The three motor fuel ration books shown here were issued in late November 1973 and were not dissimilar to ones issued during the Second World War, continuing until 1950 and during the Suez crisis of 1956/7.

Between 6th and 25th October 1973 there was a short war named the Yom Kippur War or Arab Israeli War. During the war, in response to U.S. support of Israel, the Arab members of The Organisation of Petroleum Producing Countries (OPEC) reduced oil production and soon after Saudi Arabia declared an embargo against the United States, later joined by other oil exporters and extended to other states. Oil prices rose steeply.

From the beginning of the crisis British motorists were advised to be economical with fuel and were encouraged to use public transport. Then fuel supplies were cut by 10% and motorists were asked not to drive at weekends and to limit their speed to 50 mph. As long queues formed at petrol stations there was pressure on the government to introduce petrol rationing. Ration books were distributed to motorists on 29th November 1973.

The 1973-1974 period was turbulent with the miners’ strike, the three-day week and power cuts, but petrol rationing was avoided and in July 1975 motorists were told they could destroy the ration books.

The ration books contained coupons covering a six month period, with vouchers for one, two or three units given a particular code letter.  For example a small car not exceeding 1100 cc had for each month four coupons: two x N2 units and two x L1 units. How much fuel could be purchased with each unit is not stated and presumably would have been announced and subject to change.

As can be seen from the illustrations, ration books were issued for different engine sizes and carried a different letter code at the beginning of the unique identifying numbers that followed. There were also differing print colours on the cover. Here are examples:

JG or JH = motor cycle up to 250cc with green on cove
KG or KH = motor cycle over 250cc with green on cover
LH = up to 1100cc with red on cover
MH = 1101cc – 1500 cc with blue on cover
NG and NH = 1501cc- 2200cc with black on cover
OG or OH = 2201cc and over with red on cover

As the ration books were never used, they can be found easily for sale on the internet.

Key theme(s):

Going OutTransport

More information:

Date 1970s
Material(s) Paper
Item number MBPO39

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • Have you ever had to use petrol coupons? If so when?
  • Have you kept or had handed down, any ration books as mementos?
  • Why do you think people buy these unused motor fuel ration books?
  • What other goods have been rationed?

User Stories

I remembered seeing a book of petrol coupons in items left by my late father.

Here it is

Petrol rationing introduced during World War II continued until 1950. Here is an example of coupons from that period.





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