Curbside Outtakes: Changing of the Guard, Postal Service Edition

Considering its ubiquity in the US, and perhaps Canada, the US Postal Service Long Life Vehicle (LLV) hasn’t gotten a lot of love here at Curbside Classic. Along with the Ford Crown Victoria, it’s perhaps the most iconic public service vehicle here, and true to its name, has been around seemingly forever. But that’s changing.

I’ve lived all my life in urban areas in California, and I’ve seen the transition from a mailman (and back then, always a man) walking door to door with a big satchel, to a mail carrier pushing a 3 wheeled cart, then driving a Jeep DJ, and now for the past few decades the distinctive sounding LLV, which Paul wrote about here. A few years ago, our mail started occasionally coming in a Ram ProMaster (aka Fiat Ducato) but it was still usually delivered in an LLV. But recently, it’s regularly been the ProMaster, and only occasionally the LLV. In fact, for the lead picture of the LLV, I had to find one in a different neighborhood. But once or twice a few weeks ago, we had a new and stylish delivery vehicle.

Yes, a Mercedes Metris (Vito, I think, in other parts of the world). I’d read about these, and not all was favorable. Commentary from postal carriers on one website I found, criticized the interior room and poor accessibility for packages and letter crates. Others felt the perception of getting US Mail delivered in a Mercedes was a poor image for the cash-strapped agency. For what it’s worth, while FedEx and occasionally UPS use Sprinters here, local Amazon vans are all Ford Transits. There’s also been criticism of the USPS eagle emblem replacing the three-pointed star on the front (“How much did that cost?” ‘What are they trying to hide?”) though the traditional MB logo remains on the hubcaps. On the other hand, the Metris is turbocharged and air conditioned, which must be quite an improvement over the LLV. Not to mention improved active and passive safety.

I never thought I’d miss the LLV, but what I’ve found I miss most are it’s sounds. Not just the unique sound of the Iron Duke (which has spawned its own internet legend) but the loud rattle of its sliding doors.

The turbo four in the Metris, or the ProMaster’s Pentastar V6, and their quiet new doors, just don’t say “The mail is here!” in the same way. And yes, to readers outside North America, these familiar-to-you vans are NOT diesel powered here.

But pretty soon, if all goes to plan, even the Metris will fade away and the USPS will finally electrify with these new Oshkosh vans. Hopefully they will still have rattly sliding doors.