By on January 10, 2012

AMC got a (brief) new lease on life in the early 1980s when the French government, via Renault, invested in the staggering Wisconsin car company. Meanwhile, huge purchases of DJ-5s by the US Postal Service also helped prop up the once-proud automaker. The Postal Jeep was a common sight on American roads (and junkyards) for a decade or so after the USPS phased it out, but its bouncy-box-on-wheels ride and two-wheel-drive configuration doomed most examples to The Crusher. Here’s one that I spotted in a Denver self-serve yard last week.
You couldn’t get much more spartan than this: a simple body to keep the rain off the mail, a sorting tray instead of a passenger seat, and sliding doors on both sides.
The pushrod Iron Duke engine ruined just about every vehicle it touched, but it’s perfect for the DJ-5. Who cares that it’s noisy and weak? Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night could stay the Iron Duke from the swift completion of its appointed rounds!
This former Fedmobile appears to have spent years, or maybe decades, sitting in a field somewhere, and it still has almost all its USPS gear installed. Perhaps it was bought at auction during the late 1980s and then sat, awaiting the Hell Project upgrades that never came.

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41 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1982 AM General DJ-5 Mail Jeep...”

  • avatar

    These things were just a few notches too dorky and too different to be of any use for civilians, save weird hippie types.

  • avatar

    Whew, what a relief. I appreciate the Denver junkyard more than anything at NAIAC. I thought these had the nose-heavy AMC 6?

  • avatar

    I have a childhood memory of my mailman driving a single pedal postal vehicle. Push the gas to go, lift the gas to engage the brakes and stop. It wouldn’t be a very fuel efficient solution, but I recall seeing it and talking to the mailman about it. Is this such a vehicle, or did the parts fairy already make off with the gas pedal?

    • 0 avatar

      +1 actually the gas pedal would be almost against the side out of view.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      Before the DJ-5 the USPS used a variety of three wheeled scooters such as the Cushman Mailster and the Westcoaster Mailmaster. Unless I’m mistaken, these did have seperate pedals for the gas and brakes.

      Here is a Westcoaster I saw in a junkyard a few years ago.[email protected]/1455168357/in/set-72157604400452553

  • avatar
    Joe McKinney

    Even after these DJ-5s were retired by the Postal Service, many continued to deliver the mail when they bought by rural letter carriers. Occasionally you still see these running mail routes.

  • avatar

    Cool Jeep! Lucky for the post office that it didn’t have the worthless, POS OPDA that my TJ Wrangler has. (Thanks Chrysler!)

  • avatar
    Brian P

    Canada Post never used these in any area that I’ve lived. I don’t think they standardized on anything … until the Ford Transit Connect came out; that’s what they’re using now, and it makes complete sense for that application.

    • 0 avatar
      Andy D

      Brian the little diesel vans the USPS uses are twice the vehicle the TC is. My employer downsized from full size vans, for fuel savings. So far they have been found to be too delicate for our line of work.

    • 0 avatar

      Canada Post used the Grumman LLVs in my area (London, ON) until very recently, when Transit Connects replaced them en masse. I think the TC is the perfect vehicle for postal work, what with declining letter mail volumes and the need for a fuel-efficient, manouvrable vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      The TCs have been coming in around here, but you still see those weird Grumman…things flittering about. Package delivery is done in Econoline vans. Terrible sight-lines on those things.

  • avatar

    What is that thing on the roof?

  • avatar

    Possibly (probably actually) I am wrong but I was under the impression that AM General and AMC were different corporations.

    I spent four years in Security at the Naval Hospital in Guam. Every time a Hurricane came around (and that was frequently) we would take these postal jeeps and clear out the storm drains to reduce flooding. They were tough units that did not seem to flood out but they were unreliable and lived at the shop. The patrolmen used them for security patrol for quite a spell and they were replaced by Dodge pickups when we got sick of fixing them.

    All told, they would probably be fun as a beater but not for high mile/low speed operation which, of course, describes the post office. Right or wrong, I won’t be in the market anytime soon.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      IIRC AM General was split off from AMC to facilitate the Renault investment. I seem to recall Chrysler’s defense contracts getting mixed in there along the way in the late ’70s?

      • 0 avatar

        Chrysler Defense and AM General were never comingled. Chrysler Defense was a stand alone unit of Chrysler until 1982 when General Dynamics bought it. AM General continued under AMC until the Renault takeover, then under LTV, and now under private equity.

  • avatar

    I actually entertained the thought of buying one of these to drive when my wife was going to go back to work. My boss overheard me talking about it one day and he spoke up and said he wouldn’t allow me to buy one! Sure he was (sort of) joking, but he knew they were top-heavy and dangerous to drive faster than 50 mph.

    True or not, I believed him and found the 1976 Dodge Dart Lite in spring, 1983. Good choice.

  • avatar

    A couple of them still live behind our post office here in Gainesville FL. From time to time they are in different parking spaces, so they’re being used for something. Though I haven’t seen one delivering mail in years.

  • avatar

    Sometime in the Mid 1980’s…at the LA Auto Show…in Petree Hall where they had the kit car and van conversion makers…there was an outfit that was taking old mail jeeps, cutting the tops off, and making them into 4×4 “Jeeps”…

    Amazing…I find a guy’s photo journals of trips to the junkyard, much more interesting than new stuff.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Did any of the ever get a diesel? Seems like the perfect time and application for one.

  • avatar

    Back in ’03 I went to Auto Body school with a guy who took these old Mail Jeeps and repainted them, in flat red, for use as courier vehicles in the inner cit(ies) of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

    Additionally, I remember these in my neighborhood as a young-un, they ran these from as early as I can remember until the mid 90’s when they switched to the S-10 drivetrained boxes from AM General ( at least here, are still used with the exception of inner cities who switched to Chevy Uplanders).

    Pretty cool. Most of these (that were) left in MN have rusted to nothing, crushed and smelted into Chinese Hummers or toilet dividers or god knows what.

  • avatar

    Looks like mine, except I have a 1972 with an inline 6 and 4 wheel drive (left hand drive too), power steering, power brakes, and a weird hydraulic emergency brake. If anyone wants it, let me know and I’ll clear the weeds out of the grill for ya.

  • avatar

    I spent many an hour in Denver in these vehicles, maybe even the one in the junkyard, when I was a letter carrier there 1978-1982. Can’t say anything good or bad about them; they were just serviceable and not difficult to start in cold weather. RH drive was no problem because the greenhouse was tall and there was glass on every side. Around the same time USPS experimented with Vegas, which were a nightmare: the driver’s seat and floor were so low that wrangling sacks or trays of mail into or out of them was horrible.

  • avatar

    I’d rather drive that hunk of junk than any of the Transit Connects or Vw Caddies plaguing the postal vehicle market nowadays. The Jeep looks roomy, it has good visibility, and most importantly it can probably take the horrible abuse inflicted on it by postal workers without constantly braking down, unlike the flimsy FWD vans.

  • avatar

    These days, Mail Jeeps have given way to Mall Jeeps.

  • avatar

    The very spartan dash and interior appointments reminds me of the UPS package car (510236, a 1989 P-50, 4.3L propane V6) I drove back in the early-mid ’90s. A few simple knobs, a big speedo, no tach, armstrong steering, and nothing remotely approaching the definition of “driver comfort”. The UPS trucks were absolte ovens in the summer, but the sliding doors (as this USPS truck is so-equipped) at least allowed a bit of a breeze through to give you a wind-chill effect from the sweat on your skin.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Occasionally see one around Kalamazoo, being used as a delivery vehicle for a Chinese food store around campus. Takes me back….

  • avatar

    This would be the perfect vehicle for a new 24 Hours Of Lemons team.

    • 0 avatar


      With a 455 Cadillac engine strapped in the trunk
      Connected to a Airboat shaft and propeller hanging out the back of the bed!!!!

      Sweet mother of all things beautiful it would be awesome.

  • avatar
    Philip Lane

    Stop it. Team Going Postal has been my idea almost since Lemons started. I just can’t get anybody nearby to join up with me!

  • avatar

    excellent shanty/hovel lawn ornament potential.

    Addition of red/white/blue anything for holiday display a plus.

  • avatar

    One of my best friends owned one of these when I was in high school in the 70s. His was a 69 mfg by the Kaiser Jeep Corporation. It had the old Chevy II 4 banger and a 2 speed auto that I presume was a Powerglide. It never really gave him any trouble.

    He made a wooden seat for a passenger. His primary use for the car was that he had an early morning paper route, and the right hand drive was great for paper delivery. Someone mentioned the lack of A/C, well both doors would slide open and lock into position, so there was lots of fresh air.

    For a short time, I had the use of a 76 or so Honda Civic wagon with the 2 speed HondaMatic. He and I would do things to those two cars that should be (were, in fact) illegal. With the old Nova 4, that little lightweight Jeep was pretty quick, and would smoke the Honda in any straightaway. But it couldn’t corner and the fwd Honda would catch it at every turn.

    I’m not sure what he ever did with it. I do recall that he bought about 50 cans of Krylon spray paint during a big sale and sprayed over the Postal blue and white – Harvest Gold, of course. All in all, it was a rugged little beast. We were young and stupid and had a lot of fun with it.

  • avatar

    Our post office sold the remaining postal jeeps in 93 for 50 bucks. My neighbor across the street bought one to use as a winter beater. I can’t recall what year it was, but it had the AMC six with the 998 torqueflite.

  • avatar

    I used to be a rural carrier. These were before my time, but I think they died because they were too small. We had a few carriers who still used them (most rural carriers drive their own cars), but for most routes they wouldn’t have held enough mail. Increasing automation meant more time delivering mail and less time sorting mail, hence bigger routes.

    I delivered mail in a 92 Saturn, with my right leg on the passenger side, the left left working the gas and brakes, steering with the left hand, and stretching as far as I could to reach the mailboxes. I would have killed for a right hand drive vehicle, but not one of these.

  • avatar

    I have one of these. Probably cleaner and better shape than the one shown in the photos. Any idea of the current value?

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