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Das Red Baron

32477 Views 271 Replies 20 Participants Last post by  EUNOS96
Well I made some build threads in the past and every time I've had a project it was doubling as my daily driver. The story doesn't differ much with this new(to me) truck, but I at least have several other reliable modes of transport so that I can give this one the attention it deserves. I'm completely new to the S10/Sonoma crowd as of 7/18/2013 when I purchased this little fixer, but i plan to make a pretty unique and head turning sports truck out of her.

She's a 1998 GMC Sonoma SLS 4.3L Vortec V6 with the NV3500 5-speed, Single cab stepside. It was precisely what I wanted, searched far and wide and the only variable I was willing to negotiate was whether it were a GMC or an S10. I always liked the bigger grill opening on the GMC.

I live in the small beach tourism town of Laguna Beach, California. As you'd imagine these probably aren't the car of choice among the rich and snooty locals out here, unlike myself who owns a house with peeling paint, a garage full of noisy tools, and a corner plot typically surrounded by track cars or obnoxious vehicles alike. We've been marked the black sheep on the block for our motorsports addiction and general lack of f*cks given.

Needless to say, I traveled about 150 miles out to pick this thing up in the middle of meth-city Coachella, CA. It was an interesting ride out there, and the destination was a scene out of Breaking Bad with bagged Cheyennes creeping by, bald mexicans eyeballing us white boys, and the guy selling the thing didn't even speak english. His girlfriend had to do all the translating right down to the haggling. I ended up grabbing it for $2700 which I think is a bit for a fixer, but considering I was about to drop $6200 on an Xtreme and I hated the body kit, I think I can happily invest the extra 3k into making this thing pretty bitchin.

On the way home from the desert, 117 miles from my house and around 10:30 pm this happened:

The picture is dark and kind of sucks, but a semi-truck with a flatbed lost some cargo and my rear tire ate it. Rather than driving home on the spare with dry rotted sidewalls, I had AAA get it home for me. Free tank of gas saved and new wheels/tires on the way!
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So immediately the next day the trigger finger was itchy on the paypal account and I began making a list of everything it needed. So far the list compiled:
1) Steering column surround (broken held together with tape)
2) Dash face (cracked and ugly with random holes drilled in various places)
3) E-brake release lever (missing for some reason, ebrake still functions lol)
4) Serpentine belt (this old one looked like one of the Gates brand poster examples of completed screwed.)
5) Washer cap (bottle still good, cap peaced out)
6) brake fluid reservoir (old one looks melted from the outside as if someone placed something hot onto it briefly and almost melted through! wtf...)
7) headlight/foglight/dimmer cluster (sort of wonky, doesn't quite work perfectly)
8) Bench-seat center console (truck has buckets but I hate that stupid 90's shit plastic arm-rest console)
9) Core "Hurst" short shifter (the throw on this NV3500 is insane, I punch the dash and hammer fist my knee between 1st and 2nd, that's gotta change)
10) tach cluster from another 98 GMC (why did they make a 5 speed with a non-tach cluster? retarded GM)
11) new headlamp housings (old ones are completely broken and clouded up)
12) air box (pepboys is a bad influence on the previous owner...)
13) 15x8 Aero steel racing wheels (this truck is proudly owned by an auto-xer)
14) 225/60/15 falken ziex ze512's for daily tires
15) aluminum lugs (common size to the other cars I've accumulated for torque settings and interchangability)
16) Full belltech street/track suspension setup with a 3" drop (shocks, springs, blocks ... explanation needed?)

Sorry for duplicating what I've got in the new members area but I realize that isn't the proper place for builds and I'd like to continue with whatever I've got going on here.

The truck doesn't show it much in the pictures but the front and rear bumpers are terribly spray painted, but at least the same color as the truck. It's not a factory color, looks more like a ferarri red than the GM paint it should be. A couple of paint chips in discrete places show the difference but the new color actually looks better in my opinion... just needs to be done right. That will come later.

The grill, headlights and front bumper were clearly the result of some sort of front end damage that broke a lot of plastic tabs or caused several to go missing. The headlights had a bunch of what looks to be overspray from the PO's horrible spray painting hobby, where he sprayed the grill and emblems with tons of drips and streaks. The new headlamps just arrived and I've begun restoration of the grill, sanding it down, priming and painting.

I'll post some after pics of the grill once it's cured and everything. The emblems were something I planned to ebay but it turns out they're like $70.00 new so I'll take some nail polish remover to these little guys until I make a junkyard run and horde some newer looking ones off of other GMC vehicles. I'm really striving for a clean OEM body on this thing with a tasteful lowering job that will also give a decent handling performance. Not into the bagged and shaved thing.
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Additionally, the wheels arrived two days early, but my tire supplier was out of stock and they couldn't get them here on time. Fortunately they upgraded my order from Falken Ziex ZE512's to ZE912's which would have been a $25/tire additional cost, but they ate the cost for me. Good fortune, I'll forget about the delay!

These are 15x9 -19 AERO Racing steelies, most of you are familiar with these I'm sure. I went with 4" backspacing to be a little conservative on the fitment.
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sick!! love the Noma std cab stepsides. subscribing for updates :) DO WORK SON!
I'm gonna enjoy following this build.
so here's a better pic of the tire, as you can see nothing structural got destroyed. It rolled right off the freeway on some frayed sidewalls and that's about it.

Here's some damage caused by the previous owner and his trigger happy spray paint addiction:

some engine bay shots, I swear the underhood insulation looks like a car fire happened lol. I know it's just rotten and disintegrating so I'll just replace it or remove it:

More stuff in the mail, always a nice thing to see after work!

And here's the end result of the grill paint job. The emblem is still in the works (i.e. I haven't really had time to sit on my ass and rub nailpolish remover into the little cracks on the things for hours)

and then some interior shots. All the bad stuff is on the dash. A "bench seat" model console is on the way to clean up the floor a bit and leave some room for aftermarket seats of whatever style I decide to go with. The carpet will probably get replaced too if the new console doesn't cover the weird paint-looking stains on the floor.

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Oh I forgot to post that a new vehicle is never fully reliable without finding a marine grade deep cycle optima battery where a car battery should go. Damn desert people...

and finally here's a shot of the two two-seaters side by side. I swear this is like the "Miata" of trucks. If it's got more than 2 seats, it isn't worth racing!
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I just noticed the width of your wheels- 9". With a 4" BS, you're gonna be REALLY close to the fender lips. I'm quite positive you're gonna have to roll the lips. Probably gonna need the UCA and tall BJ swap to fix the camber curve, too. What all does your drop consist of? I know you said 3", is that spindles and 1" coils or springs only?
I might kick myself in the butt for ordering without more thorough research, but the measurements I've taken shows everything should clear. I'm not going any lower than 3 in the front and the rear looks like it would clear another inch of backspacing if necessary.
I just noticed the width of your wheels- 9". With a 4" BS, you're gonna be REALLY close to the fender lips. I'm quite positive you're gonna have to roll the lips. Probably gonna need the UCA and tall BJ swap to fix the camber curve, too. What all does your drop consist of? I know you said 3", is that spindles and 1" coils or springs only?

^^^ That makes a world of difference. You said 15x9 with 4" BS in post #3.
8" width with 4" BS is a great fitment with very minimal rubbing issues of the sway bar in front of the wheels and the frame behind the wheels. ZQ8 trucks rub at these spots from the factory. The rubbing is only at full-lock turns, though. Carry on and post pics.
now you've got me looking at control arm options too. You're a bad influence. Possibly pulling the trigger on a set of Spohn UCA/LCAs after judging the ride characteristics.
Came home to a bunch of new stuff today:

Decided to stick with the fog lights instead of the no fog headlight housings. Here's how well the front end cleaned up with fresh paint on the grill and some brand new headlights:

O2 sensors will go in tomorrow along with wheels and tires if I can get to the shop on time. Hopefully I can clear the CEL for the bad O2 with all monitors run by next weekend and get it smogged and registered. I know my Miata took some intense witchcraft to get all the monitors to pass when I ripped all the forced induction out for smog a few months back. Hopefully the run cycles are simpler on the truck.
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now you've got me looking at control arm options too. You're a bad influence. Possibly pulling the trigger on a set of Spohn UCA/LCAs after judging the ride characteristics.

Don't forget the coilovers...


After looking at your tire size, they're about 10mm narrower and about 1/2" shorter than the stock ZQ8 size. So, you may not have quite the rubbing issues I was talking about. Not that they were anything to be concerned with in the first place. I know it's just a daily driver, and skinnier tires really help with MPG (at least in my experience), but I think 245s would have been worth the cost. I had a standard cab 4.3/5-speed, and it couldn't grip for shit on the stock 205/75-15s. Merging into flowing traffic on a wet road was dangerous. I had to allow enough distance as if I was driving a 2.2. Swapping to 235/60-16 (on my Xtreme wheels) made a world of difference. I also never got 23.xx MPG ever again.
I'll be using a 245 NT01 on the 16s for some cheap track rubber if/when I get to that point. Socal stays nice and dry so I should be okay on 225s with a light truck
So I dropped off the tires to a shop downtown and had an hour to kill so I went and installed this:

I freaking love it. The throw is perfect and it feels so damn solid compared to that foam-filled tube and crappy chevy rubber knob that was on there before. Shifts more like a car than a truck now and that's what I was going for. The entire swap took maybe 10 minutes because I had to looke for some RTV for the gasket surface.

Managed to slap the polished emblems on the front of the truck as well:

Soon after, got the wheels and tires back, mounted up and here's how she sits:

There isn't as much rake as it looks, I just have it parked on a hill. This is pre-drop too so It'll be a little lower than this when I'm finished. The old tires were 3 different sizes and to my surprise the alignment was straight as an arrow once the new wheels and tires were slapped on there. I had a good feeling it owuld need an alignment anyway but since it drives straight I'll wait until I finish the suspension work to align it.
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did some junkyarding this weekend. I'm having some issues with the parking brake pedal. First it was missing the release cable and handle assembly which I yanked from another S10/Sonoma in the yard, but then the pedal wouldn't raise up when disengaged with the cable. A spring somewhere isn't under tension or the cable has some serious internal resistance. Replaced the spring under the driver's door and that didn't help at all. I decided to pull a handbrake from a similar-colored interior from a 1990 accord and I'll be retrofitting that with some new cables in between the seats for some JDM car goodness lol. I prefer a handbrake to a pedal any day for simplicity and accessibility. I plan to use buckets anyway so this will work fine.

Additionally I pulled a rear sway from a 4x4 and will be upgrading the front to something much stiffer very soon. Currently riding with no sway and it feels like the thing will likely roll in a corner which is no bueno.

I'm eyeballing the rear end out of a 60's vette for IRS and the LSD, lateral leaf spring with coilovers, seems like a decent idea. Not sure how much will be involved in swapping it in as it's a complete subframe so it would likely require heavy mods to the truck frame and possibly the bed altered. Ideally I still want to keep the bed usable but I would love some independent rear end action.

I found out that the Y-pipe was nearly crushed entirely from a thorough underbody check of the truck so a new 2WD Y-pipe is on the way, and I'm hunting down some headers but learning that I know less and less about this truck as I get deeper in. I've got to figure out whether or not it has air injection or not and what header option will work with my compnents. I'd like to stay within CARB regulations for the CA smog Nazis, but I'd like some better headers and I'll be doing a full 2.5 or 3" depending on the design. If anyone might know off the top of their head about the air injection for this model that would be some easy help otherwise I'll just take a look under the hood when I'm home.

Picture dump will be coming soon when I start getting my hands dirty again.
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