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Special Delivery from Your Past: 1972 AMC Jeep DJ-5 Dispatcher

As we are thrust headlong into a world with autonomous cars, drones, and cyber everything, it is refreshing to look back at how simple life was when we were growing up.  Little things that were somewhat unnoticed constants in our lives are now gone, replaced by a cyber age that offers little in the way of warmth.  As a kid, who could forget the everyday sight of mail trucks fanning out across neighborhoods to deliver those long-forgotten relics we called letters and postcards?  If you are nostalgic for a time when life was sweetly simple, then you might want to contact the sellers of this 1972 AMC Jeep DJ-5 Dispatcher postal jeep for sale on eBay in Gurnee, Illinois.  Despite its well-worn patina, there is enough there to remind you of less stressful days.  While the auction was pulled as the finishing touches on this story were being made, the asking price was $2,995, it may still be available if you go to the seller’s website.

So why did I publish this story after the sale had ended?  The answer is simple: we all need a dose of nostalgia.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by the complex and negative world we have built for ourselves.  With our smartphones, smart houses, and smart everything else, we have managed to make some really dumb choices in the name of efficiency and savings.  In our quest to do things in a modern way, we have cast aside many of the things that made us love life.  Everything we ingest when we go out is made in a factory somewhere and shipped to restaurants to be reheated.  So many of our cars lack personality in the quest for them to be fuel efficient.  We have even given up privacy, as our devices listen to our every word to tailor our advertising feed.  In short, we are lost as a nation.

A look back to our childhood shows just how much we have lost.  If your neighborhood was like mine, it was filled with people who had all manner of relationships with each other.  Neighbors knew each other and made it a point to stop and have regular conversations.  On the surface, it looked like the neighborhood kids roamed free.  However, every eye was on them to make sure they were safe.  One of those eyes was that of the mailman.  That is what we generically call whoever was assigned to the neighborhood by the local post office be they male or female.  It was a generic term we used back then.

Working for the U.S. Postal Service was a coveted job back then.  You had to know someone to get on, and that position usually only opened up when someone retired.  Once they made it out of the post office, they were put in the substitute position to cover for anyone who missed a day.  After a while, they got a route.  Once they had a route, they would often work those neighborhoods for years.  Many times, the postman delivered the mail on foot to the mailbox at your door.  They got to know the people who lived there and became a valuable part of the community.  Being there every day also allowed them to notice anything out of place.  Many a daytime break-in was stopped by a person in a little Jeep who noticed something out of place.  As a kid, the distinctive puttering sound of that little Jeep with a sliding door and a friendly wave was a constant in my life.

Now I am well aware that the Post Office still exists, and mail is still delivered to a majority of domiciles in America.  Still, it isn’t the same.  When the Jeeps slowly faded away and was replaced by the Grumman Long Life Vehicle postal vans in 1987, the emphasis was on efficiency and volume.  The newer vans could carry a lot more mail, thus allowing carriers to have larger routes.  That meant far fewer carriers.  So, what did we get in return for all this efficiency?  That personal touch that was just a little piece of a slower-paced life back then became just another job that had to be done as quickly as possible, delivering the most mail possible each day.  Back then you knew your mail carrier by name, and they knew you.  Today you are lucky to see the same person regularly.  Our local post office can’t even get a job applicant.

So, when this 1972 Jeep DJ-5 Dispatcher came up, it brought back a lot of memories of my old neighborhood, how life was back then, and how we have lost the little things that were so important.  According to the ad, this Jeep is a barn find that has been sitting since 2014.  It currently does not run, but the seller was told that it ran when it was parked.  Given that it is powered by an AMC inline six-cylinder engine, it shouldn’t be an issue to get it running again.  It is said to roll freely, and the automatic transmission engages in park and neutral.

The little Jeep does come with several extra parts, including an extra radiator, transmission, heater boxes, a spare dash panel, and a few more odds and ends.  A look into the well-worn engine bay reveals that a few parts were replaced recently.  While this Jeep has obviously seen a lot of use, the engine compartment doesn’t look that bad considering the amount of mileage these vehicles accumulated one mailbox at a time during their service.  They were certainly one of the most durable vehicles ever built.

Another plus is that the shiny finish that makes this Jeep look like it was being sold by Gas Monkey Garage is just water.  The seller treated it to a pressure washer bath and immediately took the pictures.  A close look reveals some possible issues with rust in the upper track of the sliding door, but the rest of the truck looks to be very restorable.  Once restored, it wouldn’t be worth much more than the asking price.  Sometimes a vehicle gets restored because it means something to someone.  In this case, a truck like this means something to a lot of us who remember their heyday.

Do you remember these Jeeps roaming through your neighborhood?  If so, please share any reminisces in the comments.

Comments

  1. Avatar photo Nevada1/2rack Member

    Mid 60’s, new house in a new division in a town of 12000 starting to grow. Milkman was the first to greet us and got our business right away. Then 3 newspaper delivery boys (each delivering different local papers, all of which we then subscribed to) and later the mailman who always parked his Jeep in front of our house to walk the delivery on our street. Add to that the kids that would have their own “GoFundMe” using a snow shovel in the winter, picking apples in the spring, lawn mowing in the summer and raking leaves in the fall.
    Between them all and good neighbors, several elderly folks in town were accounted for/helped when someone noticed something askew, among other things that caught their attention.
    A typical small town in the USA of the time; this Jeep is definitely an iconic reminder of the those times.
    Thank you for a good start to a weekend, Jeff.

    Like 20
    • Avatar photo bobhess Member

      You and Jeff talked about the mail delivery folks and their relationships with the neighborhoods. Good write ups both. We still have that neighborhood feel down here in south Florida. Another kicker is that it’s only been 12 years since the Jeeps went away. Our problem here and other places is the difficulty in finding drivers to sign up with the USPS. Our present carrier lives 135 miles from here and rarely gets to see his family. He’s carrying on the tradition of being part of the neighborhood and it’s great to have him.

      Like 10
      • Avatar photo Howard A Member

        When I moved to this small town in Colorado 6 years ago, had a nice gal, been a carrier for years, never a problem, and we have one of those big boxes with the 40 little doors. Well, she moved on, and since, I’d say we’ve had several carriers, once the PM himself. Nobody taking the job. $30/hr., benies up the ying yang, can’t find anyone. A job there used to be a waiting list for. Then the ones they find, can’t get the right mail in the right box, I mean, they are all clearly marked, how tough can it be?

        Like 13
  2. Avatar photo Nevada1/2rack Member

    Mid 60’s, new house in a new division in a town of 12000 starting to grow. Milkman was the first to greet us and got our business right away. Then 3 newspaper delivery boys (each delivering different local papers, all of which we then subscribed to) and later the mailman who always parked his Jeep in front of our house to walk the delivery on our street. Add to that the kids that would have their own “GoFundMe” using a snow shovel in the winter, picking apples in the spring, lawn mowing in the summer and raking leaves in the fall.
    Between them all and good neighbors, several elderly folks in town were accounted for/helped when someone noticed something askew, among other things that caught their attention.
    A typical small town in the USA of the time; this Jeep is definitely an iconic reminder of the those times.
    Thank you for a good start to a weekend, Jeff.

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo Nevada1/2rack Member

      That’s odd-this printed twice!

      Like 4
      • Avatar photo leiniedude Member

        Well, it was a great post!

        Like 14
      • Avatar photo Howard A Member

        Solar flares causing havoc,,,

        Like 5
      • Avatar photo Nevada1/2rack Member

        Thank you, Leiniedude. I do feel bad that the garbage man was omitted, as they too were very good about looking out for folks. Also they were good about keeping us kids posted about someone on the next block throwing away a motorcycle or something else we would think valuable!

        Like 8
  3. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    Stop me if you heard this one,,,too late. Many moons ago, I knew someone that bought a Dispatcher at an auction, before they banned that activity, because they always wanted a 4 wheel drive Jeep.You can imagine their surprise when I told them it wasn’t. I had a comment removed because I mentioned the state the post office is in, so I won’t go there. I too remember the “postMAN”, sorry ladies, I don’t ever recall any women, that little cart they pushed with the little brake, and those green boxes, day after day, you didn’t see any overweight letter carriers. Fact is, they would park the Dispatcher several blocks away, and circle around it. You won’t find many Dispatchers today, as when one gets damaged, they pull the motors and throw the body away. I’ve seen old Dispatchers in big dumpsters. Liability, I’m sure.
    STILL, with all the problems, I’m just amazed, I can drop a letter in my apt. mailbox, and a week later, arrives at its destination across the country. To follow that trail would be amazing. BTW. I live in a small town, and we still say hi to one another.

    Like 14
    • Avatar photo Nevada1/2rack Member

      And come together to help when things get tough for someone in need.
      You’re a smart man to find a place like that in this day and time, Howard.

      Like 8
    • Avatar photo Bob_in_TN Member

      Letter delivery: Over the years I worked with a few non-Americans who were on assignment in the States. They all liked it here. I remember asking one why. His quick response: “When I mail something, it actually gets to the destination, usually fairly quickly.”

      Like 7
  4. Avatar photo leiniedude Member

    I have a great Post man, Tom is his name. He takes the time to drive the half mile gravel lane to get to my place if I have a package. I always give him a Coke and a candy bar. At Christmas I gave him a C note, sometimes I wonder if that is enough?

    Like 9
    • Avatar photo Rw

      Geez are you guys writing a Hallmark movie? Maybe my wife will join in.

      Like 9
    • Avatar photo John Morrissey

      By rule the max they were allowed ro get was $25. Not sure if it is still the same. I sometimes put out a bottle of cold water for our carrier on hot days.
      These old jeeps were not 4wd and never had a.c. frequently had a useless fan bolted to the dash to try and cool the drivers.

      Like 4
  5. Avatar photo St.Michael

    usps is a PRIVATE SERVICE CORPORATION and it is a $ pit…especially the St. Louis dispersion unit…back to the JEEP that would be sweet with a late model O/D auto trans n transfer case with a Dana 30 up front

    Like 1
  6. Avatar photo Postal

    Its a very wore down plain Jane vehicle.

    I suggest let it go to the junkyard get a real Jeep from
    past. Restore a military or pre 1990s jeep.

    Like 1
  7. Avatar photo 12PACK

    Straight 6 in this one. Tuned up, it would move with such a low curb weight.

    Like 2
  8. Avatar photo Mike F

    The suburban neighborhood where I lived from tot to early twenties had one mailman the entire time, Johnny. You had to wake up early to see the Jeep. Johnny would drop off bins of mail in the brown distribution boxes located around the neighborhood and then he’d park near the entrance to the neighborhood. He walked the entire route with the wheeled cart and refilled the cart at each successive brown box. Our mailboxes were at our front doors and Johnny would walk up every driveway, up the stairs to the door and reverse course. He never cut through a flower bed or across a lawn. And yes, everyone knew him and he knew everyone by name.

    Like 7
  9. Avatar photo Headturner

    Retired carrier here. I drove a bunch of these while working. There are still lots of them in private hands in the Portland, Oregon area. The only problem with modifying one is you cannot put a wider tire on the back as the sliding door is a permanent part of the truck. We don’t salt the roads here which helped them survive. Simple to work on, too.

    Like 5
  10. Avatar photo Big C

    We still have the “mail lady” in our small town. She doesn’t drive a Jeep, but the thing looks like one. I applied around 20 years ago to the post office. Jumped through all the gub’ment hoops, passed their tests with flying colors, etc. I guess I wasn’t the right, uh… gender and/or tint. To hear they now can’t get help is ironic. But they still lose our mail, every 6 months.

    Like 6
  11. Avatar photo Rw

    70/80s these where very cheap, every Mopar street/Drag racers had a couple in the back yard,they had 727 trans and Dana 44 posi rear.

    Like 2
  12. Avatar photo Mike K

    I bought one of these cheap in 1976 for use as a pizza delivery car when I had a Domino’s franchise in Michigan. Painted it white with spray cans, put the company decals on it and the lit sign on top. Parked it in front of the store to get attention. Stopped allowing the delivery drivers to actually use it for safety reasons and potential liability. That thing had all the sphistication and safety of something built in a high school metal shop class, But it was cool.

    Like 4
  13. Avatar photo Gil Davis Tercenio

    I was an associate rural carrier for a little while. Provided my own vehicle. I went to another small town to buy a DJ-5 to use, but it was barely running, so I passed. Turned out I wasn’t fast enough for the USPS, so they “let” me resign. Glad I didn’t buy that Jeep or I would have really been in the hole. Got a better job a few months later.

    If a door closes, the Good Lord will open another.

    Like 8
  14. Avatar photo Carbob Member

    Jeff’s write up triggered memories from my childhood neighborhood (how’s that for alliteration?). But our mailmen drove their personal cars to distribute the mail. They would park near the blue mailbox on the corner down the street from our house. They collected the contents and then would open the car trunk and grab the big leather mail pouch, sling the strap over their shoulder and walked the mail delivery door to door. I got to watch this a lot during the summer when school was out. These guys were really friendly and took time to notice us kids. BTW, all these guys drove nice cars at least to my youthful self’s opinion. I was a committed car nerd from my toddler days onward. These days, like Howard said, our mail lady drives around our neighborhood every day except Sunday in the worst weather and visits every mailbox 📫. And I think she does a great job especially considering the volume of “junk” mail that she has to deal with. The PM at our local Post Office has been there for decades and is as nice and friendly as can be. So I want to give a shoutout to USPS.

    Like 6
  15. Avatar photo Mark P

    Wow this write up hit a spot in my mind . What we’ve gained in technology and the need for the board of directors to need more and more revenue has really taken a hit in our life quality. I don’t watch much news anymore, maybe it was better when we had to wait a bit to get our news. I’m not sure if this is something going on in other states but here some cities and towns have been told not to use the corner mailboxes anymore. People are assaulting mail carriers to steal the keys to the boxes ( I guess a universal key) to steal mail for checks, cards and personal info. What a world. I know things weren’t perfect 30-40 years ago but looking back I know I was in a better place.

    Like 3
  16. Avatar photo Bama

    I’ve lived on a rural route the past 46 years. Our carriers have always used their own vehicles. Everything from mid sized American sedans to small imports have been used. Most of ours always had to sit in the middle of the car and drive, although I have seen a few that had right hand drive Jeep Grand Cherokees and a few right hand drive CJs. Only saw the DJ series Jeeps in the larger towns, never on the rural routes. I only remember two or three carriers on my route, one guy retired off it, the others last a few years. I was talking to my carrier just before Christmas, she was telling me that Amazon is now using USPS to make the final delivery on a lot of their packages, increasing their workload so much they were having to have two people run the same routes, one with normal mail the other with packages. She said sometimes she had to run the package route after she had finished her normal route. But she talked like even with the longer hours the pay was pretty good!

    I took the test after I got out of school, but never heard anything from it. I didn’t meet their hiring quota back then either I guess.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo Gil Davis Tercenio

      In the fall of ’22, I tried the USPS again. I was a distribution clerk, so worked inside the post office. Yes, we saw tons and tons of Amazon packages every day. We would get in pallets of Amazon goodies in the morning and in the afternoon.

      Had to give it up after 5 weeks. Too much heavy lifting for this old man.

      Like 2
  17. Avatar photo John E. Klintz

    What an excellent treatise on life in the ’60s and ’70s, Jeff! You were SO right; we knew our postman; had the same guy for probably 15 years or more. Parked his little scooter (at that time) and walked to the doors in the neighborhood he served. We knew him by name and he knew our family. I was in university by the time these Dispatcher Jeeps arrived but the postman still offered the same service. While I do indeed appreciate the efficiency of USPS now, our “carrier” is unknown to us and sometimes is a different person. We get our neighbors’ mail and they get ours at least a couple times per month. Sad.

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo St.Michael

      efficiency ?…I needed a good laugh

      Like 1
  18. Avatar photo Tommy T-Tops

    I was a mailman from 92-00, one of these was the assigned vehicle for the route I had just bid on and won (lucky me). There were days I had to take the air cleaner off and put a pencil in the carb throat to get it started. No power anything- just heat. It was awesome in the snow and couldn’t get stuck (yup I tried). It was like moving up to a Cadillac when someone was out sick and I could drive a Long Life, My dad was a mailman for 44 years, I remember when I was a kid him getting an award for saving a man on his route who had no family but my dad noticed something wrong and saw him laying on the floor through the window-broke in, called 911 and saved him. Yes those days are long over knowing and helping your neighbor unfortunately.

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo John Morrissey

      Back in the 90’s a carrier in Stoughton, Ma. Looked in the window, saw woman on floor and got police there in time.

      Like 2
  19. Avatar photo Peter Loeffelbein

    Nice nostalgic read. Very thoughtful. Thanks for showing us this little Jeep and reminding us how life used to be. My father in law was a mail carrier. He tried to save a man’s life on his route, rescued stray cats and dogs and was a consistent source of help while carrying his bulging bags of Mail.

    Like 5

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