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My $500 Postal Jeep Made It 400 Miles to Illinois but It Was Truly Miserable

My $500 Postal Jeep Made It 400 Miles to Illinois but It Was Truly Miserable

After fixing the engine, ignition system, frame, body, suspension, steering, and basically the whole damn car, I finally got my $500 Postal Jeep on the road, and amazingly, it’s gone 400 miles from Michigan to Illinois without a major issue! Well, except for one: I was miserable the whole time.

The problem was that I was in a trance. This plucky little Postal Jeep wooed me with its puppy-like charm. It’s just a rusty little box on wheels that, since it first came off the old Studebaker assembly line in South Bend, Indiana in 1976, has wanted to do nothing more than serve. “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” are the words that keep this Jeep motivated to continue making deliveries even in its current rusty state. Now it’s got one final 1,800 mile delivery to make: It has to drop me off in Moab.

My sheer amazement at how well this old mail Jeep just keeps on running had me smiling pretty much all 400 miles from Troy, Michigan to McLean, Illinois, where I now sit in a motel. The issue was that, while mentally I was thrilled, physically the Jeep was ruining me. But before we get into that, I’ll start from the beginning of my trip.

After a five-day grueling ordeal in which I neither showered nor ate anything healthier than pizza, my friends and I managed to get Project POStal into roadworthy shape, so on Saturday my brother Mike and I left—albeit three days after our intended date of departure.

Though I had planned for us both to ride in the Jeep DJ-5D Dispatcher, it became clear to me that pretty much everyone—my mom, my boss, my brother, and, deep down, I myself—would be more comfortable if there were another car joining me, so on Saturday, my Mike and I headed to the airport to pick up a rental car.

As the airport was over an hour away from my house via backroads (I’m not taking this Jeep on the highway), it was in the direction of Moab, and the Postal Jeep only came with a driver’s seat, Mike may or may not have sat on my rear wheel housing, wearing a helmet. Though I once drove in a similarly-designed Jeep over 1,000 miles sitting on a gas tank with no seatbelt, this isn’t a setup I would advise. Don’t ride in a car without a seatbelt.

I’d say it was remarkable how much stuff would fit into the Postal Jeep, but considering hauling stuff was its primary design purpose, I guess this really shouldn’t be remotely surprising. The Jeep is amazingly small, and yet because of its tall, cubic shape, it’s pretty much the ideal stuff-hauler, fitting my tools and camping equipment easily.

The Jeep had a bit of a brake issue only five miles from my house. The front right wheel area started making a grinding noise and, upon inspection, it appears I may have put the blue spring for the adjuster into the wrong hole on the brake shoe. In any case, that was a quick fix, and in short order, my brother and I were rolling down a main Detroit Metro Area road called Telegraph, getting waves and looks from pretty much everyone. Even the owner of a Porsche 911 GT3 and someone in a Maserati Quattroporte couldn’t help but show some love.

People of all walks of life seem to appreciate this little postal carrier.

After about an hour and a half of cruising, my brother found himself in a red, base-spec, automatic Hyundai Accent rental car. He tailed me as I drove southwest on backroads near Adrian, Michigan, and into farm country.

The Jeep drove remarkably well, though you wouldn’t think so looking at it, because from behind, it leans pretty hard to the driver’s side, and it clearly “dog tracks”:

The coolant temperature was steady at about 185 Fahrenheit, the oil pressure hung out at about 40 PSI, and the vehicle was stable at 40 mph. The steering play wasn’t too bad, the brakes weren’t horrible (they’re not great, though), and all my lights worked well thanks to my friends, the electrical geniuses Steve and Charles.

We did run into a couple of issues, though. One was that I do not have a functioning fuel gauge, and as I drove into Ohio, I realized I had no clue how much fuel I had. “Let me pull over, and talk with my brother about finding a fuel station,” I thought. So I did, and just as I was telling my brother that we should fill my Jeep up, ProjectPOStal sputtered and died. I popped the hood and looked into the clear fuel filter; it was bone dry.

Filling the Jeep up has been a struggle. For some reason, engineers decided to make the fuel spout perfectly horizontal, so pouring in gas all but guarantees spillage. But my biggest issue is that my tank will only accept a maximum of eight gallons.

I’m fairly sure these DJs came with 11 gallon tanks, so I’m not sure what’s going on here. In any case, I’d guess I’m scoring about 14 mpg going 40 or 45 mph, so I just fill up every 100 miles or roughly two hours.

After driving a mile to the gas station in my brother’s Hyundai and snagging a gallon of gas in a jerry can, I filled the Jeep up with as much of that gallon that I could avoid spilling, drove to the gas station, and threw in seven and a half gallons of fuel.

About an hour later, we rolled up to my favorite kind of lodging accommodation—one that I prefer even to the fancy hotels that automakers sometimes put me up in during press events: Motels with parking just outside of the rooms. They make for easy unloading and, best of all, you can watch your car from your window and even wrench on it within just a few feet of a warm room.

The next morning, we drove from the motel into town. There, in Wauseon, Ohio—about 110 miles from my house in Michigan—we hit up Walmart for some provisions, and for a little status update video:

From there, things got miserable. It was 35 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and pouring down a mixture of rain and snow. In any normal car, this would pose no problem, but in this Postal Jeep—whose heater is borderline useless, and whose floor rust holes and door gaps are so enormous I’m constantly worried my phone will fall out—it is a huge problem.

The windchill was horrible, and even my nice thick sweater and windbreaker were no match. But the worst part was the sizable rust hole in the wheel housing directly under and behind the driver’s seat. As they drove through water, the tires kicked up gallons of water right into the back of the seat, soaking the bottom cushion and the bottom of the backrest.

In short order, my ass and lower back were soaked. For a while, this wasn’t a huge issue, because I was just so excited that I ignored it. Look at how fast the little Jeep drove down the road! Over 50 mph!:

The optimism was strong!:

But after many hours of sitting in that drenched seat that had a continuous spray of ice-cold water into its bottom cushion, and after getting bombarded by ice-cold, 40+ mph air, I started to wear down.

We had no choice but to try to tape up some of the holes to offer some form of relief:

It didn’t help.

Into the night, I bounced around in the little short-wheelbase Jeep that basically handled like my Willys CJ-2A with a heavy shed welded to its tub, feeling every bump in the road. I was wet, cold, and deeply uncomfortable. We stopped for dinner, and my brother in the Hyundai seemed in good shape.

“I’m ready to keep on going for another few hours,” he said, almost refreshed. I, meanwhile, looked like hell, and just wanted to find a horizontal surface to lay on.

By 11 p.m. last night, we did get to a motel, and though I tried writing this article as soon as I got in, I couldn’t. I could barely keep my eyes open.

The good thing was that, as soon as my lids overpowered my will, my mind was filled with dreams of the awesome sights I’d seen that day. Like the small town called Pine Village, Indiana with the tractor parked on the main street:

And the sweet truck right next to that tractor:

And the man named Willy (?) who randomly asked my brother to take a picture of him:

And the big white barn with the American flag on the side:

And the incredibly soulful post offices around the midwest:

And just the vast, wide open spaces:

Now it’s time to head to Kansas City. Please little Postal Jeep, you got this, we’ve got this. Also, please stop leaking and burning so much oil.

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