Willys and Kaiser had a good deal of success with various versions of Jeep trucks, such as fire trucks, and they saw the potential for step-van delivery trucks even before launching the Fleetvan in 1961.
The "Economy Delivery" looks like a Jeep from the cowl forward, but from there back, the body looks like... a milk truck. The bodies were built by third-party manufacturers, who used rolling chassis units delivered from Toledo. Bodies with different lengths and features were added principally by Boyertown Auto Body in Pennsylvania and Montpelier Manufacturing in Ohio.
Willys advertised the Economy Delivery starting circa 1957, which is when this beauty restored by Willys America was built.
Of course, it's not like Willys had no previous experience with this kind of vehicle. This 1940 ad shows a "Willys Panel Delivery" truck selling for $799. The idea was to build the largest box possible on an existing chassis, and keep the doorstep low for quick entry and exit.
Thanks to Alden Jewell for scanning this ad.
As the name "Economy Delivery" suggests, cost was crucial to potential operators of these trucks. This 1958 brochure stresses low initial cost and low operating and maintenance costs, as well as the large size; the box is 74" long, 63" wide, and 60" high.
"Here is the ideal vehicle for bakeries, florists, dry cleaners, caterers, package delivery and many other types of business." Interestingly, it doesn't mention dairies, as in the 1940 ad above. This huge cabin fully loaded with milk just might have stretched the capacity of the chassis -- despite the large size, these are only 1/2-ton trucks.
The other side of the sheet lists specifications (70K JPEG) which are mostly pretty standard Willys truck and F-head engine specs. Wheelbase is 104", the frame has "heavy side members of 1-piece pressed steel channels, with five sturdy cross-members," and the tires are 6.70x15.
This Boyertown Auto Body Works brochure shows the interior of the cabin, which could be configured with different types of shelving and doors, depending on the intended use.
Montpelier Manufacturing Company also had a close relationship with Willys -- Montpelier had in fact been producing delivery bodies for Willys cars since 1927, and buses and hearses for Willys-Knight prior to that.
See some clippings comparing Boyertown vs. Montpelier Delivery Trucks at eWillys.
Jim Allen found this photo whilie he was researching his invaluable Illustrated Buyer's Guide: Jeep. The single taillight suggests this is earlier than 1957, and it appears to be an experiment with a longer-wheelbase delivery.
This Boyertown example with great graphics was displayed at the 1960 Chicago Auto Show.
Boyertown claimed, "The 'Jeep' Economy Delivery units are mechanically engineered especially for stop and go delivery applications, with generators, carburetors, and cooling systems that are designed to permit long periods of standing at idle engine speeds."
Thanks to Paul Barry at Willys America for the Huckleberry Dairy photo. -- Derek Redmond.
See also the FJ Fleetvan on CJ3B.info.
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