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War Economy

The Motorist

The Motorist

Supply problems for the private motorist were discussed in Chapter 6 and 15.1 Compared with these problems, the extra 4d. a gallon petrol tax imposed from the outbreak of war was but a trivial annoyance. Except for the small proportion who had producer gas plants fitted to their cars,2 the running which motorists could do was limited by the fluctuating petrol ration.

Initially, sheets of consecutively numbered coupons, each for two gallons, were issued to motorists through the Post Offices; and the Oil Fuel Controller had power to fix the date after which any particular coupon could be redeemed. In September 1939 ten gallons per car was made available, and in October 12 gallons. However, the Minister of Supply on 6 October announced that cars over 14 horsepower would be allowed 50 per cent more than smaller cars, to give them about the same amount of running. Consecutively numbered 3-gallon coupons were now issued for the larger cars.

After the suspension of rationing in December and January, four 2-gallon coupons were made redeemable in February 1940 for light cars, and four 3-gallon coupons for heavy cars, to provide from 180 to 280 miles of running. Similar arrangements applied for the rest of the licensing year.

With the relicensing of motor vehicles at the end of May, cars were divided into three groups: under 9·5 horsepower, from 9·5 to 14·5 horsepower, and over 14·5 horsepower. Basic rations starting in June were to be 6, 9 and 12 gallons a month respectively, to give between 216 and 225 miles of running. However, with the fluctuating supply position, these allocations were varied from time to time. In August 1941, for example, with tankers not arriving regularly and stocks down to less than 20 million gallons,3 rations were only half those set for June 1940.

Usually, rather more than the normal allocation was made available for the Christmas holiday period.

Petrol rationing continued until 1 June 1950.4

1 pp. 117–18 and 416–19 respectively.

2 The Transport Department reported in Parliamentary Paper H-40 for 1943 at p. 4:

‘Gas-producers. These plants are manufactured under licence from the Factory Controller. The issue of permits to fit them was transferred from the Factory Controller to the Oil Fuel Controller last June, and since that date permits have been issued for 196 cars, 96 trucks in the North Island, and 35 cars and 8 trucks in the South Island. Declarations at the time of registration of motor-vehicles indicate that there are 1339 cars and 361 trucks fitted with gas-producers in the North Island, and 434 cars and 146 trucks in the South Island.’

3 About two-thirds of normal.

4 See also p. 421.