One cool morning in November 1942, Guss Orr's train chugged away from the buff-colored brick Texarkana Union Station. With a wad of cash and a worn suitcase full of warm clothes, the Chevrolet dealer was again headed 1,400 miles northeast in search of scarce cars and spare parts.
"Every month, dad took the train to Pennsylvania and New York to buy cars and parts, mostly from dealers who had been drafted," recalls David Orr, now 76 and a semiretired principal of Gregg Orr Auto Group in Texarkana, Texas. "He'd ship most back by rail and drive one home. He'd be gone six or seven days every month."
The U.S. entry into World War II had led to rationing of gasoline, rubber and anything else critical to the country's war effort. When the elder Orr returned after days driving the country's increasingly worn two-lane roads, the car was packed with any equipment and auto parts he could find.
"He'd have used tires, batteries, whatever," David Orr says. "My brother Maurice and I would help unload and put it in the pickup to take to the dealership."
It was 7-year-old David's introduction to total mobilization, a national commitment of all resources to the war effort. With it, the U.S. auto industry -- the country's heaviest and most capable manufacturers, which were concentrated near Detroit, far out of range of enemy bombers -- was completely transformed.