The Grumman LLV

If you've read my "RIP Windows XP" article - you'll hear me make the analogy of Windows XP being akin to a Grumman LLV. I did not originally make that analogy; rather, I got it from another person. This prompted me into looking it up and analyzing the comparison. Let me spare you the trouble by explaining what an LLV is and what it can do. (Special thanks to Julie, a family friend who is a mail carrier.)

LLV GroupThe Grumman LLV (or "Long Life Vehicle") is basically the boxy, white mailtrucks you see in the United States and (parts of) Canada. These trucks were produced from 1987-1994, and have been in service since they were built. There are two "flavors" of the mailtruck - the LLV (what this article is about), and the FFV (a newer mail van that will be briefly mentioned later.) In my area, the LLV is the exclusive sight (and sound) that your mail is about to come.

Before the LLV, the US Post Service (USPS) was using retrofitted Jeeps to deliver mail. These Jeeps were really old, and by the mid-1980s, some were even falling apart. The USPS had only one good option on the table: to replace them. Instead of the USPS going TO companies to inquire about a mail truck, they developed a list of criteria which would "make the perfect mailtruck" that would last 20 years or more. Three companies set out to build a prototype and have it tested through rigorous courses that would destroy any truck that wasn't up to the task. The prototype submitted by Grumman and General Motors (GM) made it through the course without any major issues. (By the way, we're talking about the same Grumman who made the stealth bombers and a multitude of other planes used by the US Military. They're no longer in business - but they merged with Northrop to form Northrop-Grumman.)

The first LLV rolled off the assembly line in Montgomery, Pennsylvania in 1986. The USPS, as well as the Canadian Postal Service (Canada Post), bought over 140,000 of the trucks. They were also sold to the public as the "CLLV" (Commercial Long Life Vehicle), although this version of the LLV wasn't very popular. It was also sold to rural carriers who do a lot of driving, as well as other postal services around the world.

The iconic white trucks are very simple. They're made of an aluminum body which sits on top of a Chevy S10 chassis. The engine is an "Iron Duke" by GM, and the reported top speed of the LLV is about 60 miles per hour.

The Problems

The LLV is made of an aluminum body, which is mostly riveted together. There is no insulation, which causes two things. In the winter, the LLV can turn into a frost box as the heaters are typically work poorly. The summer can result in the LLV becoming an oven; our mail carrier friend reported that her truck reached temperatures of 130 degrees. The trucks, as you can guess, don't have any air conditioning. Due to the aluminum construction and placement of the engine, the floorboard gets extremely hot in the summer months, as well.

Due to the LLV's design, the turning radius is extremely small. This is good, unless it's winter. The LLVs are reportedly useless in the winter, thanks to a lack of traction and everything else.

Lately, many LLVs have burst into flames. A report claims that there are some issues with the LLVs, such as electrical problems, which cause the LLVs to spontaneously combust. One issue reported was that the windshield wiper fluid line (windshield wiper fluid is combustible as it contains alcohol) ran right above the fusebox. A leak would cause a fire, which is further fueled by the large amount of paper and cardboard products inside the van. (When these trucks burn, they literally "melt." Aluminum has a low melting point, which the flames cause to melt. It appears like melting plastic.)

The Solutions

The latest solution is to look for a replacement for the thirty-year old vehicles. They're going back to their original list, but adding some additional safety features and creature comforts (air conditioning!!!)

Another suggestion was to save the body of the LLV, but replace the chassis underneath with a new, electric-powered chassis. This has actually been tested multiple times.

In 2000, Ford and Utilimaster developed the Flex Fuel Vehicle (FFV) which could run on Ethanol to deliver mail while emitting fewer greenhouse gases. The FFV's are common in larger cities, but the LLV is still much more common.

Our mail carrier friend states that her FFV has had at least three engines changed. She prefers the FFV over the LLV, but after doing some internet searching, I found that the LLV was more liked by most mail carriers as it is more common and they're more used to it. She claims the FFV is plagued with almost all of the same issues as the LLV, plus some additional ones.

Fun Facts

Grumman Data Systems

While not related to the LLV, this is related to computers. Who knows, maybe someday this topic will morph into its own page?

As with many other military defense contractors, Grumman (now Northrop-Grumman) had a role in computing. Grumman's "Data Systems" division actually competed against the IBM mainframes.

They, as well as a few others (RCA, Philco-Ford, General Motors, etc.) to enter the computing industry while maintaining focus in their other industries (consumer electronics and automobiles).

For More Information...

Former "Grumman World" Newsletters

When the LLV was still in production, "Grumman World" - the official newsletter for the Grumman Corporation employees - has some pictures from the Montgomery plant. There are some links below.

Special thanks to Julie, our "mail carrier friend" who delivers mail in her FFV daily and likes to whitewater canoe!

Last updated 05/30/2017 ; T420 (originally created 05/08/2017)

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