Even if you don’t know the name, I’m sure every American is familiar with the standard, boxy mail truck that trundles around the nation, distributing everyone’s smallish Amazon packages and more stupid subpoenas I’m just going to throw out. That mail truck has a name: the Grumman LLV (Long Life Vehicle), and I just found an incredible picture that suggests that there were plans for an LLV-based roadster.
I found this picture, which seems to be some kind of press photo, inside a book of postal-related erotica in the philateliphile section of my local used and stained book store. The picture seems to show a long, low roadster that shares a lot of styling cues with the Gruman LLV mail truck, along with the riveted aluminum body construction.
The label stuck to the lower right corner of the picture reads “GRUMMAN LLV-R ROADSTER CONCEPT.” Holy shit. I think this is a picture of an incredibly rare Grumman concept car, based on the LLV!
I did some research; there really wasn’t much online, but a quick trip to the library and a $20 slid into the palm of the lady who runs the microfiche room soon got me access to what I was looking for, meager as it was.
I found one tiny article in the March 1989 issue of Postal and Parcel Technology International that made reference to the LLV-R. The Grumman LLV mail truck had only been on the roads since 1987, so it was still sort of hot news in the postal community, and Grumman was feeling pretty rich from their contract with the U.S. Postal Service, which would end up buying over 100,000 of the trucks.
The article said that since Grumman had ramped up production to produce all the LLVs for the Post Office, they were exploring other applications for the basic platform. For reasons not specified in the article, it was decided that an open-top roadster/sports car should be the first LLV-derived product.
The prototype was called LLV-R, both for “roadster” and because the addition of the ‘R’ made the name sound like “lover,” which Grumman’s marketing arm felt would play well for a low, sexy sports car.
The LLV-R used the same Chevrolet S-10-based chassis as the LLV, and the same GM Iron Duke 4-cylinder engine, so it’s not likely performance would have been that great.
Grumman was keen to use their riveted aluminum body construction process for the new car, and styling cues were selected to deliberately tie into the increasingly common LLV, including the grille/headlight design and the unique wide-top trapezoidal windshield.
The low hood would likely have meant re-locating some engine parts like the air cleaner to the side, but I haven’t seen any underhood shots to confirm this.
Also interesting is that Grumman stayed close to the LLV truck design with a sliding door for their roadster, making the car sort of like a much boxier Kaiser-Darrin.
The PPTI article was pretty upbeat about the whole thing, suggesting that the familiarity with the mail truck version would let people see that Grumman made reliable products, and that would help the roadster’s image as a reliable yet fun car, which would set it apart from other open-top ‘exotic’ sportscars of the era.
It’s a fascinating idea, and while I’m not surprised Grumman never pulled the trigger on this, I sort of wish they had. I suppose one reason why they didn’t is that I just made up all this crap right now.
Still, makes you think, doesn’t it?