Every time I write about a car or truck, no matter the manufacturer or model year, I find that I am always treated to a history lesson of some sort.
It seems nearly impossible to understand or appreciate automotive history without first understanding the larger history behind it.
This is true of the climate that created the Chevy S10 pickup truck.
In response to the Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s and further inspired by the popularity and success of Japanese pickup trucks later on in the 1980s, Chevy became the very first of the big three American auto manufacturers to introduce a compact pickup truck.
The 1982 Chevy S10 marked the first generation of this compact pickup, valued for its affordability and customization potential.
Although the Chevy S10 was officially discontinued in 2004, it hasn’t disappeared completely. In fact, it’s simply been re-imagined.
You might be able to find used S10 pickups wherever you find Chevy trucks for sale, and you can certainly find an extensive inventory of Chevy Colorado pickups, which ultimately replaced the S10 to great acclaim.
The First Generation
Building off the earlier Chevy-dubbed LUV, “light utility vehicles,”produced between 1972-1982, Chevy released the first S10 in 1982.
Affordable, durable, and dependable, the S10 pickup trucks sold between 1982-2003, came in two-wheel drive with either four-cylinder or V6 engines.
Starting in 1983, the trucks were available as either extended cabs or 4×4.
Produced between 1982-1993, the first generation of S10 pickups came in extended or regular cabs, and the regular cab had two wheelbase options while both body styles came equipped with four or six-cylinder engines.
The four cylinder was a 2.5-liter, generating 105 horsepower, so the six-cylinder was generally preferred for the added power.
The second generation brought about more options and features, including one very unusual addition to the Chevy S10 pickup truck line.
The Second Generation
Available in regular, extended, or crew cabs with short or long beds, the second generation of S10 pickup trucks introduced a variety of package options.
In 1996, Chevy introduced the Sportside bed and available three-door cab.
For regular cab short-bed S10s, the ZR2 offered a high-performance V6 engine with alloy wheels and sport suspension.
This package made off-roading a breeze, thanks to its larger, off-road-ready tires, stronger suspension, and four-wheel drive, which came standard.
The extended cab S10 had a third-door access panel located on the driver’s side which helped make room for additional cargo in the rear cabin.
If you were a brave (and small) enough passenger, you could access the fold-down jump seat in the back through the third-door panel.
From 1994-1997, the rear-wheel drive S10 pickup trucks came standard with a 2.2-liter, four-cylinder engine generating 118 horsepower.
An available 4.3-liter V6, able to get 165 horsepower was optional on two-wheel drive S10s and came standard on four-wheel drive models.
Engine upgrades on the V6 in 1996 returned more power and torque, operated by either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
By 1998, the S10 got a modest makeover, which resulted in a restyled front and nicer interior, equipped with dual airbags.
In 1999, the S10 Xtreme was released, similar to the ZR2, but built more with the racetrack in mind, compared to the all-terrain of the off-road enthusiast. Standard rear-wheel drive, the ZR2 stood lower by two inches, and sported body-color grille and bumpers, sport suspension, and sixteen-inch aluminum wheels.
The 1999 model year really was the last year for major changes to the S10.
For 2001, Chevy introduced a five-passenger four-door crew cab S10.
Although the Chevy S series was a popular line of pickup trucks and they did offer durability and versatility for an affordable price, reviewers and automotive journalists criticized the lack of safety features and abundance of low-end materials throughout the interior.
But, it’s popularity kept it on the road until 2004, when it was reborn into something new.
There is one other S10 worth mentioning, however, before we move on to this pickup truck’s latest and most evolved iteration.
The Electric S10
Among the rarest Chevys ever produced, in 1997 Chevy released the Electric S10, a pickup truck powered completely by a battery.
Offered on a lease basis to utility fleets, customers included the U.S. Air Force, and utility companies, like: Virginia Power, Detroit Edison, Boston Edison, Southern California Edison, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
The Electric S10 was powered by the “detuned” drivetrains of Chevy’s EV1 electric car, generating 114 horsepower with 85 kilowatts from a AC motor and lead Delco battery pack, containing 27 batteries, and weighing 1,400 pounds.
It was a heavy vehicle at 4,199 pounds, but it’s payload remained approximately 951 pounds.
Taking approximately 2.5 hours to charge, the Electric S10 had an EPA estimated range of 45 miles.
This one-hundred percent electrically-operated vehicle received an update in 1998, but was then ultimately discontinued later that same year.
Of the 492 produced between the two model years, approximately sixty were sold, making them rare, but not impossible to find.
Similar to the fate of Chevy’s EV1 electric car, the Electric S10 pickups, save the sixty that sold, were all destroyed as part of Chevy’s effort to protect its proprietary EV technology research and design.
The S10 Reincarnated: The Chevy Colorado
Far easier to find are any of the Chevy Colorado pickups.
By 2004, the Chevy S10 was discontinued, and immediately replaced by the Chevy Colorado.
Still considered a compact-to-midsize pickup truck, the Colorado was larger across the board than the S10s.
For the 2004 model year, the Colorado featured three-inch longer wheelbases, totaling either 111.3-inches on the regular cab or 125.9-inches on the extended and crew cabs.
The 2004 Colorado was longer overall by approximately two inches and sat taller and wider than the S10.
Supported by a more rigid frame, the 2004 Colorado came equipped with either a 175 horsepower Vortec 2800 all-aluminum DOHC 16-valve, four-cylinder engine or a boosted 220 horsepower Vortec 3500 all-aluminum DOHC 20-valve, five cylinder.
Still in its first generation, the Chevy Colorado just keeps getting better and was named Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year for 2015.
What makes a truck the Truck of the Year?
Something like this…
The 2015 Chevy Colorado: A Real Show Off
Starting at the highly affordable MSRP of $20,120, the 2015 Chevy Colorado features best-in-class horsepower, towing, and payload.
Equipped with a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine or 3.6-liter V6 engine, the Chevy Colorado will be the only mid-size truck to offer a 2.8-liter Duramax turbo-diesel engine, coming in 2016.
Until then, the V6 gives you best-in-class fuel efficiency of 26 city miles per gallon, while the 2.5 offers an impressive 27 miles per gallon.
With a towing capacity of 7,000 pounds, the V6 generates 305 horsepower with 269 lb.-ft. of torque, and is able to carry 1,590 pounds.
Depending on what you’re looking for when it comes to a Chevy pickup, you’ll have plenty to choose from in the used and pre-owned inventories of S10s and Colorados.
If you’d rather go the brand-new route, the 2015 Chevy Colorado is as celebrated a pickup truck as there ever was.
No matter what truck you choose, driving a Chevrolet pickup is a fun and interactive way to engage with automotive history.