Home » This Junky Postal Jeep With A Chevy V8 Engine Is A Reminder That America Is The Wild West Of Car Culture

This Junky Postal Jeep With A Chevy V8 Engine Is A Reminder That America Is The Wild West Of Car Culture

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If there’s one thing that I’ve learned traveling Europe in a diesel minivan, checking out abandoned cars in Hong Kong, and fixing a ute in Australia, it’s that the U.S.’s car culture is the “freest” on earth. People in every country I’ve visited have told me about how they wish they could modify their cars with whichever engines and suspension kits they like, not have to get their cars through strict inspections, not have to pay exorbitant taxes and fuel prices, and just generally do whatever the hell they want with their vehicles — like we do in the U.S.. Proof of this concept is right here: A top-heavy, narrow vehicle originally developed to drive 35 mph to neighborhoods and then stop every 12 feet to deliver mail is now outfitted with a ~285 horsepower V8 engine out of a Chevy truck.

As the former owner of a 1976 Jeep DJ-5D postal Jeep similar to this one, I can say with authority that the vehicle is absolutely not a suitable platform for any performance modification whatsoever. Essentially a two-wheel drive World War II Jeep with a shed on top, the basic chassis layout is deeply flawed from the factory thanks to that narrow frame, towering body, hilariously short wheelbase, and high-ground clearance suspension made up of spindly little leaf springs. My Jeep was powered by a 100-ish horsepower AMC 232 inline-six engine — a fantastic motor that ran beautifully during my epic 4,000+ mile trip from Detroit to and from Moab, Utah — and even it ended up in a junkyard a few days after I sold it. The new owner apparently found the vehicle too unwieldy, and crashed it.

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EV West, one of the largest EV conversion companies on earth, even built an electric version of the beloved Dispatcher, and — per my conversation with CEO Michael Bream (whom I visited a few months ago, and whom I’m planning to eventually write an article on) — that thing was an absolute deathtrap. Again, the tall body, narrow track, lack of sway bars, high ground clearance, heavy metal roof, short wheelbase — it all adds up to something that really should only be driven in a straight line and then gingerly babied around turns. Some have turned DJs into rock-crawlers, but with the inboard rear leaf springs, it’s pretty much mandatory that you make extensive modifications to the chassis before the DJ can be even remotely safe off-road.

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Honestly, the DJ may be among the worst platforms on which to base a performance-vehicle build. That’s a hot take not based in any fact, but you get the point: the DJ is fundamentally a compromise. To put a big V8 into this tippy vehicle with non-power drum brakes is so utterly absurd that I actually have to applaud it. I know, I know: Cars on the road should be safe and efficient. I agree, but in the hands of someone who understands its severe limitations, this machine is fun in much the same way as that motorized couch is. It’s something that should absolutely not be moving as fast as it is, and that’s what makes it so great.

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What I like most about this AM General machine is that it’s just a V8 in a Postal Jeep, and not a whole lot more. The suspension, steering, brakes (I don’t see a brake booster anywhere, so I assume the manual brake master cylinder is on the frame rail) — it looks fairly stock. The narrow axles look stock, the steering column and wheel are clearly stock, and hell — look at the rust hole and paint job. The fact that this person threw a V8 into this thing while keeping that paint job and the rust — it’s madness that I can’t help but applaud. This is a “sleeper” of epic proportions.

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[Editor’s Note: Also, fantastic seat upholstery. – JT]
“I have a 1976 dj5 postal jeep. It is right hand drive. I did a Chevy LS swap. It’s a 4.8 with a th350 transmission,” begins the for sale-listing on Facebook. “Runs and drives great. Everything works except speedometer needs a cable. We took body off the frame and painted it. All new tires, brakes, wiring harness, every metal line and rubber hose is new. New radiator, water pump, gaskets, etc.”
The New York-based seller, Jeffrey Gough, concludes by saying he’s looking for $5,000 or a trade. I reached out to Gough to learn more about this build.
“I bought the Jeep and the army navy store in Gilboa,” he told me over Facebook Messenger after I’d asked what had given him the idea. “I’ve done a bunch of LS swaps on other cars I knew that’s what I wanted to put in this Jeep. Main reason why I bought it was because it was right hand drive and it had bullet holes lol.” When I asked if it’s scary to drive, he responded: “No it just took some getting used to, with steering wheel on the wrong side.”
The scary part of driving this Postal Jeep is the steering wheel being on the wrong side. What?
Anyway, I assume that 4.8-liter Chevy motor is a small-block out of a 2006-ish Chevy Silverado or Tahoe or something along those lines. If it makes anywhere close to the 285 ponies those vehicles made, then I’d love to see what a rip to 60mph looks like in this classic example of just how wild we car folks have it here in the U.S.

Photos by: Jeffrey Gough

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25 Responses

  1. Tracy, you would have loved one of the fastest and most ridiculous rigs at my local 8th-mile dragstrip when I was a kid in the 80s: some enterprising redneck had stuffed a Buick 455 and Turbo 400 in a DJ5. It was not only one of the fastest cars at the track, but one of the few that could yank the front wheels.

  2. It could be argued that Russia has some truly Wild West modification going on; one immediately thinks of the Garage 54 YouTube channel though most of what they do aren’t necessarily daily drivers (one hopes!!) In the early years of widespread Internet there was a fairly sizeable website that collected pictures of various customized vehicles in Russia; I don’t recall the website’s name offhand but I do remember that it took forever to load, especially with dial-up, but it was usually worth it to peruse those astonishing customizations that likely wouldn’t be allowed on the road in the US. And currently there are a few YT channels out of Russia with some impressive creations such as an older UAZ dump truck into which they’d stuffed a highly tuned BMW X5 engine allegedly producing 500 HP & similar torque with a claimed 0-to-60 figure of 5 seconds which they would demonstrate while driving down busy city streets in broad daylight, good grief. Talk about Wild West, all right…

  3. Why are the ad pictures phone screenshots? I’ve seen this a LOT lately, and I don’t understand it. Is it some kind of a scam (Go to an existing ad, screenshot all the pics and repost as your own? Even then, why not crop off the excess or better yet just download the pictures themselves?)? Why do people do this?

    1. My dad has occasionally sent me screenshots of things like websites and images, simply because he forgot how the sharing button works. I’m making a big assumption here, but Mr. Gough’s writing style feels like that of someone from my parents’ generation. It may be that this is just the way he operates.

      1. Someone who understands what image metadata is and that screenshotting an image will remove it would probably also know how to crop an image though, right? I feel like this is just the work of someone who learned how to use his phone well enough for his purposes, and then moved on with the rest of his life.

  4. it is kind of weird they did not use the OD trans that came with the 4.8. those LS motors are small, as in fits in many places a 4 cylinder will and the use of a 3 speed Turbo 350 requires a stand alone trans computer, so why do that. honestly though, this setup will still net better MPG, cleaner emissions, and loads more reliability than what was likely in this old girl. I love it.

    1. The Turbo 350 is vacuum operated so no computer needed plus it’s around 3.5-4 inches shorter. The shorter length helps with driveshaft angles. I figured it out when putting a 454 big block in a 1980 CJ-5

  5. We have a DJ with a 302 and a C4 it isn’t currently running might need a complete rebuild on the motor. The swap looks way less janky than a freebie we picked up in a deal for a CJ5 with a chevy 3.8 V6 swapped in.

    1. Must be out of a Camaro/Firebird/regal? I always thought the last gen Camaro V6 3.8 was a possible great swap motor on a budget, but you can find 1999 to 2007 non AFM LS motors literally everywhere.

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