Junkyard Find: 1972 AM General DJ-5B "Mail Jeep"
US Postal Service-surplus right-hand-drive DJ-5s were once cheap and plentiful. Actually, they’re still cheap and plentiful. Some got converted to four-wheel-drive, some got used as farm vehicles, some ended up as urban hoopties… and many of them were bought cheap at auction and then sat for decades, awaiting a project that never got started. Here’s a 40-year-old mail carrier that looks like it went right from the post office to the junkyard. Quite a few rural routes in Wyoming and northern Colorado are handled by non-USPS-employee subcontractors who drive their own vehicles, so it’s possible that this Jeep stayed on the job well into the 21st century.
You get a steel box on wheels with a handy mail-sorting shelf next to the driver’s seat, which is located at just the right height for rural mailboxes.
AM General went through quite a few engines for the DJ series. This one has an AMC six, but DJs were also built with GM Iron Dukes, Willys Hurricanes, and even Audi-via-AMC 2-liter fours.
The instrumentation is elegant, but we must report that the DJ-5 suffers from understeer at the limit. In fact, it suffers from upside-down steer at the limit.
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Why was the grille on these things different from the regular CJ's, I mean, why did it bulge out like that? Any mechanical reason?
Robert, the front end sticks out like that because this is "left-over" CJ sheetmetal from the inline four / ex-Buick V6 era prior to AMC's take-over of Jeep in spring 1970. The inline six was too long so they had to extend the nose. The "real" Jeep CJ bodies were retooled with much closer production tolerances and a longer length to utilize AMC built engines - obviously making the vehicles more profitable to AMC by sharing their own parts rather than borrowed GM V6's which were very agricultural. GM did buy the V6 tooling back as a knee-jerk response to the first fuel crisis and this engine ended up being one of the best GM ever built - but originally (starting in 1962) the thing had a shake and wobble all its own, because it fired 150 degrees - 90 degrees - 150 degrees - 90 degrees - 150 degrees - 90 degrees. Rough as a proverbial cob. I recall seeing a Buick Special V6 (probably '62 or '63) when I was a kid in the 1970's - and when it idled, the soft motor mounts LITERALLY allowed the engine to rock left-to-right about 5". Jeep added a massive heavy flywheel but of course this meant the engine then had the upper end response of a container ship engine.... By the way, these were built in ex-Studebaker plants in northern Indiana (not the closed South Bend Main plant, but Chippewa Avenue or Mishawaka) that Kaiser Jeep bought in 1966 and AMC inherited in 1970. The 'division' was renamed AM General and sold off when AMC was partly bought by Renault - AM General is still in biz - until just lately it had been building HUMMMVEES. Too bad AMC didn't buy the tooling to the Studebaker ZipVan, which was the only unit-body Studebaker ever developed. It had a much lower center of gravity, shorter turn radius, more room inside and could have used AMC's engines with little modification. It looked - and was - a little box on wheels. If I recall, Messrs. Newman and Altman (who bought the rights to the Avanti) bought the ZipVan rights and never bothered trying for a contract with the post office again. AM General did build something similar but it wasn't half as good.