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Postal Jeeps Begin Service
As cars and trucks replaced stagecoaches and wagons, the volume of mail kept on climbing. The introduction of Parcel Post Service in 1913 brought millions of packages into the mail stream for the first time.

In 1931, during the height of the service, the Post Office Department acquired 1,000 Ford Model AA mail trucks. The body, constructed principally of oak, was produced by the Metropolitan Body Corporation, while the chassis was produced by Ford.

After World War II, the amount of mail delivered to American homes each day increased so dramatically that letter carriers could no longer rely solely on pouches and handcarts to carry mail on their daily rounds. In the late 1950s, the Post Office Department began supplying carriers with three-wheeled mail vans.

Known as mailsters, these tiny vans were efficient in carrying mail but uncomfortable and dangerous. Mailsters offered little protection against cold or damp weather, little traction in good weather, and often no traction in snow, and poor reliability, for they were constantly breaking down.

Jeeps were a vital component of the postal service fleet after World War II. Postal officials, impressed by the performance of jeeps during the war, decided to harness that strength for mail delivery. These strong, agile vehicles could stand up to the rigors of delivering the mail in any terrain or weather. The postal service purchased both left and right-hand drive jeeps for their carriers.

Unlike previous postal vehicles, which were painted a drab shade of olive green, jeeps and other vehicles purchased in the 1950s were painted red, white, and blue.

Postal officials were determined to standardize the postal fleet. In the early 1980s after years of study and testing, a new generation of postal trucks was introduced, nicknamed long-life vehicles. These stocky, somewhat odd-looking vehicles quickly became familiar sights in American neighborhoods.

AM General Corporation Background

The history of AM General Corporation can be traced back to 1903, when Standard Wheel Company, a Terre Haute, Indiana, bicycle maker, decided to infiltrate the emerging automobile business through its newly created Overland Automotive Division. The company introduced the Overland "Runabout" as its first motor vehicle.

Overland was purchased in 1908 by John North Willys, and in 1912 the Willys-Overland Company was formed. The new company, now headquartered in Toledo, Ohio, began producing the famous Willys-Knight series of vehicles and later introduced the "Whippet."

In the 1940s, in support of the war effort, The American Bantam Car Co. designed the original "Jeep," and Willys-Overland manufactured more than 350,000 of the legendary 4x4 vehicles.

In 1953, Willys-Overland was purchased by Henry J. Kaiser, and the name was subsequently changed to Kaiser-Jeep Corporation. In 1964, Kaiser-Jeep added operations in South Bend, Indiana, following the company's acquisition of a contract from the defunct Studebaker Corporation to manufacture military trucks.

Purchased by American Motors Corporation in 1970 and renamed Jeep Corporation, the company then operated two separate units -- the Commercial Products Division in Toledo and the Government Products Division in South Bend. In 1971, the Government Products Division was spun off to become a separate, wholly owned subsidiary of American Motors known as AM General Corporation.

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