Wednesday, February 1, 2017


I was heading back from Bed Stuy towards Flatbush Avenue when this little lunchbox caught my eye:
Talk about taking things for granted! These were once so ubiquitous that you could stare at one and not see it. However like so many common things you don't know what's all around you until it fades away. *Cue Don't Know What You Got (Till it's Gone) by Cinderella* 
 What we have here is a 1983 AM General postal delivery vehicle in primer. When it was introduced in 1955 it was known as the Dispatch Jeep. Most people know old Jeeps as CJ or YJ. This was actually the Jeep DJ!
 The reason the vehicle in front of you is an AM General instead of a Jeep is because in 1982 French automaker Renault bought a controlling interest in AMC (the then-owner of Jeep). U.S. regulations forbade defense contracts being given to foreign governments, and Renault by partially owned by the government of France. AMC had earlier made AM General their "General Products Division" which made commercial and military vehicles. This division made both the postal Jeeps like this one as well as the original Hummer known as HMMWV. As a result AM General was sold off to the LTV Aerospace and Defense Company. Boring I know!
In a post-Jeep world AM General continued manufacturing these stolid no-frills worker bees for just one year. AMC built other postal cars for a brief moment as well like these Ambassadors but they are mostly forgotten now.
 This is a tiny vehicle that can hold a lot of mail due to its tall, almost perfectly square shape. An oversize sliding door hanging on tracks allows for stepping in and out with a full box in your hands.
 These rugged little donkeys were used every day of the year (except Sunday) in all types of weather, in every climate, mostly by people who couldn't care less about treating it gently. As a result they are about as rare as old police cars (I'm not talking about the too-shiny "tribute" cop cars where somebody paints the door and puts a light on the roof. I mean real-deal, used 24/7 cruisers that are driven to death and then cannibalized for parts).
Big shout-out to the 1983-only AM General stamping on the rear door!
The DJ was never meant to be an off-road vehicle and as a result it was the 2 wheel drive Jeep. 
 This is the final year for the DJ (or whatever AM General was calling it by then). It also has the dubious claim of being the last light duty automobile to have front drum brakes.
Creature comforts can be summed up with lines like "you're lucky you even have a job" and "go to hell". LOOK BEFORE BACKING is about as much common sense as Employees Must Wash Hands Before returning to Work.
That gearshift is a floor mounted automatic; the legendary cast iron Chrysler Torqueflight. The strength of this transmission is enough to handle the likes of Hemi musclecars of the '60s and '70s. There's only a straight 4 cylinder engine powering this beast it starts and stops constantly for a living.
Well this is a properly beat-down example of a faithful work vehicle. Much like farm tractors only meant to work forever they are beloved by those who know them. Aftermarket parts are unbelievably easy to acquire since this is an old Jeep under the skin. Right hand drive takes a bit of getting used to but you'll have plenty of time to learn as these probably top off at around 55mph. 
Out of curiosity I did some searching and found several for sale in running condition for under $2,000 so it would be an easy, quirky classic should you want one. However keep in mind that this is the only small Jeep that has a fixed roof but rusts just as readily as the CJ. You could drive around with the big doors open in summer I suppose but be ready for them to slam shut when braking hard!

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