by Matt Konkle
Quadratec Channel Editor
'Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds'
—Inscription over the entrance to the James Farley Post Office in New York City.
We see them day after day, flitting about in white logo trucks or making the rounds sporting traditional blue uniforms. And if we don’t, well, the evidence of their existence is in all the packages, letters, catalogs, birthday cards, wedding announcements, and scores of other things they leave behind in their wake.
Sure, there are plenty of other companies out there doing some of the heavy lifting with all the e-commerce options out there, but it is the mail carriers who show up six days a week, all year long—minus holidays—to get everything 'mail-ish' from point A to point B.
In 2018, that translated into around 146 billion pieces of mail to 159 million delivery addresses.
So today, on ‘National Thank a Mail Carrier Day’, we hope you had a chance to give a wave to yours. Or a high-five. Or maybe simply spent a few minutes chatting.
While Jeep is no longer associated with the majority of today’s mail vehicles, the brand does have a long tradition in helping carriers move mail around the country—all in an effort to stay true to that honored snow or rain 'unofficial' motto.
Back in the mid-1950s, as Willys-Overland began cranking out CJ vehicles to satisfy cravings of those who grew to love the World War 2 military Jeeps, the company also saw a need for delivery-type vehicles.
So it took the body styling of its emerging CJ-3A, kept the L-134 straight-4 Go Devil engine, but eliminated four-wheel drive, added a column shift, nixed the foldable windshield and, among a few other things, swapped the steering to the vehicle’s right side to accommodate most residential mailboxes.
And so the DJ-3A was born. A ‘Dispatch Jeep’ machine that soon proved itself to be a rugged, reliable asset helping deliver mail over nation’s rougher dirt roads and snow-covered streets.
Over the years, Kaiser Motors bought out Willys and the new company decided to upgrade the mail-delivering vehicle in 1965, scrapping the aging body style for a newer version based off the CJ-5 series Jeep. It retained the two-wheel drive, right-hand column aspect, but swapped out the old Go Devil engine for either an inline-4 Hurricane or V6 Dauntless. This body style is also what most people are familiar with, when they think about mail Jeeps, and one that dominated Jeep’s involvement with the postal service into the 1980s.
Small changes were made by Kaiser to the DJ-5 in the late 60s, but the company decided to exit the automotive game in 1970, selling out to American Motors Company.
AMC further refined the DJ-5 in 1971, giving it an updated five-slot grille without turn signals, as well as a slightly larger grille to accommodate the larger AMC Straight-6 engine. Sliding side doors and a swing-out rear door were added for functionality as well, but the vehicle overall remained quite unassuming—with most versions employing simply a driver’s seat and mail trays for an interior.
AMC soon pushed off the mail Jeep line to its military subsidiary AM General, and further refinements were made throughout the 1970s including a more stable suspension and a push into electrification.
That particular version, called the DJ-5E, began mass production in 1974 using a set of 27-volt batteries with a 50-volt, 30 brake horsepower, compound wound DC motor. The vehicle was capable of reaching 33 miles-per-hour as a top speed, and had nearly a 30 mile range off the charge. In all, the postal service purchased 352 electric DJ vehicles —mainly in cities that had pollution issues.
The DJ-series mail Jeeps remained in production until 1984, at which time the postal service decided to move in a different direction—eventually deciding on an all-new vehicle called the LLV (Long Life Vehicle) built by aerospace company Grumman. Many of those remain on mail routes today.
However, the Jeep brand is not entirely out of the mail assistance game. In a few remote regions around the country, right-hand drive Wrangler Unlimited JKs are still helping mail carriers complete their routes, no matter the snow, rain, heat or gloom of night.