Welcome to Little Car in the Big City, where I highlight fascinating cars I found walking around a town that is known for being bigger than everything else, but where every car is fighting to stand out: New York, New York.
If you grew up in the past thirty years, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the ubiquitous Grumman LLV was how the mail was always delivered. First George Washington wrote the Declaration of Independence (not true), then he freed the slaves (not true), and then he engineered the Grumman LLV using only his teeth (maybe a little true).
But while the person in the little mail truck has been delivering your mail the same way for literally decades now, it wasn't always that way. Before the Grumman LLV, there was the Jeep DJ.
The Jeep DJ, AKA the Dispatcher Jeep, is a relic from the days when Jeeps weren't all amazing Easter Eggs, but were very much workhorses, like a donkey made out of nothing but very thin sheet metal.
The little donkey was remarkably long-lived, progressing through a number of manufacturers. Willys, the OG of Jeep makers, began production in 1955, and it was still being made, this time by AM General (makers of the Hummer, incidentally) until 1984.
The DJ is different from most Willys Jeeps, even though quite a few of them were rear-wheel-drive, like the little mail truck. Based on the venerable CJ, it had slidey doors, much like the LLV and today's UPS trucks. I've never delivered mail myself, so I'm guessing that delivery trucks tend to use slidey doors because they don't have to be opened up into traffic.
But even bigger than the slidey doors was the fact that the little Jeep DJ was right-hand drive.
And it even comes complete with instructions to "Look Before Backing" and special phone numbers in case you get eaten by a dog.
I really love these little old Jeeps, because they capture a certain utilitarian notion that doesn't exist in modern Jeeps, even in the Wrangler. Sure, Jeep isn't really to blame with that, as they're only responding to government regulations and customer demands. And there are rare examples of Jeep Wrangler Unlimiteds with right-hand drive being used for rural mail delivery to this day.
But there's something incredibly charming about a Jeep made out of nothing but thin sheet metal.