This 1972 jeep, manufactured by American Motors, is vehicle number 101891. The U.S. Postal Service began using this jeep for mail delivery in July 1972. Carriers used right-hand drive vehicles such as this to save delivery time on their routes. Left-hand doors forced them to park and go around their cars or reach over the passenger's seat to deliver the mail, and the right-hand door allowed carriers to reach mailboxes easily. Inside the jeep, fit snuggly into the left front portion of the cab, is a sorting table that carriers used to help process mail along the route. The jeep is painted in the red, white, and blue color scheme that was first introduced in the mid-1950s.
Jeeps derive their name from the abbreviation of their original name—"g.p." or "general purpose" vehicle. They provided letter carriers with durability, reliability, and more room for packages. These sturdy, all-purpose vehicles, which combined rugged truck handling with a car's speed and mobility, were mass-produced in 1940 for the U.S. military.
For the first half of the twentieth century, mail trucks transported both carriers and their mail to the spot at which daily rounds began on foot. Faced with more homes to reach and more mail to deliver, the Post Office Department put its letter carriers behind the wheel. By using vehicles to haul all that mail, carriers could complete longer routes in the same amount of time.
To ensure the success of this plan, the Department needed to obtain vehicles that were lightweight, maneuverable, and able to withstand the rigorous demands of mail delivery service. To find these vehicles, postal officials conducted a series of tests, including one in Miami, Florida, in July 1954. A number of vehicle types were offered for inspection and testing. When the tests were over, three vehicle types had sparked the Department's interest. More than 40,000 new vehicles were acquired from 1954 to1960, and many of them were jeeps.
The first jeeps were used in the northern U.S. to replace the three-wheeled mailsters then in use. The mailsters were too small and weak to maneuver through winter's snow and ice. Mail volume continued to climb, and by the end of the 1970s, postal officials knew that their carriers needed vehicles with more capacity. Jeeps were replaced in the 1980s by the Long Life vehicles.
This jeep was restored at the Southern Maryland Vehicle Maintenance Facility of the U.S. Postal Service by craftsmen F. J. Eddy, Greg Absher, Marvin Carraway, William Barner, and Gene Scott.