by Mike Albright
This "1954 U.S. Mail Truck" is possibly the most detailed model of a high-hood Willys CJ-3B. The 1998 model from the Danbury Mint's 1/24-scale mail truck series is similar to a 1954 prototype built by Willys and rejected by the U.S. Postal Service.
Willys apparently produced six more high-hood prototypes in 1958, but the post office ended up waiting until well into the 1960s before finally replacing the aging DJ-3A with the new DJ-5A.
See more details in U.S. Mail Via CJ-3B on CJ3B.info.
Steve Perialas provided CJ3B.info with some documentation on the model's background. RJ Studios, Inc., the company which actually created this Jeep for the Danbury Mint, took measurements from a CJ-3B restored by George Byam, which now belongs to Steve. They also measured Byam's DJ-3A Surrey, and a right-hand-drive postal DJ chassis which he located. See some of the photos taken by RJ Studios, with their letter to George Byam (70K JPEG).
This information suggests that the model's high-hood design may have been coincidental rather than intentional. The designers may not have been fully aware of the differences between various Jeep models, but it is still not clear why they decided to base the model on the CJ-3B rather than the DJ-3A, after photographing both.
See also a rear view photo (120K JPEG). The engine and interior are detailed, as can be seen in Peter Pearson's photos with the hood open (20K JPEG) and door open (20K JPEG).
Further details on the Mail Truck, priced new at US$129, are in a brochure: see the front (190K JPEG) and back (220K JPEG).
The USPS was the main user of the FJ-3 Fleetvan which was first developed as a postal vehicle. The FJ is perhaps the iconic "mail truck" but this tiny Fleetvan kit may be the only toy version. Made by Lindberg, probably in the 1970's, it was about 2 inches long and came in a variety of colors. Thanks to John Vercoe for finding this photo.
See also the Lindberg FJ-3 collection of the late Bill Kriegbaum, including the USPS version. Another slightly larger model in the "Mini-Lindy" series was a Jeepster Commando; see the box and a front view (30K JPEGs).
The first Matchbox U.S. Mail Jeep in 1978 was an American release, labelled with the Roman Numeral "No.II" and the "Sleet-N-Snow" nickname from the U.S. Postal Service motto, on the baseplate. The original color was powder blue (40K JPEG); the darker blue came later.
Both the "No.38" (military Jeep) and "No.II" baseplates appeared on all versions of the flatfender Matchbox Jeep in any livery during 1978. The identical No.5 U.S. Mail Truck (25K JPEG) was first issued in 1979, and the "No.5" baseplate gradually replaced the other numbers on all Jeeps from 1979 onward. Variations of the No.5 Mail Jeep included black hubcaps instead of silver, and larger rear windows (30K JPEG).
Variation photos courtesy of Christian Falkensteiner's website.
There is also a Mickey Mouse Jeep which has two variations based on this casting. One of the two variations has a "Mickey's Mail Jeep" tampo on the hood; see Cartoon Jeep Toys on CJ3B.info.
Siku (made in West Germany) issued a Postal Jeep based on its CJ-5 casting #1053. It was a white body with a white top, 66mm (2.5 inches) long. The rarer variation on the right in the picture is a pearl coat white body with the same white plastic top.
Playart (made in Hong Kong) did a U.S. Mail Jeep based on their CJ-7 casting. This version had the silver details on the lights and the bumper hitch, but another variation was a darker blue without the silver details.
Avon released a Mail Jeep in its aftershave series. It is blue glass with a white top and a blue cap on the back. The decals were included in the package, and you had to apply them yourself. The box it came in was a Rural Free Delivery cardboard mailbox (16K JPEG).
A tin Postal Jeep bank, made by Western Stamping Corp. in Korea. It is painted in the USPS colors with the U.S. Mail logo on the side doors. "Jeep" is embossed in the rear door. Windows are blue tinted. The bank/coin opening is on the top; the stopper on the bottom is the access to the coins. Plastic lights are are on front and back (orange and red top/bottom on back). It is 8-1/2 inches long and has rubber tires.
This casting from Banthrico is also a bank, with the coin slot in the bottom. Like the tin bank above, this model is actually based on the DJ-5A series of Jeeps we know as the Postal Jeep, rather than on an existing CJ toy.
This FC-170 Forward Control truck is a Comet casting which was distributed through Jeep dealers. For a long time we didn't know whether FC's were actually used by the U.S. Postal Service, until we saw this photo from a History of Mail Delivery in the Toledo Blade:
Caption from the Blade: "Frank Mrkva checks out one of the first 99 trucks ordered by the Post Office Department from Willys Motors Inc. in this Dec. 15, 1958, photo. The trucks, used for snow removal and mail box maintenance, cost $276,564 for the total order and were sent throughout the country."
A 1/25-scale 1953 Jeep Willys Panel Delivery truck bank by Liberty Classics. It is painted in U.S. Mail, Rural Free Delivery livery with the Post Office Department United States of America logo on the door. The rear doors open to reveal the coin slot.
From the box: "Although the Willys trucks came equipped with only a four cylider engine, they capitalized on the vehicle's efficiency, durability and versatility. Some of their more popular selling features were: big one piece hoods, roomy cabs, short turning radiuses, high clearance fenders and low operating expenses."
Thanks to Mike Albright for another great topical collection of Jeep toys. Thanks also to John Vercoe, Christian Falkensteiner and Steve Perialas for photos. -- Derek Redmond
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