The drive by Ford Motor Co. and the United Auto Workers union to restrict sales of Japanese cars in the United States was stalled yesterday because too many members of the House Ways and Means Committee had left for Thanksgiving vacation.

The committee was unable to obtain a quorum to consider legislation to give the president authority to negotiate an import restrictions agreement with the Japanese.

Half an hour after the committee was scheduled to meet Chairman Al Ullman (D-Ore.) announced that a quorum was not present and that consideration of the legislation would be deferred until the week of Dec. 1 when the House returns from its Thanksgiving holiday break.

The trade subcommittee approved a resolution Thursday giving the president the power to negotiate the agreement, a move intended to send a warning not only to the Japanese but to U.S. automakers as well. The subcommittee report will stress that Detroit must use any benefits from the legislation to enhance production of small cars and put more autoworkers back on the job.

On Thursday, Rep. Charles A. Vanik (D-Ohio), chairman of the trade subcommittee, predicted that the politically sensitive legislation would pass both houses during the final days of the lame-duck session.