by Mike Albright
This "1954 U.S. Mail Truck" is the highest-quality model yet produced of a high-hood Willys Jeep -- and it's not a CJ-3B, but a right-hand-drive mail delivery Jeep which possibly never existed. The Danbury Mint model is similar to a 1954 prototype produced by Willys and apparently rejected by the U.S. Postal Service, but that prototype was painted red. Willys apparently produced six more high-hood prototypes in 1958, but the post office ended up waiting until well into the 1960's before finally replacing the aging DJ-3A with the new DJ-5A.
Steve Perialas provided The CJ3B Page 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.
The engine is fully detailed, as can be seen in Peter Pearson's photo with the hood open (20K JPEG). Further details on the Mail Truck, priced new at US$129.00, 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.
Elsewhere on the web, see Bill Kriegbaum's Lindberg FJ-3 collection 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 Matchbox Pictures website which includes photos of all significant variations of the Lesney Matchbox Superfast Jeeps, including the LS RN 02 Jeep SLEET-N-SNOW and LS 05-C U.S. MAIL TRUCK Jeep.
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.
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 (RFD1) 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. It's not clear whether FC's were actually used by the U.S. Postal Service.
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: "1953 Jeep Panel Delivery 4-wheel drive - Goes through when others can't. The early 1950's Jeep Willys 1/2 ton panel trucks were part of a line which was established primarily on the excellent reputation of the Jeep vehicles used in World War II. 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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