This 1931 Ford Model AA truck was used primarily for parcel post service, post office to post office. The original green wood panel body was marked with a horizontal white stripe on each side. The words "U.S. Mail", complete with gold leaf paint signify it is a government mail vehicle. "U.S. Mail" was also painted on the top front of the vehicle. When originally purchased, drab olive green was the signature color of the Post Office Department.
After World War I ended, the secretary of war gave the Post Office Department 1,444 excess trucks which they used through the 1920s. A collection of forty-three different vehicle types made by twenty-three different manufacturers, the cost of parts and training mechanics to service all the vehicle types seriously drained the postal budget.
In 1929 postal officials convinced Congress to fund a standardized fleet of postal vehicles. The Post Office Department requested bids for four hundred Ford AA truck bodies and awarded the contract to the August Schubert Wagon Works of Syracuse and Oneida, New York, in June of 1929. The truck chassis were bought from Ford and postal mechanics assembled body and chassis in postal garages around the country.
There were 2,800 of the AA’s built from 1929 through 1931. Standing nine feet tall, 17 feet long and weighing in at 4,500 pounds and powered by the 40 horsepower Model A 4 cylinder engine coupled to a four speed manual transmission. The postal department limited the driving speed of these trucks to 12 MPH but they have been clocked at a blistering 22 MPH.
The smaller version usually called “The A” was about three feet shorter, mounted on a Model A truck chassis and used the standard drive train, 980 were built.
The west coast fleet of 48 trucks was transported by ship from New York by way of the Panama Canal with 24 arriving in Los Angeles and the other 24 sent on to San Francisco.
During the Depression and World War II, the Post Office Department did not purchase many new trucks. As a result, trucks bought in the 1920s and early 1930s stayed on the road longer than expected with the last AA truck retiring in 1953. The Ford Model AA trucks conveyed mail between post offices and railway stations while the smaller Model A trucks were used by letter carriers.
The DeGraffs bought their truck in March 1983 in Lake Elsinor, CA, and Bill spent the next 16 years restoring this rare beauty. It is believed that the truck once belonged to the 60’s group The Monkee’s, so Bill had his work cut out for him. Painted flowers covered wood dashboard and was in bad shape and not able to be salvaged, so oak was the obvious choice for strength reasons. The oak body was painted Kewanee Green (a color offered for the 1929 Model A pickup) and black rather than the original olive drab exterior paint scheme. Due to the height of the truck the body was assembled on the ground which made assembling the quarter inch thick tongue and groove roof using 580 one-inch screws much easier. Camper jacks were used to raise the completed body high enough to drive the chassis into position and mate the two. While working on the interior, he found the elusive serial number stamped on the inside wooden single seat frame. The fixed seat back was mounted to the cab back and the seat was lowered five inches to better fit DeGraff's build. Rather than go with the original all silver gray interior, natural oak was again chosen.
It was the finishing touches that were the most difficult to find, rear door screens came from Washington, rear door hinges from Oklahoma, Uncle Sam posters were found in Tennessee.
The hardest part to locate? The rear door padlock stamped with the official POD (Post Office Department) stamp took 23 years to find! Was it worth it? The truck was featured in Hemmings Motor News 2003 calendar, has won trophies for best of show, best of class, peoples choice, so yes, it was worth it!