COAL: 1986 Chevrolet S-10 – All My Friends Know The Lowrider

I was 18, working as a pizza delivery guy, but didn’t have my own set of wheels. School was a 15 minute drive away and I did not consider taking the bus a viable option. Both my parents and I did not like any arrangement where I borrowed their vehicles for any reason and I can’t say I blamed them. Patience with my automotive experiments had worn thin and it was time for me to buy a decent reliable vehicle that wasn’t a hassle to me or anyone around me. The above pic might look good but it didn’t start that way; in fact I would have to continue to learn the hard way before finally achieving my goal of selling a vehicle for more than I paid for it.



Ugh! Sorry for the visual jolt. It really didn’t look that bad when I bought it. It was bad in the sense it was an obvious spray can paint job; but it was at least a uniform colour. By that I mean it was white with black racing stripes down the middle. The kind of paint job where you grind off the rust and just paint over it.

Fleck Stone

It was almost as if this seller had cobbled together a truck to sell to a dumb teenager. It was lowered, with aluminum slot rims, and had a decent stereo. Remember those tube subwoofers? It had one of those plus speakers built into the headrests. The seller had a thing for Fieros and took inspiration from the fact Fieros came with speakers in the headrests to hack a couple in this truck. Sounded good to me. Another custom touch in the interior was the use of the above pictured paint to coat the dashboard and the door panels. Unfortunately, he did a pretty poor job and much of it had flaked off by the time I took it off his hands for all of $800. No worries, I could buy more paint.

The seller also must have swapped in the 2.5 litre Iron Duke TBI too, as my research seems to indicate that this motor wasn’t available with TBI till 1987. That would probably explain why it ran poorly and had some bugs to be worked out. The motor flooded itself a lot; I can’t remember what the solution was but it was performed quickly and a lot of stress was relieved. It certainly wasn’t fast or very fuel efficient but it was at least fun to drive with the Getrag 5 speed transmission. I always thought it was weird that it had power windows but no power steering, yet someone had installed a Grant steering wheel. This truck had been monkeyed with, but it was running.


While I was back on the road making money delivering pizzas, the truck soon revealed itself to ride very poorly. I know it was a lowered truck but it was really hard on the spine. Apparently, heating up coil springs and compressing them to achieve a lower ride height is a bad idea. It tends to result in broken coil springs. I’ll point out that the past owner did this not me; I would have at least researched it online. I don’t remember how long I rode on broken front coil springs but it was decision time. Do I scrap this piece of junk or fix it up and make some money? I wanted to make some money.


I dove head first into this project; it was all or nothing. First thing I did was buy some proper lowering springs and shocks as well as replace whatever was ugly in the front end. What a difference! The rear end was left untouched as it had “proper” lowering blocks. As this was my daily driver, I had to do all the mechanical work fast and efficiently so as not to miss any work which would of course cut off the money for the project. This is a vicious cycle I’m sure many readers are familiar with. My parents were again kind enough to lend me a vehicle whenever I was unable to finish what I was working on, but I did my best to avoid this; and succeeded for the most part. I recall going without a functional alternator for at least a month. I brought a charger and booster cables with me wherever I went and parked it on inclines wherever possible to allow me to push start if I had to. Money was obviously tight and I eventually bought an alternator which ended this foolishness.


With my much improved ride, it was time to turn my attention towards the body. As it was a Chevy it was very easy and cheap to locate a set of aftermarket fenders and a roll pan that were promptly installed. As for the rest of the body that had rust on every other body panel; I would begin my initiation into the lost art of body work. This was far more involved and took way longer than I expected. It seems so easy in principle; remove rust, fill, make straight, paint with primer. I picked up a couple of less rusty doors from a junkyard that I could work on without affecting the drivability of the truck. As for the rust in the quarter panels, hood and roof, I just made sure to time my work so that I could at least get a coat of primer on before driving off.

S-10 tailgate net

image via

Remember tailgate nets? Maybe it’s just me but it seems like I haven’t seen one of those in a decade. While it was somehow absent from all my pics, the truck had a ratty old one that refused to stay tight and flapped in the wind. That’s not all the interesting until you consider that I routinely had passengers ride in the bed. I believe my record was 11, but that includes 3 people in the cab. You see, in Manitoba it was illegal to have dogs in a truck bed but not people (until 2013), and it seemed everyone including the police knew this. So while this truck may seem impractical as a people hauler, the 89″ longbox could accommodate half my football team, and do so comfortably if we could find an old couch. It’s too bad I never did buy a real tailgate as it would have looked much better with one.


I finally finished the (admittedly wavy) bodywork not too long after graduating high school and dropped the truck off at the local Maaco for its $700 re-incarnation. Soon I would no longer be driving the world’s slowest evolving, multi-coloured, Franken-truck and sell it to some other hapless teenager. But it wouldn’t be that simple. While on my way to pick up a camera to take the pics for the Auto Trader ad, I was rear-ended at a stoplight by someone who forgot that ice is slippery. I got to see it all unfold in my rear view mirror but was powerless stop it.


Three months and one insurance hassle later, it was finally up for sale. Interest was moderately high among my demographic but no one pulled the trigger. I suspect it did not meet anyone’s parental approval. Did I mention a lowered truck makes very little sense in the frozen tundra of Winnipeg? After about a month someone finally did come along and buy it for enough of a price that I made a cool $1000. I was rich!


So I finally had a good sum of money on hand but I was definitely not the type to walk into my local dealer and plunk it down as down payment on a new vehicle. I had decided against furthering my education and took a job at a warehouse so I was free to spend as stupidly as I wished. Oh, and I had bought a different project car a year or two earlier but that won’t make its COAL appearance for another week or two. I had accumulated as much automotive wisdom and experience as I had money, so it was time to put it to good use.