By on January 27, 2013

After I found the very rare Audi-engined ’79 AM General DJ-5G “Mail Jeep” in a Denver junkyard, I thought I’d go back to ignoring most junked DJ Jeeps. They’re very common in Colorado, and this series has always been more about historically significant vehicles than just plain old ones. However, DJs built before AMC bought Kaiser-Jeep, and featuring the nearly-forgotten Chevrolet Nova four-cylinder engine, deserve some attention.
You could get a Chevy II aka Nova with a 153-cubic-inch L4 engine until 1969. Just as the later Iron Duke was based on the Pontiac 301 V8, the 153 was based on the Chevrolet 230-cubic-inch L6. Hardly any Nova shoppers bought this engine, because gas was cheap and the six didn’t cost much more up front, but Kaiser-Jeep knew a good deal when they saw one. When AMC gobbled up Kaiser-Jeep in 1970, the good old AMC Six replaced the Nova four.
Even by 1968 truck standards, these controls were super-minimal.
Believe it or not, Jeep DJs were sold to customers other than the Postal Service. This one has left-hand-drive, so it probably spent its life hauling something other than junk mail (unless it was purchased by the Royal Jamaican Postal Service for left-side-of-the-road deliveries).
Maybe it was some seriously tight-walleted cheapskate’s commuter car? Do you really need more than a steel box on wheels to get from Point A to Point B?

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41 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1968 Kaiser Jeep DJ-5A, With Factory Chevy Power...”


  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Always though these would make the perfect city vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      N8iveVA

      I always wanted one to throw all my gear in and go camping

    • 0 avatar
      Kosher Polack

      1. Nothing on them worth stealing.
      2. Short wheelbase makes maneuverability a snap.
      3. Cast aside all worries about door dings, curb rash and bumper impacts.
      4. Big enough to move you, but not to help your friends move.
      5. Can drive directly over curbs to escape parking garage entrapment.
      6. Keep it clean and white and it might look like it’s supposed to be parked there on city business.

      Yes, it really is the ultimate. And people say 2WD Jeeps are useless.

  • avatar
    mccall52

    No email or web address, that business card has to be pushing 20 years old.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    That’s the engine they should have put in the vega. I owned a 68 Nova with the 230 and liked it a lot. Don’t know for sure how the four would have worked but am sure I did not like the aluminum engine they had. I think that it appeared in some of the vega variants but can’t remember which one.

    • 0 avatar
      solracer

      Not only did GM consider using the 4-cyl in their small car, they considered making a new version of the Corvair with a rear-mounted watercooled 4!

      http://blog.hemmings.com/index.php/tag/xp-892/

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      The 153-4 in the Vega would have saved GM a lot of grief. Later versions of the Vega had the Iron Duke but by that time the car had a bad rep. Too bad GM never modernized the Corvair. By today it could have been GM’s 911.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Wow… I thought I was the only one who thought that. Introducing a new platform and a new prowertrain at the same time compounds risk introduction. Things often happen in the field that were not foreseen in spite of everyone’s best efforts. Corvair. Vega. X-Bodies…

  • avatar
    zbnutcase

    Yes, folks, you are looking at one of the most popular marine engines ever produced, in this DJ5…

    • 0 avatar
      Scout_Number_4

      +1. My Dad had one of these in the form of a ’68 Mercruiser inboard/outboard.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Still going strong from GM Powertrain in 3.0 liter version
      http://www.gmpowertrain.com/industrial/productportfolio.aspx

      And as a 300+hp midget racing engine from Fontana
      http://www.fontana-automotive.com/

      • 0 avatar

        You can read more about the the little Chevy II four-banger here:

        http://www.corvair.org/chapters/lvcc/lvcc_newsletters/lvcc_2011_12_fifth_wheel.pdf

      • 0 avatar
        Pig_Iron

        @indi500fan & RedBat01

        Thank you for the links. This is a great underrated little engine. It was marketed as the 153 Super-Thrift. Here’s a link for a valve cover restoration badge showing the tradename:
        http://www.classicindustries.com/images/productimg/d/dc366.jpg

  • avatar
    linkpin

    The label on the dash says it’s a late 1970 model, not a ’68. Probably built just as the deal between Kaiser and AMC was being consummated.

  • avatar
    mlkus

    Those super minimal controls remained the standard up until 1986 with the last CJs. The heat/vent controls in the pair of CJ-7s I’ve had look especially insane when pulled out to their furthest setting, leaving metal rods with little knobs protruding six inches from the dash.

  • avatar

    I’m not so sure about the lack of historical significance of the DJ-5. Without the USPS contract, could the CJ, or the Jeep brand for the matter, have survived in the late 1960s and early 1970s?

    Anyone know where I can find production figures for the DJ vs the CJ?

    Ah, found it in Charles Hyde’s book on the independents, Nash, Hudson and AMC. From 1970 to 1984, AMC General built more than 136,000 DJ-5 trucks. They also sold the Post Office 352 DJ-5e “Electrucks”, with a top speed of 33 MPH and a range of 29 miles (with a 20% charge reserve).

  • avatar
    rpol35

    “You could get a Chevy II aka Nova with a 153-cubic-inch L4 engine until 1969.”

    1970 was the last year for the 153 c.i. four:

    http://www.oldcarbrochures.org/index.php/NA/Chevrolet/1970_Chevrolet/1970-Chevrolet-Nova-Brochure/1970-Chevrolet-Nova-11

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    I did know the iron duke was based on the 301 pont. V8. The old Tempest had a 4 cyl. based on the larger pont. V8. And I think International did the same thing.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    O.K. so I’m retarded ~

    I look at this nearly rust free example of a DJ-5 and see it’s the rare LHD version , prolly was a U.S.P.S. Supervisor’s truck as I remember them well .

    As mentioned , the 153 C.I. Iron Duke engine powered millions of boats , APU’s & ag. plants of all types , many are still chugging happily away never having had the cylinder head off .

    I have no idea what I’d do with this rig but I’d bought it on the spot , re – sprayed it in original livery .

    When I started with L.A.P.D. Motor Transport in 1984 , we still had several hundred of these that were given to the L.A.P.D. , they were great little in town trucks but most were embarrassed to be seen driving them so they were mostly left to rust quietly away in some corner .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      Yeah, I’m surprised, I was told they were all right-hand drive. But I think Murilee is right, that’s a Chevrolet 153, not the Pontiac Iron Duke. I believe that they’re often confused.

  • avatar
    markholli

    What’s that little gearbox-looking thing between the bumper and the grill? Is it a sort of steering mechanism to tow this Jeep behind another vehicle?

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Interesting to see the “warranty expiration date” stamped into the dash plate. That must reflect some type of commercial contract?

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      No ;

      That’s part of the U.S.P.S. original buyer contract .

      IIRC , these rigs had recirculating ball steering boxes , not worm & sector .

      -Nate

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        Nate,

        I’d never heard the term “worm & sector” but upon some research the “worm & sector” appears to be the exact same thing as a recirculating ball steering gear. The two terms refer to different aspects of the exact same design of steering gear, where the worm is the input shaft which turns the sector (output) shaft, but the recirculating balls are what applies thrust load between the worm on the input to the ball nut rack which rotates the sector shaft.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    The Iron Duke was not based on the 301 V8 engine design. When introduced the iron duke was very similar in design to the early chevy 4 cylinder like the one in this jeep. It even used the chevy bellhousing pattern.
    Even the head on the 77-78 iron duke was similar to the one on the old chevy 4 banger, and the distributor and oil filter were in the same place. Despite the fact that the iron duke was very similar to the chevy engine it was actually a new design. In 79 the iron duke received a crossflow head, and the distributor was moved back on the block to make room for the intake manifold, which was now on the passenger side. In 1980 the block casting was changed again to replace the classic chevy bellhousing pattern to the new 60 degree bellhousing pattern. The pontiac 4 cylinder that was based from a V8 was a 195 CID that was brought out in the early 60′s, which was basically a 389 lopped in half. It turned out to be a big disaster.

    • 0 avatar
      Pig_Iron

      See… that’s what I thought too. I was told the Iron Duke was 2/3s of a Pontiac Six, which in turn was based on the Chevrolet Six. It’s probably in one of my dusty books in the crawlspace.

  • avatar
    Commando

    Of course it would take a Mopar man to get the facts straight. ;-)

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    moparman thank you, I still have some memory left.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Actually no ~

    Worm and sector steering box has a roller thing that rolls (stiffly) up and down the worm whereas a recirculating ball typ has a machined block with cute little delicate tubes to recirculate the balls when they come out of either end of the block as the worm is turned , this is about 1/4 the friction of a worm and sector typ box .

    I guess you have to be old to know this crap or something .

    In any case , I still like this rig and hate to see it in the scrapper .

    When I was younger and Chevy II’s (Novas was a trip option) were new , many were sold with the too dang small Iron Duke 153 engine .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    Muttley Alfa Barker

    The 153 cu.in Nova I4! Something TTAC ex-patriate Paul Niedermeyer has requested to see in operating condition in a car since the 1960′s! Send him this example (motor) as a gift for now, knowing that he probably won’t even be able to find a car with this motor in it in his well known hometown of Eugene, Oregon, the land that cars last near-eternally in!


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