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1983 Chevy S-10
story by Jim Allen
The S-10 Blazer was an appealing SUV that offered comfort, utility and economy. The manual four-bangers were EPA rated for 23 mpg combined (the old rating system) and the V6 manuals for 20. photos courtesy Chevrolet
The gas shortages and price hikes of the 1970s gave the USA a rude wakeup call... about as rude as a bucket of ice water over the head at 5 AM on a chilly morning. In the finger pointing that followed, many argued that the writing had been on the wall for a long time and the American auto manufacturers had been caught with their pants around their ankles and their shirts over their heads. Perhaps. After being firmly entrenched in powerful, gas guzzling V8s for decades, they scrambled to develop fuel saving models across the board. The term “Badge Engineering” emerged then, whereby imports were rebadged under American nameplates. This gave the domestic engineers some breathing room to develop home grown models of their own. In the Chevy 4x4 world, the first of these was the 1983 S-10.
The S-10 name debuted the in 1982 with a line of compact Chevy 4x2 pickups. A GMC version debuted the same year with the same “S” designation but bearing a “15” Late in ’82 both Chevy and GMC launched 4x4 versions of the pickups, as well as two-door SUV rigs that used many of the same components. These new SUV rigs shared the names of their bigger K-series brethren by wearing Blazer and Jimmy badges. They were offered in a base, a Sport and a Tahoe trim level.
Mechanically, these new S-Series rigs took many cues from Isuzu. GM and Isuzu had been collaborating for nearly a decade at that point, and something was bound to rub off. In this case, it was Independent Front Suspension. The S-10s used a chassis layout similar to the Isuzu 4x4 pickup, which Chevy had rebadged as the LUV (Light Utility Vehicle). The major thrust of the new chassis was the IFS, which was a major departure for an American manufacturer. Most hard core four-wheelers out there won’t celebrate that day in ’82, as it marked a big step in the movement towards ever more car-like 4x4s.
The Tahoe interior was a nice place to work and play. By 1983, comfort was a big selling point in 4x4s of all types. The outdoor recreational movement was in full swing. Trucks could be similarly outfitted.
A new player in the compact 4x4 game was the 110 hp Chevy 2.8L V6. This engine had debuted in 1980 and was the first “from-the-ground-up” V-type powerplant Chevy had developed in nearly 20 years. It powered the Chevy Citation and some other small cars prior to the S-10s. It used a narrow 60-degree Vee so it could fit into tight engine compartments. It took many design elements from European V6 engines but, unfortunately, it was no powerhouse. Detroit had not yet mastered the art of making a small displacement engine both perform and produce low emissions. In its early carbureted form, this engine was a bit overmatched for truck use... even small truck use.
Evolution of the First Series S-10s
Sept. 14, the new S-10 Blazer 4x4 debuts. S-10 4x4 pickups also introduced, including a new extended cab.
The Off Road Suspension option debuts (RPO Z71).
The 92 hp, 2.5 L “Iron Duke” four replaced both the 1.9 and 2.0 L engines.
Throttle body fuel injection replaces the carb on the 2.8 L. Power upped to 125 hp.
The 2.8 switches to a serpentine belt system.
The 4.3 L 90 degree V6 in introduced. The four is dropped and the 2.8 L becomes the base engine for the SUVs. The pickups follow suit later in the year.
NP-231C transfer case replaces NP-207C. Rear antilock brakes become optional. A new electronic instrument cluster is introduced.
The 2.8 L engine is dropped and the 4.3L becomes the standard engine. A new Getrag 5-speed replaces the Borg Warner.
A four-door Blazer is introduced on a 107-inch wheelbase.
A more powerful HO 200 hp version of the 4.3 L becomes optional. The 160 hp version remains standard.
A new body style debuts on the pickups with more rounded aerodynamic features.
The original boxy style S-10 SUV is retired for a new aerodynamic style like the pickups the year before. The proven underpinnings are enhanced but remain largely the same.
The rest of the engine lineup included a new 2.0 L, 83 hp four built by Chevy and a 1.9 L Isuzu four (a LUV transplant), which was the only four available in California. It cranked out a paltry 82 hp. Trannies ranged from a lackluster standard 4-speed Borg Warner T-4, to a better and optional 5-speed Borg Warner T-5. A small version of the TH-700R4 overdrive automatic was also optional, but it was available only with the V6.
The rest of the drivetrain started with the NP-207C, one of the first gearboxes in New Process’ line of compact aluminum chain drive t-cases. The rear axle was the GM/Saginaw 7.5-inch small 10-bolt, which featured 26-spline axles and an available Eaton limited slip. Up front was an aluminum-cased 7.25-inch ring gear IFS differential that used a CAD (Center Axle Disconnect) actuated by a vacuum servo. There were no hubs. When you pulled the t-case into four-wheel drive, the CAD was automatically engaged to couple the front axle together. The front suspension used unequal length A-arms and torsion bars. The “big” tires in the lineup were 205/75R-15s. Later in the year, the Z71 Off Road package debuted and “huge” 235/75R-15 off-road tires were included.
The S-10 4x4 trucks, like this longbed model, shared the same basic mechanicals with the Blazer. Shown is the Durango Trim.
The Blazer and Jimmy SUVs sat on a compact 100.5 inch wheelbase, while the trucks came in three wheelbase lengths, 108.5, 117.9 and 122.9 inches. The shortest was for the shortbed with a 6-foot box, the medium was for a truck with a 7.5-foot box and the longest was for an extended cab truck with the 6-foot box. GVWs ranged from a light 3,825 pounds, for a 1,000 pound cargo capacity, to a 4,750 pound GVW with a 1,500 pound capacity. The SUVs came standard with a 4,070 pound GVW while a 4,850 pound setup was optional. With trailer towing packages, both the trucks and SUVs could tow 5,000 pounds.
The ’83 S-series 4x4s began a long and profitable era for GM that is ending only now. The S-series rigs were a minor milestone in 4-wheel drive history, setting some important and popular trends in the SUV and light truck markets. They didn’t really make history like some other 4x4s have done, but they sure helped shape it. They have provided fodder for both hot-rodders and four-wheel buildup fans for almost their entire lifetime. They inherited the traditional Chevy swapability and their weak links are all overcomeable. The last descendents of the S-series are in the lineup now, soon to take a final bow in favor of a totally new line of trucks and SUVs. A 20 year run ain’t half bad and these trucks and SUVs will be with us for years to come.
1.9L (119ci) OHC four (std. California)
2.0L (121ci) OHC four (std 49 states)
2.8 : (173ci) OHV V6 (opt 50 states)
82 @ 4600
83 @ 4600
110 @ 4800
101 @ 3000
108 @ 2400
145 @ 2100
4-speed manual BW T-4 (std)
5-speed manual BW T-5 (opt)
4-speed auto TH-700R4 (opt)
GM 7.25-inch IFS
3.08, 3.42, 3.73 or 4.10 (depends on Power Team)
108.5 (short box PU)
117.9 (long box PU)
122.8 (ext. cab, short box PU)
3,406 pounds (Blazer 4-cyl)
3,544 (ext. cab PU 4-cyl)
$9433 Blazer (base price)
$7919 Extended Cab PU, base price