Franklin Roosevelt introduced the Lend-Lease Act in January of 1941 to allow the U.S. to lend or lease war materials to allies while allowing the U.S. to officially remain neutral. Following Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, that same act would be applied to US industry. Applying the Lend-Lease Act, the US government required domestic automakers to transitioned from building personal and commercial cars and trucks to war vehicles, machinery and weapons by early 1942. On this day in 1942 the last pre-war Chryslers, Plymouths and Studebakers would roll off of their respective assembly lines. Just two days later, a Ford sedan would become the last civilian car produced in America prior to a full switch into war production.
American car companies retooled their factories to build tanks, trucks, planes, bombs, boats, guns, ammunition, helmets and all other materials necessary for battle. Due to a government ration on automobile sales, as of February 22, 1942, a stockpile of approximately 520,000 new cars became available for purchase by those the government deemed “essential drivers.” This included doctors, police officers and other integral civil servants.