Amid the energy crisis of the 1970s, automobile manufacturers set their sights on designing more fuel-efficient vehicles. Among these was the first compact pickup truck to be built in the U.S. by a “Big Three” automaker, the Chevrolet S-10, which was released in 1982. While this little truck underwent some big changes over the course of its life span, it remained popular for more than 20 years, until it was discontinued in 2004, and to this day, the model still boasts many satisfied owners.
Chevrolet S-10 Through the Years
1982: Chevrolet introduced the S-10 pickup truck to the world. This model was slightly larger than the Chevy light utility vehicle, or LUV, manufactured between 1972 and 1982. However, the S-10 was considerably smaller than the Chevrolet C-10 (5.1 inches narrower, 13.7 inches shorter, and 8.6 inches lower as well as a little less than 1,000 pounds lighter) and was manufactured domestically. This first-year model featured two-wheel drive only. Standard features included a 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine and a four-speed manual transmission. Another option included a 2.8-liter V6 engine. The truck had a bench seat with dual outside mirrors.
1983: Chevrolet kept the outward appearance of the S-10 with the 1983 model, but consumers also had an option for an extended cab with this model year. The 1983 model S-10 trucks were also available with four-wheel drive, and consumers could also opt for a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
1984: Again, Chevrolet did not make changes to the body of the S-10. However, a new sport suspension became available for the models with regular cabs and two-wheel drive. Chevrolet also updated the clutch to feature hydraulics instead of the cable included with previous models. A 2.2-liter diesel engine was also made available for two-wheel-drive trucks.
1985: In 1985, Chevrolet decided to change the fender emblems on the S-10. These newly designed emblems featured a big, red “S,” and they were larger than the former badges. The standard engine offered in this year was a 2.5-liter four-cylinder, and it had throttle-body injection.
1986: With the 1986 model year, Chevrolet introduced a new instrument cluster. The 2.8-liter V6 engine models also added the option for throttle-body injection.
1987: The 1987 model year did not involve any obviously visible changes to the S-10, but there was one small tweak under the hood. Chevrolet added a serpentine drive belt to replace the standard V-belts for both the 2.5-liter and 2.8-liter engines.
1988: As time went on, Chevrolet began to expand the available options for the S-10. In 1988, a sunroof would be added to the list of possible features for those seeking to buy one of these pickups. A new 4.3-liter Vortex V6 engine was another option made available in 1988.
1989: Chevrolet began installing standard rear-wheel anti-lock braking systems in every S-10 starting in 1989, a piece of safety technology that had yet to become standard in many vehicle models. This year also featured a special Cameo body package for the S-10, and only 2,198 Cameo vehicles were produced. An electronic instrument cluster was a new option available with this model year, and it included a speedometer and tachometer as well as a voltmeter and gauges for fuel, oil pressure, and engine coolant temperature.
1990: Front tow hooks became standard on the S-10 in 1990. Every four-wheel drive model had a standard 4.3-liter V6 with a Hydramatic-built five-speed manual transmission sporting a fifth-gear overdrive.
1991: The body of the 1991 S-10 was enhanced with new body-side moldings and emblems and a new grille that gave the S-10 an updated and sleek appearance.
1992: Chevrolet introduced a four-wheel-drive entry-level model, dubbed the EL. All four-wheel-drive models except the EL had the option of a new electronic shift transfer case.
1993: Automatic S-10s received a new heavy-duty cooling system, which included an engine oil cooler and a transmission oil cooler. These trucks also had the option for the new 4L60-E Hydramatic four-speed automatic transmission.
1994: After more than a decade, the S-10 was ready for a change, which came with the introduction of the second-generation S-10 in 1994. Features were added that were designed to enhance the vehicle’s comfort, value, and performance. The outside of the pickup truck was modified to have a forward-sloping hood with a wraparound grille. The trucks grew slightly larger, with regular-cab models measuring 63 inches tall, a little more than 17 feet long, and about 68 inches wide. They also had 20 percent more glass than older models for enhanced visibility. The S-10 was available in both a base model and an LS trim model. Two-wheel-drive models featured a 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine, while four-wheel-drive models had a 4.3-liter V6 engine.
1995: Chevrolet made driver’s-side airbags and daytime running lights standard in the S-10 in 1995. Keyless entry was a new option offered in this year. Chevrolet also added backlighting to the switches for windows, locks, and mirrors to make them easier to find in the dark.
1996: The S-10 gained an interesting new option: a third door, on the driver’s side. All models also were updated to feature four-wheel anti-lock braking systems as a standard feature. Chevrolet also introduced the Sportside bed option in this year, which includes rounded fender wells that protrude from the sides.
1997: With attention to enhanced durability, Chevrolet made improvements to the frame and drive train of the 1997 S-10 pickup trucks. The automatic transmission shifter was repositioned to the floor for trucks with bucket seats. Also in this year, Chevrolet produced an electric S-10, the S-10 EV, which is considered to be the rarest S-10 variety ever made. This pickup was 100 percent electric-powered and had a range of about 45 miles after 2.5 hours of charging. The EV was primarily leased to utility companies for use in their vehicle fleets. Between the 1997 EV and an updated version made in 1998, only 492 were made, and around 60 of these were sold. The rest were recalled and destroyed once their leases were up to safeguard Chevy’s technology.
1998: This was a year of new styling enhancements for the S-10. The trucks received new grilles, composite headlights, and front bumper fascia. Dual front air bags became standard, with an option to deactivate the passenger side if desired. Every model also came equipped with the Passlock theft-deterrent system. Chevrolet also revamped the interior of the trucks with a new instrument panel, floor console, and seats. The four-wheel-drive trucks also came standard with rear disc brakes and Insta-trac, which allowed for shifting into or out of four-wheel drive on the fly.
1999: At the end of the decade, Chevrolet rolled out bigger folding rearview mirrors on all of its trucks, including the S-10s. The S-10 Xtreme was introduced, featuring a body that was two inches lower, a special sport suspension package, and a monochrome grille and bumpers. This model also sported 16-inch aluminum wheels.
2000: Chevrolet made updates to the base trim features for all extended-cab trucks in 2000. All four-wheel-drive trucks now came with a standard heavy-duty suspension system.
2001: The four-wheel-drive and automatic-transmission S-10s could now be purchased in a four-door crew-cab version. Four-wheel-drive standard-cab S-10s were discontinued.
2002: All S-10 models had air conditioning and a tachometer as standard features as of 2002. Leather seats were available with crew-cab models.
2003: Additional enhancements available in 2003 models included a power sunroof, bed rails, and graphics on the front fender and doors.
2004: In the final year of S-10 production, Chevrolet offered only a crew-cab 4×4 featuring a 4.3-liter V6 engine with automatic transmission. Chevrolet replaced the S-10 with the Colorado in subsequent years.
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