The Jeep was marketed as a utilitarian vehicle when it hit civilian soil after World War II. With things like auxiliary power take-off equipment available, Jeeps were truly capable of just about anything. On the battlefield and in the farmer's field, the Jeep proved itself time and time again. As if that wasn't enough, there was one more call to duty in store for the Jeep—delivering the U.S. mail.
This old mail Jeep ran postal routes for decades before being retired from government service and put out to pasture. There it sat, baking under the Texas sun—until one day when Tim Jackson was on the hunt for a new project. He stumbled upon a pair of postal Jeeps that had a buy-one-get-one-free contingency to them. Before anyone could twist his arm, Tim had those Jeeps loaded up and back in his shop to be reincarnated. One year and lots of wrenching hours later, this is what rolled out of the garage.
The engine bay is stuffed with a Chevrolet 6.0L LS V-8 that has been stroked out to 408 ci (6.7L), thanks to some help from Westside Machine in Houston, Texas. Once the block was back from the machine shop, Tim did the engine assembly and stuffed it with a bunch of trick parts to make this pig scoot! That is quite appropriately what gives this Postal Jeep the fast nickname—L.S. Mail.
When this Jeep rolled off the production line in 1978, no one would have thought it would live to see the red rock of southern Utah. This Jeep has come a long way from the days of lugging around mailbags. The 258 I-6 engine is long gone, and a healthy LS V-8 6.7L stroker has been put into its place.
A low stance with big tires is always a good fit and highly functional on the trail. The vintage mail Jeep paint scheme is a classic reminder of the origins of this Jeep. However, it's the distinct push-out grille and easy-entry delivery door openings that validate this as a real-deal mail carrier.
While the sliding delivery doors were ditched to save weight and avoid imminent damage on the trail, the hardtop had to stay. Having the shade is a necessity, and that swing-out rear-access door might be our favorite part of the whole Jeep. The LED rear lights were put into the factory locations along with some decals that represent the origins of this beast. The original Jeep DJ-5 frame was used to keep the backbone of the Jeep intact. It was boxed in and reinforced to handle the new powerplant planned for it.
This Chevy 6.0 LS V-8 was stroked to a 6.7L (408ci) beast that has 9.5:1 compression pistons, Callies connecting rods, ported 317 heads, and a Texas Speed Torquer V2 camshaft. Just for fun, there's also a 150hp nitrous shot system. Why, you may ask? Well, because it was lying around Tim's shop and needed a home. Sounds legit!
I bet every mail delivery driver that rocked 2WD and tire chains all through the winter would have loved to have 4WD for those treacherous, snowy roads. L.S. Mail got a big upgrade with the built 2005 Ford Dana 60 stuffed with 4.88 gears, Yukon Grizzly locker, and a homebuilt truss. A PSC double-ended ram rests in the Artec ram mount and is linked to the Artec high steer kit on the knuckles to push the tires around. A Smittybilt winch mounted on the front bumper is spooled up with synthetic line.
Leaf springs weren't going to cut it for this build. A custom triangulated four-link was fabricated using RuffStuff joints to maintain control and articulation over hardcore obstacles on local trails around Texas. ORI struts with 14 inches of travel were fitted on all corners and feature an integrated bumpstop. The front driveshaft was built by JE Reel with 1350 U-joints and a carrier bearing to clear the drivetrain and suspension. Custom rocker protection is tied into the frame and sees its fair share of abuse.
A tried-and-true GM 14-bolt axle was built with matching 4.88 gears, full spool, and factory disc brakes from the 2000 donor vehicle. The 14-bolt axle has a third pinion support bearing to help keep the pinion and ring gear from deflecting under load, making it stronger and desirable for off-road rigs. A custom triangulated four-link suspension was fabricated by Tim for the rear of the Jeep, supported by a matching set of 14-inch ORI struts. Another JE Reel driveline is turning the rear axle, but this time it's set up with beefier 1410 U-joints.
This is not an illusion. Tim's Postal Jeep is still righthand drive, just as it came from the factory for its intended service of sticking mail into the mailboxes. Tim's biggest challenge with this Jeep has been getting used to sitting on the "wrong side" while driving. Inside the Jeep are Corbeau Baja seats, G-Force harnesses, and a full rollcage fabricated from 1.75x0.120-inch-wall DOM tube tied into the frame.
The original dash was ditched for a custom configuration mounted to the rollcage, not the dash. It has a clean look and it's easy to access and remove the dash to troubleshoot wiring if need be. There are two switches on the right side of the steering wheel; one activates the 150hp shot of nitrous and the other turns on rock lights under the Jeep for those after-dark trail rides.
While the turn signal lever may be in a familiar location, the gauge set is not. Looking to the left to monitor engine vitals definitely would take some getting used to—not to mention grabbing the stock DJ-5 Postal Jeep shifter with your left hand. That original shifter has been modified to fit the manual valvebody on a TH400 automatic transmission. It was put together by the owner and beefed up to handle the big lunker under the hood. A pair of shifters operate an Atlas transfer case that splits the power front and rear with a 4.3:1 low-range option. A new floor had to be fabricated to fit the drivetrain and replace the Swiss cheese original floorpan.
The front tube fenders were built by Tim to move the front wheelwells to accommodate the longer 110-inch wheelbase. Those 39x13.50 BFGoodrich Red Label Krawlers are wrapped around 17x9-inch Bootlegger beadlocks made by Battle Born with 4.5 inches of backspacing. The sliding delivery doors aren't the only thing missing here. All of the glass was removed from this dedicated crawler for easy access to the cargo area and to avoid the hassle of inevitable broken glass on the trail.
Tucked under the back corner of the Jeep we can see where the rollcage has been tied into the frame. The wheel opening had to be moved back enough to accommodate the desired wheelbase, and then Tim fabricated the rear corner protection to match the new shape. While in service for the government, this Jeep had "TP 35" decals on the wheelwells. After Tim laid down the paint on the Jeep, he finished it off with "TP 8.5" decals to add some vintage detail to his rig while acknowledging its new off-road purpose.
The tailgate of a Jeep is one of the best parts. Most Jeeps have "Jeep" or "Willys" stamped into them. The swing-out rear cargo door of a Postal Jeep gave Jeep engineers more real estate to work with, and boy did they use it. It's complemented by the "Rural Carrier Frequent Stops" decal, topped off with an "L.S. Mail" decal to mimic the original Postal Jeep flare. Tucked into the right corner is a crafty image that is a spin-off of the "Mall Rated" branding that has been used to describe lifted Jeeps that never see any dirt. Fortunately, Tim's Postal Jeep is "Mail Rated," and it sees plenty of dirt.
The back of the Postal Jeep has a familiar insignia carved into the custom cargo lid. Anyone know why the "4 Wheel Drive" logo was left off the Postal Jeeps? If you guessed because they were all 2WD, you are correct. If you guessed because in 1978 AMC was building Jeeps and no longer used that insignia, you are also correct. Regardless, it is a timeless accent on an older Jeep, and Tim found the perfect way to incorporate his favorite logo onto this Jeep. The lid keeps all of the cargo contained while bouncing around off-road, and the rear cargo door gives access to the contents.
Tim put together a unique Jeep in a short amount of time using some really cool parts that all mesh together well. This Jeep definitely attracts attention no matter where it goes. After all, just about everyone watched these DJ-5s perform their daily duties over the years.
Why This Jeep?
Aside from the crawler parts on Tim's Jeep, it hasn't taken on wild buggy looks. It's still a Postal Jeep. Tim's inspiration for the build? To have a low initial investment. When a Jeep CJ that wasn't a pile of rust couldn't be sourced for an affordable price, the Postal Jeeps were had for cheap. The final result is a masterpiece in mail delivery.
Vehicle: 1978 Jeep DJ-5
Engine: Chevy 6.0L LS V-8 stroked to 6.7L (408 ci), Nitrous Express 150hp shot
Transmission: TH400 automatic with manual valvebody, billet input shaft and forward hub, dual hydraulic modification, upgraded sprags
Transfer Case: Atlas, 4.3:1 low-range ratio, twin-stick shifters
Axles: 2005 Ford Dana 60, 4.88 gears, Yukon Grizzly locker, custom-built truss, Artec hydro ram mount, Artec high steering knuckle kit (front); GM 14-bolt, 4.88 gears, spool, custom-built truss (rear)
Suspension: 110-inch wheelbase, custom triangulated 4-link suspension, RuffStuff joints, 14-inch ORI struts
Wheels: 17x9-inch Battle Born Bootlegger beadlocks
Tires: 39x13.50-17 BFGoodrich Red Label Krawlers
Other Cool Stuff: Righthand drive, homemade front tube fenders and rear corner protection, full rollcage tied into frame, mail pouch