Special Delivery: 1962 Studebaker Zip Van

Being a former letter carrier myself, I have a special place in my heart for the truly bizarre–but loveable–methods of locomotion employed by the United States Postal Service. I was born some three decades after this was built, so I can’t say with any certainty whether the year is accurate, but the information I found says that these were commissioned in 1963, the same year zip codes were introduced. Regardless, I’ll just stick to what the seller says and say this is a ‘62. It can be found here on eBay.

Replacing the original Studebaker powertrain is a fuel-injected inline four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission donated by a very generous Geo Tracker. The driven wheels are out back, and if it’s anything like driving a Grumman LLV, you will need some sandbags back there if you want to drive this in wintertime. Yes, it’s a classic and should be preserved, but mail trucks go through so much abuse; they’re designed to last to the end of the earth. You don’t need to be careful with an old mail truck.

Underneath, the Studebaker-supplied frame looks relatively clean and free of rust. You’ve got some surface discoloration and patina, but remember: this thing is closing in on sixty years old. That’s to be expected. Everything looks to be in its rightful place, though, and there aren’t any glaring holes or missing bits.

You’re going to be spending a large portion of your time inside the car, so that’s the bit that’s relatively important to take into consideration. The Zip Van was interesting because it allowed the driver the choice to either sit or stand while driving. The seat bottom folds up, and the pedals are more horizontal than vertical. It would have certainly made my job easier if I could have stood up while delivering on a mounted route. The buyer of this likely won’t be delivering mail out of it, but that means that its right-hand (and optional standing) drive configuration leaves the door wide open for you to modify it as you please. Tiny camper van? Sure. Ice cream truck? Go ahead. Restore it and bring it to shows? If you like. Heck, if there are any rural carriers reading this, I know some of you guys need to supply your own vehicles. It may not be as comfortable as a JDM Delica, but here’s your chance to deliver mail out of a real classic.

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Comments

  1. Ken Carney

    All those suggestions are great, but how
    about delivering newspapers with it? I
    knew a fellow who used one of those
    ’70s Jeep mail trucks with a good deal of success. The man I knew might’ve
    had better results with this truck due it’s
    short turning circle. Nevertheless, it’s a
    great find for one of our readers in the
    BF universe who’s looking for that really
    special project.

    Like 5
  2. Steveo

    Newspapers? What’s that?

    Like 11
    • Steve Bush Member

      Steveo, I grew up with newspapers and miss them somewhat, especially now in the summertime when I need to swat flys. Laptops and phones are useless for this!

      Like 12
  3. Howard A Member

    It should be noted, these were about the only vehicles that kept Studebaker alive. I read, the chassis and running gear were Studebaker, but the body was outsourced to an outfit in PA.. I believe 1963 was the only year, and 4,238 vans were made. ’64, things went downhill fast for Studebaker, and the Zip Van was dropped. They were an instant hit, with the post office buying most, but a few made it out to the public. Most newspaper delivery trucks were old post office vans. I’m not so sure the replacement motor is any real gain here, the Stude flathead put out 112 hp. and a Geo motor, I’d think, was a poor choice. Cool find, the sky is the limit here, limited only by your imagination. Just don’t make it too heavy,,,

    Like 5
    • WayneC Member

      The engine was the 170cid overhead valve inline 6. Studebaker dropped the flathead in 1960. Same engine but with an overhead valve conversion. Unfortunately, they had problems with the heads cracking. It took a year or so to find a cure but by this time it was too late. The little 6cyl is a little powerhouse. I have had several Studebakers with the 6, and the ohv6 would just fly. Studebaker designed everything on this mail truck and the government pulled the assembly contract out from under them. I understand that Studebaker had to step in and help with the assembly. These mail trucks also came with limited slip rear ends.Studebaker called it Twin Traction, developed by Packard.

      Like 3
      • Vince H

        These have the Dana-Spicer 44 rear in them. The head in the OHV 6 was fine if you never ran them hot.

        Like 1
  4. John

    I remember these vans very well when I started with the P.O. We used them for specials, and collections. They were hard to start, and provided little or no heat, but were actually fun to drive standing up. The LLV’s proved to be very durable, were supposed to last 23yrs, but are still in service. The only negative was lack of traction in the snow.

    Like 1
  5. Wayne

    There is one in Reno that has been Resto-modded tastefully. A very cool piece! Just saw it at the Carson City car show last month.

    Like 1
  6. Mr.Zip

    Yep,back in the day of special deliveries. I didn’t drive these,but got my start on the jeep,graduated to chevettes,the K-cars,and finally LLV’s. They’d be useless for a mounted route or park and loop routes due to the heavy parcel loads,mail volume has dropped. I wouldn’t want a mailster either. A three wheeled accident waiting to happen as they tipped over on turns. Might be good for a florist though.

  7. Steve Clinton

    Sold for $10,600.00. For God’s sake, WHY?

    Like 3
    • Howard A Member

      Because it’s so rare. I don’t think the post office ever sells their used vehicles. I remember going to a post office in Madison, Wis. and there were always a couple AM General vans in the dumpsters. I think they pull the motors and junk the rest.

  8. t-bone bob

    Ended: Aug 03, 2021 , 1:54PM
    Winning bid:US $10,600.00
    [ 26 bids ]

    Located in:Dongola, Illinois

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