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Unique and Interesting World War II Gasoline Rationing Images

A month ago we featured a unique photograph of a long line of cars waiting for gas at an Atlantic Service Station located in Philadelphia, PA, shortly after gasoline rationing was implemented near the start World War II. This set of three images follow the original photos time wise and show other filling stations and related photos later in 1942 and ’43.

Today’s lead photo and the enlargeable image below of the entire scene at a Texaco Service Station show another filling station with a long line of cars and motorists waiting to receive their ration of gasoline. Swan Floating Soap (a competitor to Ivory soap) that is “baby gentle” is advertised in the lead photo on a billboard along with Sunken Gardens Restaurant in the enlargeable image below of the entire scene.


  • A long line of cars at a Texaco gas station during the summer of 1942 waiting for fuel.  


  • OPA agents stopping and questioning motorists about the pleasure driving ban in May of 1943.

The picture above taken in May of 1943 shows a number of cars that have been stopped by agents of the Office of Price Administration (OPA) which administered the wartime Gas Rationing Program. A pleasure driving ban was in effect, and the OPA officers were questioning motorists about why they were out on the road.

A new sign at Frank Field’s Sinclair Station below spells out exactly who the facility was serving in accordance with the Gas Rationing Program; note that the station was only selling fuel at eight AM, noon and five PM for an hour. Look back at the first part of this series at Bubble Bath Car Washes And World War II Gas Rationing


  • Above is a new sign at Frank Fields Sinclair Service Station in Philadelphia describing who could get gas at the facility and when. Below is a poster from the OPA printed late in 1942 that covers the various different rations and the coupon books associated with them.




15 responses to “Unique and Interesting World War II Gasoline Rationing Images

    • In the 1st photograph, first car on the left, is a 1937 PACKARD 120 Touring Sedan.

      In the 2nd photograph, there may be another ’37 PACKARD, two cars behind the ’42 STUDEBAKER.

      Also in the 2nd photograph, is a pair of dark 1941 BUICK automobiles, both with radios, [a Special Sedanet and a Special Sedan] to the right of the STUDEBAKER.

  1. Love that customized 1941 (?) Plymouth with whitewwalls, custom hubcaps and fender skirts near the end of the line. I remember going to the service station for a gallon of kerosene for our neighbors 1933 Chevrolet. It would run but not well on a gas and kersone mix and kerosone wasn’t rationed. A little known fact at the time was that gasoline was plentiful but there was a shortgage of rubber for new tires,…a bit of government war-time decit.

    • Of course there was a war going on in two fronts and no one knew at the time where that would lead. Most people grudgingly accepted rationing as there was some purpose to it. I find the last statement on that chart interesting. What did they mean about tire regulations. Tire pressure, wear, not too new. And I wonder who checked for compliance.

    • According to my Dad, at least, there was enough gasoline available to allow the Army to dump it out onto the ground. Willow Run, MI where Ford built the B-24 was about 10 miles from where we lived. After completion the planes were flown a few miles from Willow Run to Romulus (now Detroit’s Metropolitan Airport) for staging before being sent off to war. Of course the planes needed fuel to make that short trip but not when in storage so, as the story goes, that residual high octane aviation gas was drained out onto the parking surface at Romulus (lotsa lead too, for sure). Since the local population was struggling with gas rationing at that time the fuel wastage was a definite bone of contention. Seen from a war production point of view the fuel wasted was probably justifiable but from the perspective of rationed civilians-not so rational. Seems reasonable to think that similar practices were followed at other aircraft production sites around the country.

      • Henri,
        You have to remember that the Octane rating of aviation gas was a lot higher than stuff used for cars. The car would have run poorly if not at all.

      • I used to race sports cars out at the Holtville airstrip in the Southern California desert. In WWII, the B24s would be flown from the Consolidated plant in San Diego out to Holtville, where the engine oil would be changed out and the old oil dumped along the edge of the runways. Decades later General Dynamics had to pay big fines and do a lot of environmental remediation work at that airstrip.

    • In 1965-66 one of my buddies worked at his father’s Shell station on the main street of Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, a favored hangout for our group AKA the Shell’s Angels. I remember he had a 59 Chevy Biscayne with a three on the tree and a 6, and he would have it running, add some fuel oil (way cheaper than gasoline) and leave the car running as long as necessary, hours actually. When his day was coming to an end he would add gasoline to dilute the fuel oil so he could get it started the next day.

  2. 1st pic, Apparently, Sunken Gardens Restaurant is in St. Petersburg, Fla. and looks like the Packard owner is getting in a tussle with the attendant, and I thought it was Ivory soap that floats. Questioning motorists, I see THAT hasn’t changed. I wonder who the “Preferred customers on defense operations” were? And that chart clearly made out by the government.

  3. First photo both cars have what looks like PA plates. Could be near Spruce Creek, PA. which had a restaurant called the Sunken Gardens opened in the early 40s.

    • I also thought they looked like Keystone State plates. Although I never knew PA to be a front-plate state. But, I didn’t come along until 1954 so that very easily could have changed.

    • Hal,

      Good catch on the Pennsylvania plates on the two front cars; in the expanded photograph, there is a 1941 DODGE with a Penn. plate.


  4. Good catches, comments above. However, too bad that av gas couldn’t have been sold/doled out to nearby civilians, workers. Engines aren’t harmed burning excessively high octane gas, only the driver’s wallet. I used it a couple times in a ’40 Packard One-Twenty i once had with no ill effect.

  5. Probably the model A Ford in photo #2 was the only car that got 15MPG or better as suggested in the gas rationing page. I don’t know how some of these cars stayed on the road, such as Buicks, Packards etc. Hoarding tires was a nono. The model A was light on tires. A good Model A was desirable in this era.

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