Grumman US Mail Van Scratchbuilt

The 1988 Grumman Mail Van                           Nov 2014

BY JOHN QUILTER

Photographs of the model made by John can be seen in the gallery below. Click on any image to enlarge it.

The United States Post Office (USPS) has long used a smallish delivery van for local mail delivery duties across the USA. It is an iconic US vehicle and has been around since the mid-80s and is still very much in evidence. Purpose built by Grumman, a maker of various types of delivery vans for many years, these mail vans were based on the chassis and mechanicals of a Chevrolet S-10 pickup. They use an “Iron Duke” OHV four cylinder petrol (gasoline) engine and some have been adapted to run on either LPG (propane) or petrol, they are fitted with an automatic gearbox. Known as the LLV (Long Life Vehicle) they were produced from 1984 to 1994 and the USPS owns over 100,000 of them. Some were sold to Canada Post. The USPS expects their service life to be about 30 years. Of course all were right hand drive so the driver was near the curbside for access to residential mail boxes. Rather homely but purposeful looking they are seen simply everywhere. Strangely, however, to my knowledge no model maker has produced one in 43rd scale so I set about making one myself in my never ending quest to document automotive history.

The design lends itself to such a project since it is mainly built from flat panels with rounded edges. I used styrene plastic sheets for the body tripled up to gain thickness for the rounded edges at the front and roof area. The chassis also was a sheet of styrene with appropriate detail added. The process started with taking photographs of the real vehicle and the local maintenance garage more than obliged after I explained my purpose. They even put one on a lift so I could take shots of the chassis which I used to approximate the undercarriage. Once the photos are taken, I print them out and scale them down to 1:43rd by using the reduction feature on a photocopy machine. You will need 90 degree shots of the right and left side, front and rear and some to get an idea of the interior fittings and seat.

The next step is to cut your styrene to the size of the photos. As with all these projects it seems simple at first but always becomes more involved as one progresses. The wheels, very standard black automotive steel wheels without hub caps, were purchased on line from a well known 1:43 scale vendor in Italy. The windows are clear plastic, mirrors, of which there are many are from paperclip wire with a aluminum disk attached using epoxy metal, known as J B Weld. Side and rear logos were printed out on my ink jet printer after playing with their size in a photo program. The seat was a left over item from my junk box, the fascia fan created from plastic sheet as was the sorting platform to the left of the driver. Decal striping was easy to obtain and apply as were the vehicle numbers front and rear. Huge protective black rubber bumpers were shaped from a section of aluminum wiring, another of my inventory of materials for model making.

When all was done I showed it to the garage staff, confirming that I really was using all the photos for a purpose.

One of the photos shows a larger store bought Golden Diecast “step van” type mail vehicle that is used for interpost office transport but are also often commonly seen on the streets. The two are of the same scale so show well together.


Scratch built USPS Grumman mail van 1988 front view


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