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Gamblers Thumb Their Noses at Gas Rationing While Chasing the Ponies

Recently we featured a series of photographs showing the effects of gasoline rationing during World War II on the driving public and businesses. Contributor Ace Zenek recently sent in this image taken in May of 1943 at the Pimlico race course, located eight miles northwest of the center of Baltimore, Maryland.

Viewing the automobiles in the parking lot shows that the great majority of them are mid-to-high-priced late model cars owned by relatively well-heeled racing patrons. To get to the track many of the gamblers with “A” rationing stickers, who were only allowed three gallons of gas a week had to save some their gas rations for the trip. Those with “B,” “C” or “X” rationing stickers or access to black market fuel could usually drive were they wanted to except on Gasless Sundays when all nonessential driving was banned.

The expandable photos below give you a good view of many of the cars in the parking lot so tell us what you find of interest here. The photo by Arthur Siegel is courtesy of the Library of Congress and is from the Farm Security Administration and the United States Office of the War archives.

Pimlico racetrack Baltimore 1930 - 42 automobiles

1930s and 1940s vintage automobiles

21 responses to “Gamblers Thumb Their Noses at Gas Rationing While Chasing the Ponies

    • Is that the one in the first row that looks like it’s wearing spectacles for headlights next to the light colored car? I’m trying to see all these on my cell phone. It doesn’t help that I have a hard time telling so many pre-1950 or so cars from another.

  1. There was a gray market too. Since the gov’t couldn’t tailor the stamps to every household people were expected to trade stamps with the neighbors. My family had access to butter and eggs, so we were always trading to get extra gas stamps. For a birthday my mother received a gallon glass jug of cleaning fluid; stable enough to store/potent enough to run a car. This was considered a gift of extreme good taste.. One day the V8 wouldn’t start so we dusted off the jug and we were mobile !

  2. In the 1st photograph, in the lower right corner, is a 1941 DeSOTO convertible; in the same picture, 3rd row back, center, is a 1942 BUICK and in the first three rows, there are five 1941 BUICK automobiles.

  3. Great picture. I see a 1941 Mercury I’d love to have today.

    Gas rationing was a bit of deceit by government, which like everything else that was restricted, was said to be for the “war effort”. There was plenty of gas and oil but little rubber for new tires because of German U boats sinkings. In addition the objective was to limit civilian mobility and create an atmosphere of crises and sacrifice. Propaganda for a good cause.

    • Gas rationing was a bit of deceit by government, which like everything else that was restricted, was said to be for the “war effort”. There was plenty of gas and oil but little rubber for new tires because of German U boats sinkings. In addition the objective was to limit civilian mobility and create an atmosphere of crises and sacrifice. Propaganda for a good cause.

      The US had was surplus domestic oil production capacity to the point that both war consumption (of both US and allies) and domestic auto consumption could have been supplied. What is frequently overlooked is that the automobiles of that time were quickly used up by normal driving. The auto factories and supporting industries were needed for war production, making both new automobiles and replacement parts unavailable for the duration of the war production effort.

      Allowing normal driving would have more quickly consumed the non renewable automobile stock in existence and required scarce lubricants, unavailable service parts and and other automotive supplies needed for the war effort. As it was, the US automobile stock was heavily worn by the time postwar production resumed.

    • I think that argument has already been discredited. The one about German U-boat sinkings is not valid because rubber came from South East Asia and that supply was cut off due to the war in the Pacific. In order to save both rubber and gasoline the nation instituted gas rationing a year after Pearl Harbor, a time when the nation was already past the atmosphere of crisis. Even so, the rubber shortage was real and there was a distinct need to procure rubber for the military that was already being fed by an industry switched over to almost total war production. As we were feeding both our forces and those of our allies at the time (Russia being the recipient of tens of thousands of vehicles, for example), rationing would seem to be rational.

  4. Poeople in this area wern’t suffering, new cars, gas and money to gamble, must have been working at one of the wartime productin companies.

    • Car production stopped in 1942 and the unsold vehicles were rationed off to those in need like doctors and clergymen could buy any of the half million cars unsold. So, maybe this is a gathering of docs and clerics out to inspect and bless the horses….LOL!

  5. There are plentiful Cadillacs and Lincolns inside the hedge row but outside, lower left, there is, what appears to be, a mid 30’s Dodge or Plymouth pick up.

  6. Is that a Graham, 2nd pic, middle of front row? And perhaps another in the same pic, far left, behind the pickup truck?

  7. Did you know that the two track photos are actually two different shots from the same photo? The second photo starts at what is the fifth and last row of the first photo and shows a more panoramic view of the parking grounds with lots and lots of cars pictured. In regards to the first photo, if I’m not mistaken the second car on the right in the first row is a 1942 Buick, followed by two 1940 Desoto’s, a 1940 Buick, yet another 1940 Desoto, and then a 1941 Desoto Convertible. Is that a LaSalle sitting in the second row fourth car on the left, and is that a Packard sitting in the third row second car on the left? Could be, I reckon. All in all nice photos. Also, I know that during World War 11 the United States government seriously considered importing lots of rubber from Brazil I believe but the plan was eventually shelved in favor of synthetic rubber that was more cheaper to make and also less hazardous to workers’ health.

    • Coffee was rationed because the shipments (among other things) from Brazil were being targeted by German U-boats and that probably precluded any successful shipment of rubber as well, though I am not sure what rubber production in Brazil was at that time. However, the rubber industry their was in shambles and it took some extraordinary efforts to get workers into the fields before production could ramp up. It is said that about 30,000 imported workers died in that effort due to disease, climate and animals. The aim was to boost production from 18,000 tons to 45,000 tons, but I think the target was not reached before the end of the war.

    • The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company started one of the world’s largest rubber plantations in Liberia in the mid 1920s. The company purchased a deep-water property in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1937 and started to import liquid rubber latex, from Liberia, to this port. Shortly before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, this facility at Fall River had a major fire that caused $15,000,000 in damages to the stored rubber and plant. Firestone still imports, by ship, liquid rubber latex from Liberia to Fall River. This liquid rubber latex is stored in large tanks and then transshipped by rail and truck.

      Prior to Firestone setting up its rubber operation in Fall River, it established the Firestone Cotton Mill in this city to produce cotton cord for automobile tires.

  8. In the first photo, fifth row back, fifth car in is a 1942 Lincoln Continental coupe, one of 200 built. Many convertibles suggest this was a better off crowd than usual.

  9. Last photo: front row, center: I believe that’s a Lincoln Continental. “The Boss must have been “interviewing” his ponies that morning. I bet one or two of them stayed in bed…

  10. In the first photo row 3 is a 1934/1935 Buick with one side mount spare. Since GM cars with fender wells came with spares on both sides evidently the owner squirreled away the other spare or wore it out or didn’t dare display it.

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