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How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

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Old 02-29-2012, 12:07 AM   #1
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How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

Word of Warning this is going to be someone long.
I am 20 years old and for the last few years I have dreamed of owning a Chevy S10. Now my Dad isn't big on the idea of me buying the S10, even though I am an adult and will be paying for this myself the fact that I am living at home and he is paying for college makes it "His House, His rules" his main concerns for me not being the S10 are
  • Hes not sure how reliable the engine will be (all of the ones I have found on craiglist have the 262 but one which has a 2.2l)
  • Hes not sure how reliable the transmission would be (most of them say 4 speed auto so I am guessing a 700R4 or a th400 will be the transmission)
  • Hes not sure how reliable the over all truck will be, one of his concerns is we live near a major highway which I have no choice but to drive when to get anywhere and he doesn't want the truck breaking down on it.
Now I have loved hot rods and cars all my life, I have grown up reading Hot Rod and Car craft, watching Gearz, Monster Garage, etc.
My main reasons for buying this car are
  • Its cheap, I can't afford a muscle car (plus insurance and gas would probably kill me on a muscle car). Most of the S10s/S15s I see sell for $800-$2000 on craigslist.
  • Low insurance, I heard that light pick ups generally have lower insurance compared to compact cars or sedans. Not sure if this is just for Military vets or just later Gen Pick Ups but a Friend of mines dad owns a Ford Focus and an Ford Ranger and the insurance is lower on the ranger.
  • Eventually Hot Rod it, this probably won't be till after college but I want to swap in a 350 and built a street and strip car.
Those are my reasons, sorry for this being long but I hope you guys can give me some good answers and feedback about my dads concerns.
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Old 02-29-2012, 12:17 AM   #2
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

try to get a 4.3, auto transmission is a 700r4 or 4l60e depending on year. ive had 2 2.2 and man there a pos from my experiance but the 4.3s take a beaten and can do anything a base 1500 truck can.
Old 02-29-2012, 12:22 AM   #3
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

2.2's arent that bad, just slow. I feel the S-series vehicle is very reliable, but that also depends on how it was teated. if its been beat its whole life it may have some issues. Overall S-series seem to be pretty bulletproof from what I've seen and done
Old 02-29-2012, 12:29 AM   #4
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

the 2.2 is the most reliable engine ive ever had, if you get a manual, the t5 is awesome, thats why they use it in all kinds of vehicles.... the 4l60e is the auto trans you would have if you had an automatic, they are reliable, i dont know of many that have failed, in fact the only one i have seen personally was in my blazer, i bought it with a bad 3-4 clutch and rebuilt it, before you buy one, take it to a shop to have them look at it, tell them you want the front end checked and a quote for what it would cost to fix if it needs anything, with a list of parts, and that will tell you what you need to know as far as highway reliable.

edit: imo, the 2.2 is a lot easier to repair if anything was to go wrong, the only thing about it is it is slow
Old 02-29-2012, 01:36 AM   #5
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

try to buy a 88-92 s10 with a 4.3 and a auto trans. pre 88 is blah. and 93 has the 4l60 trans blah. i have had my truck for 10 years!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it has over 206k miles on it and mechanically i have just put a water pump, alternator, a/c compressor and radiator on it. the s10 is a breeze to work on and it is so reliable. in town i get 17mpg and on the highway i get 20mpg.
Old 02-29-2012, 02:24 AM   #6
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

These trucks are very reliable. Perhaps some of the most reliable domestic cars of their time. (or ever for that matter) Ive known many, many friends to have a 4.3L engine over time, and all of them ran forever and were abused and neglected. You'll have small repairs here and there, but that goes for any used car you buy. Even brand new cars break down sometimes. No one I can think of has NOT made it to 200,000 miles+ with their 4.3L engines.

The 4.3 is a 350 based engine. Its just 2 less cylinders on the same design, and we all know how reliable a 350 can be.

Since you are in the first gen forums, Ill touch on the 2.5L as well. The Iron Duke 2.5 is THE most reliable engine Ive ever had - and Ive had a Toyota and a Honda in the past. The 2.5 beats them hands down. AND if you have one with no options, its paltry 98hp is plenty enough to get moving...I know my 2.5L would trash my 97 s10 2.2L any day.

The 2.2L is relaible as well, but it is a weak motor. I have to work it hard to get it up to speed, but I do get great MPG out of it. 24 - 27 MPG with it loaded with work equipment. The only recurring issue with those is the timing chain and tensioner, which tends to start going bad around 100,000 miles. Its not a hard fix and its not expensive. A backyard mechanic can do it in a few hours with a manual.
Old 02-29-2012, 02:56 AM   #7
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

Same thoughts with the 4.3. Its a small block with two cylinders knocked off. Small blocks are like a rock. (hehe)

Also, if anything breaks the parts are abundant and with a 4.3 interchangeable with alot of the small block parts as well as the trans.
Old 02-29-2012, 04:31 AM   #8
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

We've had an 89 4.3 blazer for 20 years now, original drivetrain, no major issues with 150k on it.

My 90 s10 with a 2.5 with 200k on it and in the past 4 years minor issues.

and my 01 jimmy with a 4.3/auto. It has given me the most problems, but nothing catastrophic so far.
Old 02-29-2012, 08:36 AM   #9
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

They're pretty sweet and reliable trucks. Mines @ 210,xxx miles.

a manual trans will get you better fuel economy. T5 in the 2.2L NV3500 in the 4.3

If you're like me at or ~6'1 you might want to look into an extended cab. the little extra space help and come in pretty handy for stuff, or in my case my dog.

Parts are plentiful, be it you get it from a junkyard or rockauto

insurance is cheap
Old 02-29-2012, 01:22 PM   #10
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

They are reliable vehicles, but you are looking at vehicles that are twenty years old. Even replacement parts could be wearing out at this point. If you are buying from a person that just put cheap parts on the vehicle, you may end up replacing parts sooner than you'd like. Be sure to avoid the vortec engine that was in the '94 ('93?) S10s. Nothing but trouble. When it's time to replace the fuel pump, get a Walbro. The nice thing is that parts are plentiful and cheap. Being GM parts from a number of different vehicles will work.
Old 02-29-2012, 01:36 PM   #11
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

270,000+ on mine all original... Till next week when i change the rear end.
Old 02-29-2012, 01:47 PM   #12
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

I've had an S10 or blazer with every engine available. So far the 2.5/automatic has been the most reliable engine of them all and it got the least amount of maintenance. My 2.2/5spd wasn't bad considering I put like 40k miles on it with the head gasket leaking externally. Now I have a 4.5/5spd. I have put any miles on it yet but I'm not concerned about it at all since it only has 77k miles and a good reputation. I'll never own a 2.8 again though even though the one I had never really had any issues, I'm just not a fan of them.

IMO the most important part is finding one that has been well cared for and continuing to maintain it regularly. S10's are one of those vehicles that has a huge aftermarket and there's usually never a problem finding parts on craigslist or at the junkyard if need be.
Old 02-29-2012, 03:38 PM   #13
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Well put jsin. X2 on the 2.8 not bad motors I just dont like them.
Old 02-29-2012, 07:42 PM   #14
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

"how reliable are they?"

hmm, i've owned mine 22 years and have put 193k on it and i've had to bring it home on a tow truck twice once for a bad iggy box and the other for a broken valve spring, it is currently my daily driver, if i had to drive to Seattle(i live in south Florida) tomorrow i'd have no issues with taking it, don't know of much more that needs to be said

my $.02
Old 02-29-2012, 08:45 PM   #15
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

S10's I've owned
93 2.8/5speed 285k when sold. Seen it a year ago with 370k
92 4.3/700r4 built engine at 204k built trans at 283
93 2.8/5speed 296k when sold. New owner blew it up at 315k
96 4.3/5speed 223k when sold. Replaced intake gaskets, fuel pump, AC compressor
There very reliable trucks no matter year, motor, or mileage.
Old 02-29-2012, 10:32 PM   #16
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

S10's are a dime a dozen....


As with any vehicle, if properly maintained will last quite awhile. I've had mine going strong for 9 years. 7 of which, I have pushed the drive train pretty good with boost, nitrous and a few other things every daily ride should get.
Old 03-03-2012, 04:06 PM   #17
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

They are Chevys, built in America, if you find that's been taken care of, you'll be fine if you can continue to maintain it properly, I see more s10s on the road then for sale, they get ok gas mileage,but overall great for a pickup. If you get a 4wd truck, you could use that and buy a plow if you live in an area where it snows
Old 03-03-2012, 09:47 PM   #18
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

I lucked out and found a '93 4.3 5 speed with just over 50,000 miles on it. I don't have a lot of experience with S10s (yet) but a couple of things I do know. The 4.3 is a great engine no matter what it's in, and it went in many full sized trucks. It's a strong design originally built as a V8. And parts are plentiful, including performance parts.

The first generation S10 really was built like a rock, and virtually indestructible. I saw one that had gone through 2 concrete block fences and the concrete block wall of a house. It hit dead center of an interior wall, half of it was in one bedroom, other half was in another bedroom. Nobody was injured, including the driver, who was drunk. He apparently had the pedal to the floor. The truck had a lot of small dents and scrapes, and the windshield was broken. But it was still intact. On the other hand, I saw an early second generation that had been rear ended at slow speed (in town) and the frame buckled badly between the bed and cab. I've noticed over the years that the first generation trucks seem to hold together a lot better in accidents. I was told that Chevy designed them so they would be crushed, to absorb impact energy, and protect the occupants. Since I am partial to the styling and structural integrity of the first generation, I spent some time looking for a nice one.

I used to have an 85 full sized Chevy, And apparently they had done the same thing with it. The hood was bent in the middle. I got an undamaged hood, and had reinforcements welded in underneath it. Supposedly someone was decapitated in an early model of that style by the hood, so Chevy weakened it so it would bend in half rather than go through the windshield.
Old 03-03-2012, 11:29 PM   #19
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

91 2.5/5 speed manual 150k.

plenty of love here for the 4.3, you would do just as well with a iron duke.
Old 03-03-2012, 11:32 PM   #20
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

Brought a 94 home, no brakes (found that out along the way, used the ebrake), bad injector (running on 4 of 6 cyl), backfiring and fouled out the whole way, on the highway, in the snow....... and made it!

rebuilt a TON of stuff on the truck for about 450 bucks, complete brakes, ignition, and front steering.

good truck, cheap parts, easy to work on. it'd be good for ya man
Old 03-03-2012, 11:42 PM   #21
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

Quote: Originally Posted by dHb
91 2.5/5 speed manual 150k.

plenty of love here for the 4.3, you would do just as well with a iron duke.

the Iron Duke is an awesome engine. You've easily got another 100k left in yours with basic maintenance. It's pretty cool how many high mileage 2.5's there are. Its too bad they didn't take the new technology and build it around that engine.

although the valve train can get pretty noisy. One time I was running it through emissions and the inspector assumed it was a diesel engine
Old 03-04-2012, 02:49 AM   #22
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

My '93 sonoma has been VERY good to me and it's previous owner. 177,000 miles and counting. Keep up regular maintenance and they'll go for a VERY long time!

For mileage, go with a 2wd and 5spd. Auto is good for comfort, but mileage can sometimes suffer. In all, S-series trucks are reliable and parts are plentiful.

I have a 4x4 Ext cab with the CPI 4.3 and the Auto trans. Great combo for a drivetrain! I know 4x4 adds a few hundred pounds, so this won't be a fair MPG estimate, but I have gotten on long highway trips with the Sonoma, right around 22-24MPG. In town I see 13-17 regularly.

2wd Mileage will be better, but not by much.
Old 03-04-2012, 02:28 PM   #23
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

Which years are you looking at? If you find one that's been well maintained, and you continue maintaining it, you'll be all good. Even Hondas and Toyotas have parts that will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. If you're good to your S10, it'll be good to you.
Old 03-04-2012, 05:20 PM   #24
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

Quote: Originally Posted by stevbrei
Which years are you looking at? If you find one that's been well maintained, and you continue maintaining it, you'll be all good. Even Hondas and Toyotas have parts that will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. If you're good to your S10, it'll be good to you.

Wiser words have never been said!

BTW, S-10's are cheaper to fix then Honda's and 'Yota's too!
Old 03-04-2012, 06:20 PM   #25
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

I can't speak for the 4.3's, although I have seen a couple 250k+ mile 4.3's. But I can confidently say that my '86 2.5 4sp manual 4x4 is insanely reliable. After 26 years, the truck only refused to start once, and that was after sitting for 7 years, the fuel pump gave out. The truck was even driveable when I had 5 vacuum leaks, a bad egr valve, fried O2 sensor and way off time. S10's have a reputation for being super reliable and I haven't came across one that wasn't reliable! Also, tell your dad that they are super easy to work on and IF something goes wrong, it's cheap and easy to fix. Insurance for my truck is $14 a month. And I just changed the transmission fluid which has taken the majority of the beating and the fluid looked incredible. Clutch is also really strong.

Good luck!!
Old 03-04-2012, 07:58 PM   #26
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

Quote: Originally Posted by Billythe2.5
I can't speak for the 4.3's, although I have seen a couple 250k+ mile 4.3's. But I can confidently say that my '86 2.5 4sp manual 4x4 is insanely reliable. After 26 years, the truck only refused to start once, and that was after sitting for 7 years, the fuel pump gave out. The truck was even driveable when I had 5 vacuum leaks, a bad egr valve, fried O2 sensor and way off time. S10's have a reputation for being super reliable and I haven't came across one that wasn't reliable! Also, tell your dad that they are super easy to work on and IF something goes wrong, it's cheap and easy to fix. Insurance for my truck is $14 a month. And I just changed the transmission fluid which has taken the majority of the beating and the fluid looked incredible. Clutch is also really strong.

Good luck!!
4.3's are essentially a SB 350 with two cylinders cut off. In other words, pretty much bulletproof. The CPI 4.3's run like cats with their tails on fire. TBI 4.3's are reliable, if not as torquey off idle as the CPI...

the 700R4 Automatic trans has been seriously revamped and relaibilty has been improved. Relabeled the 4L60E (added electronics and rework of the internals) in the late 90's, they have become very reliable and can take a beating. I know that I have towed WAY more than my Sonoma was rated for and it didn't break a sweat doing it!

As for the 5spd trans, I've never met one that didn't shift nicely!

These truck are very easy to work on. If you can get maintenance records, than by all means, do. These will tell you alot about how your soon to be truck was treated. My Sonoma is a little dog eared, but I know the gal that owned it before me took good care of it.

http://www.cardomain.com/ride/392550...upe-cab-pickup
Old 03-04-2012, 10:09 PM   #27
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

They are all POS trucks but we all have and love them anyway.
Old 03-04-2012, 10:22 PM   #28
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

Quote: Originally Posted by Lawdog1911
They are all POS trucks but we all have and love them anyway.



They're only a POS when not maintained/flogged.
Old 03-07-2012, 05:11 AM   #29
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

I think a lot of the reason the 2.5 is so reliable is because it is a simple, old tech engine. I am not into new technology when it comes to vehicles, which is why I am removing all the FI and electronics off my '93 4.3.

I am into vintage cars and trucks, I own a '64 Ford (yes, Ford) Fairlane which is now 48 years old, with probably close to a million miles on it, and the original 200 c.i. straight 6 has never been apart. It is getting a little worn, and is burning a little oil, but I expect it to outlast me. I did have to rebuild the 2 speed automatic transmission a few years ago, because the seals dried out in it, and would not hold pressure, and it wouldn't shift. But when that first started, a cup of lacquer thinner in the trans fluid softened up the seals and got another 8 months out of it.


The first generation body/frame/ suspension/steering/brakes are as good as it gets. The body is built like a tank. Most of the engines are also bulletproof, and most of the problems you will run into with an engine in good mechanical shape are going to be electronic. Electronics are by far the weakest link on any newer car/truck.

I am not familiar with the 2.2, the 2.5 and 4.3 will last forever (though anything can be destroyed IF you try hard enough), the 2.8 is a decent engine with good power for it's size, it's good in traffic, and will keep up on the freeway, but it has some design flaws. First one is the timing cover. They sandwiched it in between the block and water pump, and put coolant passages in it. It is aluminum, and if it corrodes through, you will get coolant in the oil. Replacing the water pump, no matter how careful you are, CAN also damage the seal between the timing cover and block, creating a leak. A number of Mopar engines back in the '60s/'70s had the same design, and were well known for broken timing chains and stripped teeth on cam sprockets. Another problem is the water jackets are very thin, and the stock core plugs seem to corrode through and leak fairly early in the engines life.
Old 03-07-2012, 12:30 PM   #30
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

It'd be hard to find a MORE reliable vehicle of any kind than S10's.

Bear in mind, there's alot to be said for simplicity.

I have an '86 with a 2.5 and a 4 speed manual. Bought it 17 years ago with 58k on the clock, it now has 173k. This truck has only been on a wrecker once, and that was because I was driving the wrecker, taking the truck home. Yeah, stuff's broke, but it's never left me stranded. It's certainly not been babied, I've abused this thing throughout it's life. Drove from the Florida Keys to Mississippi with TWO early 80's motorcycles in the bed plus other assorted junk on three cylinders (spark plug broke). Spent a summer towing around a 3,000 pound trailer full of inflatable bouncy houses for a temp job. Towed a 12 foot U-Haul box trailer from MS to NJ and back (the drag was unbelievable, normal 21mpg dropped to 13 going up empty, 16 coming back loaded with the bed full too). While working draft beer, would load the bed up with kegs and make emergency deliveries from time to time, nothing like challenging a Dime's carrying capacity with 1200 pounds of beer!

The worst I can say about this truck is the EGR valve is a notorious pain, when it goes it's known to create all kinds of trouble. The trans is bullet-proof, it's never even hiccuped, and at 173k I'm still running the factory clutch. I drive it every day to and from work during the cooler months (a/c broke ages ago and I've never bothered to fix it), and would drive it year-round if not for that. FAR cheaper than my full-size Dodge. Insurance is cheap too, state minimum runs me 300 or so for 6 months.

Just rambling. Get the S10, you'll be glad you did. Ultra-reliable, cheap to run, cheap to fix, and as versatile as you could ask for. Go for the older years (1st gen), the less emissions crap to break the more reliable it'll be.
Old 03-07-2012, 01:02 PM   #31
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Re: How Reliable are the S10s, Convincing Parents

I think most people have summed it up pretty good. I've owned Ford's, Chevy's, Chryslers, so I'm not just saying "they're the best!" without testing others.
  • Pretty reliable.
  • Ok gas mileage, for a truck.
  • Cheap parts. and fairly cheap to have fixed, since there's so many of them.
  • Easy to work on with standard tools.
  • Easy to customize.
I've owned:
  • A 1991 1st gen Jimmy - Basic and reliable but the interior is really dated and the fit and finish isn't too good.
  • A 1995 4x4 Blazer - Bought it with 50k miles on it and sold it within a year. Tons of problems.
  • A 1999 4x4 Jimmy - I loved this truck. The fit and finish was greatly improved on the later 2nd gens. Sold it with 186k miles on it, just because I was bored with it.
I have a friend with a 1st gen standard cab with a 2.5 Iron Duke engine and a stick. It gets great gas mileage.
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