On August 28, 1907, James Casey founded the American Messenger Company with Claude Ryan in Seattle Washington, capitalized with $100 in debt. Most deliveries at this time were made on foot while bicycles were used for longer trips.
The American Messenger Company focused primarily on package delivery to retail stores with special delivery mail designed for its largest client the United States Postal Service. In 1913, the company acquired a Ford Model T as its first delivery vehicle.
UPS operates over 119,000 delivery vehicles worldwide, ranging from bicycles to tractor-trailer trucks. In a long-running company policy to avoid advertisement or endorsement of a vehicle manufacturer, all external manufacturer emblems and badging are removed when a vehicle enters service.
The typical lifespan of a UPS ground vehicle is 20–25 years, lasting until the structural integrity is compromised. The company does not re-sell any of its ground vehicles, so retired vehicles are usually stripped of reusable parts before being sent to be crushed or parted out. Prior to scrapping, UPS trucks and trailers have all company branding painted over and are assigned an ADA (Automotive Destruction Authorization) number. Crushing is performed under supervision of UPS Automotive personnel. The are exception to this destruction policies, viable vehicles may be taken off the road for internal use; package cars are repainted white and are used for various purposes; older semi-tractors sometimes see use as terminal tractors.
UPS refers to its delivery van as a “package car”. Several designs and sizes are used by the company. The sized used will be dependent on assigned routes and expected package volume.
The rounded-nose design of fiberglass hood of the UPS package car was patented by the company in 1965; during the 2000s, hoods with flat sides were phased in and the old design was phased out. Package cars typically utilize sealed beam headlamps which were standardized in the US automotive industry in 1941.
Today, Morgan Olsen (Grumman Olson), Union City Body, and Utilimaster manufacture the bodies for UPS delivery vans. In the past 1950-1990, the majority of package cars were based on Ford or General Motors P-chassis, designed for van application. Since the 1990s the majoirty of package cars are based on Navistar, Freightliner, or Workhorse chassis. In the recent pastUPS delivery vehicles were equipped with manual transmissions and steering, today, most UPS vehicles are equipped with automatic transmissions
UPS went international in February1975 establishing operations in Canada. That said, for the entry into Canada, UPS faced various Canadian government regulations that required that the they use automobiles for package cars, not the standard van.
Given the expect long life of the vehicles, UPS did not buy a typical Ford, Chevy or Plymouth sedan, they purchased Checkers! Why not, clearly the long life purpose built taxicab was well suited for UPS tough industrial standards?
Little has been published regarding the UPS Checker package cars, but based upon physical examination and photographic evidence, we have learn a lot. It appears two types of Checkers where used, the Checker A11 and Checker A11e. The two Checker package cars models that were deployed in Canada served two purposes, a stand alone Checker A11 and super sized A11e modified with a roof mounted cargo carrier hull and trailer towing capabilities.
The units also appear to have been equipped with heavily modified interior by Checker. The interiors were gutted of seats, except for a single bucket seat for the driver. Additionally the floors, rear seat area and rear window package shelf were lined with steel diamond treadplate.
Additional modifications included rubber padding installed at the four corners for rigging lines to hold down roof top cargo. The front bumpers also displayed steel o-rings for tie downs. The package cars used 8 lug sixteen inch wheels with split wheels with removable lock rings. Photographic evidence also indicates that the Checkers did not have their corporate CMC nameplates removed from the front hood.
As would be expected the survival rate is low. Despite the reputation of Checkers being as tough as tanks, they are very susceptible to rust and it would not be a stretch to assume that the Canadian winters and salted roads would destroy a Checker in about four years.
About twenty years ago Ben Merkel and Joe Pollard saved two UPS Checkers. Ben Merkel started restoration on one unit. According to Ben he replaced the entire roof, extremely rusting, a full replacement was required. The Merkel units was recently saved from a crusher and its expected to be restored by Dan Smith in Arizona.
Its not clear where the other UPS car landed, but based on recently uncovered photos found on the internet, it appears to have been restored. The header photo above, as well as the picture below depict UPS package car 98900. Given the header photo appears to be UPS Canada corporate photo, it would seem that the other survivor is in the hands of UPS Canada. That said, its questionable that this is indeed an original UPS package car? Please note the chrome bumpers were manufactured before 1975. Additionally, the car appears to have a full interior? Wrong bumpers and a non treadplate interior seems questionable?
Most folks are not aware of the Checker UPS package car, its great to know that a least one true UPS car survives. Below are more photo of UPS Checkers.
Postscript, Ben Merkel provided a old photo that indicates that he once owned three UPS Checker Package Cars. According to Ben “I believe that the two without the white roof no longer exist”