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Pickup Icon: Remembering the Coolness of the Original Chevy S-10

Given how dominant full-size pickup trucks are in today's market, it's easy to forget that the minitruck was once an equally strong force. For much of the 1980s and 1990s small pickup trucks were everywhere, with an abundance of options from both foreign and domestic brands alike.

Chevy S-10 First Gen Orange

The Chevrolet S-10 in particular will always be known as one of the most popular models of the American minitruck era, and with its debut being nearly 40 years old, early S-10s can easily be considered classics today.

Chevy S-10 First Gen Silver and White

The truck debuted for the 1981 model year as a domestically-built and engineered replacement for the Chevy LUV which was imported from Japan by Isuzu. It could be powered by either four cylinder or V6 engines, optioned with four-wheel-drive and thanks to its small size and affordable price, it soon became a big seller.

Chevy S-10 Cut Away Illustration

Being a cheap truck also means that first gen S10s are getting harder than ever to find in good condition, and when it comes to collectability and coolness there are two versions in particular the stand above the rest.

Chevy S-10 Street and Race Versions

S-10 Baja

First is the S-10 Baja. The Baja package was available on 4x4 S-10s beginning in 1989 and included a roll bar, tubular rear bumper, off-road lights, skid plates, unique suspension and special branding.

Chevy S-10 Baja White

And while its mechanical changes were minimal, the S-10 Baja had a great look and can now be considered one of the quintesential off-road pickups of the 1980s right alongside the Toyota trucks it competed against.

Chevy S-10 Baja Black

S-10 Cameo

On the other end of the spectrum was the S-10 Cameo. Rather than an off-road appearance, the Cameo was all about the street. The package was available on 2WD pickups and included a unique front bumper, ground effects, a roll pan in the rear and more.

Chevy S-10 Cameo White

The Cameo would help set the stage for other stylish minitruck packages to come, including the S-10 SS and S-10 Xtreme which were introduced on the second generation model.

Chevy S-10 Cameo Red

The S-10 was only sold for two generationns, but it had a run that lasted more than 20 years before being replaced by the larger Chevy Colorado, which has become GM's "small" truck offering in the United States.

Chevy S-10 Yellow and Black First Gen

While the Chevy S-10 didn't spawn an enthusiast model as special as the Syclone, which was based on its GMC twin, Chevy's minitruck nonetheless is well worth a look for anyone looking for a retro minitruck build for on or off-road use.

Chevy S-10 Baja Black

An old minitruck may never have the sexiness of a Corvette or Camaro, or even a full-size truck but the first gen S-10 will not be forgotten by those who were around for its heyday and is another up and coming classic to look out for.

  • Or maybe you prefer GM's full-size truck offerings of the same era?
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