblogged this on Pacific Paratrooper and commented:
    I remember when I first wrote this – it took many readers by surprise! Hope you all enjoy it!

  22. GP Cox says:

    Thank you, Judy. You’re bringing back some great memories for me!

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